Edit Blog Post
Published: October 24th 2010
I was up at 5.30.a.m. and ready to leave by 6 on my safari into Yala National Park. Sam and I jumped into the ancient looking jeep and we headed off through the hundreds of early morning dogs taking their stroll through the street. They are surprisingly healthy looking and mostly a smooth golden colour.
After 15 minutes of pretty rough roads we got to the entrance of the park, got our tickets and the tracker assigned to us, you can’t go in without a tracker. I told him that I hoped to see leopard, like everyone I guess and he said he would do his best.
At first we saw a lot of birds, I am a bird lover so that wasn’t a problem. Blue and green European queen bee eaters, various kingfishers, brahmani kites, various eagles, every sort of water bird and more that I cannot remember. There were plenty of eater buffalo and every now and then we got a glimpse of very shy wild boars. The spotted deer looked straight out of Snow White with big doey eyes and dappled coats, the males with magnificent antlers.
Then the tracker spotted elephants in the thicket.
When they started to come out onto the track I realized how close we were and was a bit worried. I had seen elephants on Safari in Africa and we had never got this close and had been told to be very still and quiet. Not here. I stood up to get better photos and they just walked straight past me. Maybe Sri Lankan elephants are more placid than African ones! I guess I would be too living in such a wonderful country. More and more started coming and a lot with babies of various sizes. The little one, thought to be about 1 - 2 months old looked totally out of proportion and stumbled along between his mother and big sister.
The tracker new exactly where they would be heading so we got ahead of them to a watering hole. They ambled through the trees into the clearing in twos and threes and soon got rid of the water buffalo wallowing there and started having a wonderful time. First a drink them it was time to trample through the water and get some nice thick mud made. This they threw across their bodies and heads as a sort
of sun block and cooling mechanism. The small elephants played like children, fell over, sat on the adults that were lying down and had to be hauled out a couple of times by older siblings. Two teenage males decided to have a play fight ready for life in the future I guess. It was wonderful to watch.
We stopped for lunch at a perfect shady spot by a river. The driver’s wife had cooked a delicious lunch for us and even prepared some prawns for me knowing that I wouldn’t eat the chicken curry. After that it was nap time but the river lured me to it and I spent a quiet time walking in the river or musing on the bank and naturally taking photographs. It could not have been any better.
Off we set again and I started to think that leopard would not be on the list today. We were passing other jeeps and everyone stopped to ask the million dollar question, “have you seen leopard?” all with a negative answer.
Then the tracker spotted a dead monkey under a push and after a quick post mortem said it was a fresh kill this
morning, probably by leopard.
Off again and he found leopard dung, big whitish grey furry lumps and I even took a photo in case that would be the nearest I got to the real thing!
More driving, then the tracker stopped the driver and said the magic word. Leopard. I couldn’t see it and the frustration was crazy, these creatures really do camouflage. Then yes, lying full length on a branch of a tree about 4 meters high. I couldn’t see it very well because of the foliage but was still ecstatic. I’m trying to take photos and she even looks at me and bares her teeth - shivers down my spine. We were only about 8 meters from the tree, she could have been on us in a minute. The tracker assured me that being a female she was a lot smaller and shyer than the male and there was nothing to worry about. Things got even better when she decided to come down from the tree and give us another snarl. Then she ran right in front of the jeep to get the monkey that we had spotted earlier. This was all too good to be
true. We followed her to the kill and watched as she dragged the monkey from under the bush, across a clearing and into some scrub - dinner time. Wow, we were so lucky. Even the tracker was thrilled as he said that often they are spotted from such a distance that you can barely see them, this little lovely was so close I could see the colour of her eyes.
After that I wouldn’t have cared if we hadn’t seen another living thing. We did of course, lots but the site of that leopard stayed in my head the whole time.
We celebrated with a few drinks that night and I slept soundly with the air-con chugging, the mossies whining and the ceiling fan whirring. Ah, live is just so, so good.
Tot: 0.177s; Tpl: 0.012s; cc: 11; qc: 50; dbt: 0.1177s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb