Yala national park ,one of the largest parks in Srilanka is located in southeast part of Srilanka.In spite of yala being noted as the one of the national parks having the highest densities of leopards in the world, I had little expectations of the sighting of leopards from yala , given the shy nature of the predator. I am glad that I was proven wrong. The times in yala were one of the most amazing times I had spent in jungles , in company of smallest predator from the cat family and one of the biggest mammals ,the asian elephants, and of course the mouth watering pineapples.
Here is a brief account of the small time I spent there in October 12.
As we entered the park, we were greeted by many water birds like pelicans, storks, stilts etc. This was natural since yala is home of many lagoons. Eye catcher amidst this lagoons was a shikra bird ,that landed briefly in it for a small instant and flew away.
Driving ahead through the jungles , in search for the elusive predator(which I was going to learn later that it isn't elusive here) we sighted many species of mammals , birds and amphibians. As we parked our chariot to get the sense of the woods , we sighted a monitor lizard climbing a tree trunk.We were lucky it was bold enough for some seconds ,so we managed some pics.
A mother elephant and her kid showed a nice camaraderie amidst nice backdrop of a lagoon and dense vegetation. The beauty of habitat always adds up to the charisma of the animals residing in it.
Yala National Park has a variety of ecosystems including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, fresh water and marine wetlands, and sandy beaches.So one really cant afford missing his wide angle lenses.Two of the very different landscapes in yala, sadly I still miss not having a wide angle then.
The kind of variation in flora,fauna and landscapes can be seen in above pics, crocs, deers and buffaloes in dry arid pic and the colony of storks in above pic.
Now as we moved ahead in search of the predator we were surprised to sight a couple. But to my chagrin they had moved away when our jeep arrived at the location and we could not manage a pic together. we then spotted the same male ,but in low light. Was kind of ideal condition for panning the motion of a leopard, a weird experiment.
The next drives through the park were pure blessing as far as the leopard sighting was concerned.As we were heading towards the inner parts of the jungle early morning next day, we saw a male leopard lazying around on one of the rocks.A typical yala shot of the leopard on the rocks is what everyone got.As many jeeps began to gather around and created ruckus it just walked around through the foliage to the other part of the jungle. Drivers proactive thinking led us to the other spot faster than the leopard. As expected it came out through the foliage ,not before it sharpened its nails by scratching the tree trunk.It was kind of lucky shot as its eyes were clear in spite of being in foliage.
It so happened that the leopard probably found some hunt and hence came crossing through the road.It showed almost all the stealthy ways that leopard exhibit and silently stalking its prey until it is within striking distance where it unleashes a burst of speed to quickly pursue and pounce on its victim.Unfortunately our sadist prayers on seeing leopard kill were unfulfilled, and we only saw its futile attempts.
Being close to the roads ,the predator came very close to the jeep and offers some close perspectives.It was worth notable to see the rusty yellow coat with dark spots and close-set rosettes, which are smaller than in Indian leopards
The muscular frame of the leopard ,and its curves getting accentuated is a sight to watch for.
A yawn, by any member of the cat family is a classic sight to capture. The white canines and the pink tongue and its expressions create a superb combination.
Yala offers some very different habitat shots of the leopard, in the open , having its big territories overlapping with other females. They rarely haul their kills into trees, which is likely due to the lack of competition and the relative abundance of prey. Since leopards are the apex predators they don't need to protect their prey, which is primarily the reason they can be seen in open unlike rest of the regions where leopards are seen.
Apart from the favorite leopard sights there were many other interesting things yala offered. The landscape of yala rock , with brahminy kite and the elephant in foreground, the colony of storks and crocodile were something mesmerizing.
A painted stork quenches its thirst in predated waters. It was very surprising to see crocodile not bothering pelicans n storks , opposite to what we had expected .crocodiles were super quiet and behaved like a kid being reprimanded by its teacher.
A brahminy kite sat on a perch with backdrop of yala rock was something again spectacular and unique habitat of a bird.
One of the most interesting inmates of the forests of yala is the srilankan endemic monkey. Honestly i had never seen anything cuter than this species in real.Perched high up in the trees , it made itself naturally very photogenic.
The trip to yala was way beyond expectations. Although nothing very extraordinary was sighted ,but still ,the leopards and elephants and rest members of avians, mammals and amphibians made the day.
The trip to yala certainly rose a satirical question in mind while leaving "why does the srilankan flag
has a lion on it and not its apex predator?????......