Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Leopards at Karaw Gas Wala - Yala, Sri Lanka

A Leopard having a drink - Yala, Sri Lanka
A Leopardess having a drink - Yala, Sri Lanka

One of the best sightings we had while in Yala, was of a female Leopard and her cub at Karaw Gas Wala. We were on an evening round when we crossed another vehicle and were informed that a Leopard was seen in the area. Our driver had a hunch that the Leopard would be heading towards the water hole at Karaw Gas Wala and headed off in that direction. He had seen the Leopards stopping there for a drink before and thought they would make an appearance.

More photographs inside.

Leopard cub emerging from the undergrowth - Yala, Sri Lanka
 Leopard cub emerging from the undergrowth - Yala, Sri Lanka

When we got to the water hole we were greeted by three or four Buffalo in the water and a couple of Painted Storks but no sign of the Leopard. A decision was soon made to wait there for a while and see if we got lucky. Unfortunately a number of other vehicles that drove passed decided to stop and wait as well! It was getting a bit too crowded for our liking and hoping to lead the other jeeps away, we drove "around the block" and got back ten minutes later to find all the other vehicles gone. 

Leopard and Cub - Yala, Sri Lanka
Leopardess and Cub - Yala, Sri Lanka

We were rewarded 20 minutes later when the cub emerged from the undergrowth. It was a bit hesitant and initially poked its head out and stared at us for a while. It was soon joined by it's mother (I was annoyed to later discover that a stick in the foreground had actually got in the way of a photograph with the mother staring directly at the camera! The shot above).

The Leopard approaches - Yala, Sri Lanka
The Leopardess approaches - Yala, Sri Lanka

After a few minutes the Leopardess led the cub towards the road along a gully and we lost sight of them briefly. We were pretty confident that it would cross the road behind our vehicle so we stayed put. We didn't have to wait too long.

The Leopard comes up to the road- Yala, Sri Lanka
The Leopard comes up to the road- Yala, Sri Lanka

The female re-appeared a bit further away from us to cross the road. She was uneasy and kept staring at the vehicle while she was in the open. During this period I was able capture a number of photographs with her staring directly into the camera.

Female Leopard crosses the road - Yala, Sri Lanka
AFemale Leopard crosses the road - Yala, Sri Lanka

A little while after she crossed the road, the cub followed. It was very tentative and took a while to work up the courage to actually walk across. Soon after it crossed the road it disappeared into the undergrowth on the further side of the water hole. Probably because it was unsettled by the presence of both our vehicle and the buffalo.

The Leopard cub crosses the road - Yala, Sri Lanka
The Leopard cub crosses the road - Yala, Sri Lanka

Soon after the cub crossed the road the female started to drink. Thankfully she positioned herself at the far end of the waterhole, directly opposite us. she had a long drink throughout which she didn't take her eye's off the vehicle. I was glad because this meant I was able to get more photographs with her staring straight into the camera.

A Leopard having a drink - Yala, Sri Lanka
A Leopardess having a drink - Yala, Sri Lanka

A few minutes after the Leopard started drinking, the buffaloes became restless. They didn't seem to have any young with them so I'm not really sure what agitated them. They approached the Leopard threateningly, stamping their hooves and snorting and succeeded in chasing the Leopard away.

The Leopard walking away - Yala, Sri Lanka
The Leopard walking away - Yala, Sri Lanka

The whole experience lasted about 15 minutes. It was one of the best sightings I've had of a Leopard in Yala and having it to ourselves was a big bonus. I think I fired off about 50 frames during the fifteen minutes. I was expecting to have taken a lot more to be honest!

The photographs were taken with the Canon 7D and the 100-400mm lens.

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