Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Waiting Game

Seeing a leopard in the wild is a rare occurrence, and getting a really good quality sighting is even rarer. Getting the best sighting involves some work from your part as well. Patience being the main virtue, one need to be adapt in the waiting game. The chances of getting lucky are 50/50, but when you do get sightings it is rewarding indeed. 
Through my travels in the wilds of Sri Lanka, I realized that staying put and waiting for the perfect sighting is much more rewarding that merely running from one place to another hoping to find a sighting. The ideal places to lie in wait are at a water hole where, especially during the dry season it is most probable that a leopard will come to quench its thirst. Another thing I like about lying in wait at a waterhole is the many other sighting you get of all the denizens of the jungle. Some of the sightings range from large herds of spotted deer that warily approach the water and bolt at the slightest noise to the horde of wild boar, buffalo and countless birds. Waiting to welcome them is the mugger or marsh crocodile ready to drag an unlucky soul into the muddy depths.
After what seems like a lifetime, suddenly you catch a glimpse of the apex predator of the forest approaching. Sometimes silently and without warning, but at other times the arrival is pre announced by the shrill alarm calls of the spotted deer and the coughing like sound of the grey langurs. My observation is that these cats are very picky with the spot they choose to drink from and may walk about the water hole at times looking for the best location. Sometimes snarling at the water if a mugger is found, finally settling down at a spot the leopard will drink its fill. Finally quenched of its thirst, if one is really lucky the cat will relax on the sand on the edge of the water. Rolling and playfully frolicking about or lazily sitting in one place and yawning occasionally this is a photographers feast, with the loud machine gun like clicking heard from many a patient soul like myself.

At times climbing a tree close by the leopard will do what cats do best which is to fall asleep in the quiet afternoon.  Sometimes the location being almost impossible to photograph, only the patient few will be rewarded once the cat wakes from its slumber.  Often stretching itself and yawning profusely the sightings are amazing if one is willing to wait hours for the lazy feline to wake up.
After a while which always seems to short, the leopard will slink back into the forest from whence it came with the same stealth and mysterious aura it brings with it, and we are left almost out of breath with a memorable sighting.

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