It was Friday afternoon; the sun was setting slowly over the Yala National Park. We were a group of 6, including our guide and a spotter of Leopard Safaris, who were driving us on a dirt road in the middle of the Sri Lankan bush trying to spot wild leopards. In this National Park there are still about 45 wild leopards according to Sajith, our guide.
Ranjith, our spotter, works for the department of wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka and is assigned to our tour. He has incredible eyes and sees nearly every single animal on our tour. It doesn’t matter if it is a small bird sitting on a tree in the horizon or a big elephant walking in the distance. He sees them all. I guess that is why the job is called “spotter”!
First sightings minutes after leaving the camp!
About 30 minutes after we left the camp we already encountered many animals. A group of water buffaloes is chilling in the water and looking at us with no big interest. A big saltwater crocodile is relaxing near the water with its mouth open in order for its head to stay cool and a group of spotted deer’s are paying high attention at what we are doing!
“Wow, we are in the Sri Lankan bush”, I thought and was amazed by the colors of the sun setting and the sounds of all the different animals surrounding us.
Yala national park has a big variety of animals. To write them all down would take too long and fill this article but the most impressive are the wild leopards, the sloth bears and elephants. But also jackals are living here, many snakes including cobras and pythons and many more. From December throughout January-February many migrant birds live in the national park, which makes it the perfect time for bird watching.
First leopard sighting
The sun was nearly gone when we turned around the corner. The female leopard was walking on a field and didn’t notice us. I stopped breathing for a second and I think my heart stopped for a little longer. What a feeling, to see this creature in its natural habitat. Not surrounded by a cage or a fence! It was moving freely and with elegance, which you will never see a leopard moving in a zoo!
I always adored big cats. My favorite one is the tiger but this leopard was the first big cat I saw in the wild and it wasn’t the last one during my stay in the Sri Lankan bush.