It has come to the last bit of our late afternoon game drive at Wilpattu National Park. I was exhausted from holding my big lens hoping to capture fast moving flycatchers, gorgeous birds with super long tails and of course from the heat. I fell asleep unconsciously and woke up in the middle of thick jungle when my body felt that our jeep had stopped rolling on the bumpy road. First thing I heard was a repetitive screaming sound.
I quickly looked at my guide and he whispered "We found a leopard pair!".
Last thing I remembered before passing out was baking heat and bright light. Now waking up in a cool dark place and heard nothing but that continuous haunting call. I didn't pay much attention to that sound, I just wanted to be able to spot the leopards moving in the dense forest.
My eyes gradually adjusted to the low light environment. I spotted one leopard on the move but couldn't see the other one. Then he stopped and laid down on the little slope... in front of the female. Yes, that's the pair! Only parts of them were visible. Dense jungle is the perfect place for them to hide. It was dark and there were millions of branches and leaves all around them, creating a challenging situation to photograph. We were moving back and forth in our jeep to find a tiny gap to shoot. They didn't seem to mind the engine sound. Maybe that disturbing ongoing call in the background was louder. Anyway we were still whispering to each other the entire time and I’m not sure why we did that. We finally found a spot to shoot and against all odds, I managed to get a few photos.
A male Sri Lankan leopard resting in front of his mate before hunting time in the evening.
I later asked the guide how he could spot the leopards in such difficult environment. He mentioned about the call, that loud haunting call. It’s the call of gray langurs alerting their troop about incoming predators. Amazing huh?
Willpattu is the largest national park in Sri Lanka that was heavily mined during the civil war. Most of the land mines were retrieved and the wildlife are in a better place than war time. The park is so big that the population of leopards is unknown and it's likely that we might not see them while visiting the park.
Gray langur soaking up the sun.
I did not get a chance to capture the troop of gray langurs making the alert noise in the park. This langur is a resident of the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana.