I will never forget this day. However, I could say that about every day I have spent in Sri Lanka. But this day, in particular, was a day that stands out because sightings of leopards had seemingly dried up. The previous day started with a sighting in the park and again later that day. This was a delight to us all for more than just the obvious. When we got to camp, our tracker told us that recent leopard sightings had become extremely rare. He had gone a whole week without seeing one! In Yala, that is very uncommon. It was considered the best place in the world to photograph leopards and still is. However, the population is in decline, and sightings are getting harder. So our luck was uncommon.
This morning and for hours, we had no luck at all—signs in the form of tracks and alarm calls but no sightings. Our tracker, Indika Nettigama, from Cylon Wild Safaris is among the best on the island, so if anyone could track and find the leopard, it was him. Hours and hours go by, and no sightings! Then as we are about to pack it in, our luck turns. We turn a corner, and BAM! A mother leopard and her two large male cubs. They are over a year and about to leave momma. The most stunning sight I have ever been treated to.
A mother leopard and her cubs All life forms accepted the power the mother exuded without question. She only needed to move one step, and tons of metal would be forced to move. It was awe-inspiring. You never know what is just around the corner.
This photo is of one of her large male cubs. You can see he is well cared for and not hurting for resources. Mom must be a fantastic hunter to have raised two cubs, both in magnificent shape. They are over a year old and will be leaving her soon.
In Yala, it is common to go on safari twice a day. You wake up before the sun, have breakfast, and get out in the jeep. There will be a lineup when the park first opens at 6:30 am. The best trackers will have you there at the front of the line and will have your permits prepaid. Cylon Wild always had this for us, and I will post a photo later that shows exactly how important that is. The second trip out will be in the evening, just before the sun starts to go down. These are your best times to photograph a leopard and the only times you are allowed to be in Yala Nation Park.