Pursuit... Yala was one my my favorite wildlife park since my first visit in 2007. Even though I did quite a lot of travel photography at that time wildlife photography was not my major area until that memorable visit to Yala National Park. If it wasn't for a close encounter with famous Kublai Khan during that trip, I would not have been so much interested and fascinated by the wildlife. Since then I was a frequent visitor to the park for almost 3-4 years, before the park got over crowded due to the popularity.
However, while Yala becoming famous among may others and getting crowded during almost all the weekends with nature lovers as well as pilgrimages who visits scared Kataragama or Kirinda - who sometimes doesn't even know what they were doing in a park -, it drew my interest away. I didn't wanted to stuck in a traffic worse than the traffic in Colombo after visiting a National Park. My attention went to Wilpattu National park with it's re-opening on 2010. My last visit to Yala was about one year a go with my family on a tour to down south. It was a quick visit to the park as well as a very disappointed one.
At the end of second week of August, just after finishing a day visit to Kitulgala in searching for endemic birds; I received a call from Niroshan; they were planning to visit Yala on following weekend. Since I haven't been to Yala for a long time, I decided to join them. A week later on a Friday evening, we (myself, Niroshan, Eric and Upeka) were driving toward Mathara on the Expressway 01. After having a quite expensive dinner from the Expressway stopover, we could finally reached the park office around one in the early morning. Sleeping in the car was not so pleasing and to make the situation worse one of my tooth started to ache. After about 4 hours of struggling to sleep I decided to give it up and take a look around. All the others were also awake and preparing to start the day. We were managed to stand in front of the ticket queue to enter first in to the park. Ticketing started at about 5.45 and we were at the park entrance by 6. Our jeep driver was Supun, son of one of the oldest members of Yala Safari Jeep Society.
Approch.. Our first leopard sighting was at Wilapalawa, just before famous Kotigala. The leopard was way too far for us to take a decent shot and the jeeps traffic was increasing, it was time to look for our own leopard. We went toward "Raum Wala" another hot spot to see wildlife during day season. It was the only place with water in the surrounding. So there were quite a bit of wildlife there including birds. There were few jeeps at the places even at the time we reached there. We decided to stay and wait there. Few jeeps moved on and we managed to find a better place with proper view of the waterhole. We also managed to shoot many birds from there who came to the waterhole. Suddenly I saw some spots moving toward waterhole. It was a leopard and it came strait to waterhole and started drinking. I heard continuous shooting from the behind and quickly joined with them to capture this wonderful moment. It was first time I saw a leopard drinking water in Yala, so I was more than satisfied with the outcome of waiting there.
Drinking water Look
We move toward Parana Thotupola to have lunch, it was a delicious one prepared by our host. After lunch we spent some time roaming in river Manik on pursuit of Common Kingfishers. We also came across a Black-napped Monarch. After spending sometime there we decided to go to Banda Wala on main road to see a bear known to come for drink there. The black dot There was none except a water bowser there when we reach Banda Wala. It was very hot and I fell sleep soon after getting there. It was a kick from one of my friend awake me and a whisper said a bear is approaching. I was a black spot moving toward us from a distance forest patch, it was a bear and it was moving right toward us. I jumped and started shooting, a clean shot of a bear in a plain is something special as Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is a shy animal. It can only be seen closely during drought and the wild berry season (Palu and Weera). Soon it came so close that I could not take a photograph with 400 prime so I had to quickly change gears to a 100 mm. Bear also came straight to the waterhole and drank, it was getting crowded with more safari jeeps and shouting people all around which has scare the bear a bit. Once it went on and came again to drink more water and then ran away to the forest patch. Meanwhile we managed to capture some good shots of the mammal.
Thinking.. Walking Drinking Ready to go
It was around five in the evening when the drama ends and it was more than enough drama for a day and decided to get out of the park before rush hour.
Next day was not that good compared to the previous day as we were only went in for a brief half day session with the intention of returning home early.