Friday, September 13, 2013

A leopard in wet weather

It was early August, with a monsoon that seemed indefatigable our hopes of a visit to Athirapalli, Meenvallam and the like had been effectively washed away. My son was getting restless and Bandipur was tugging again.

Monsoon wasn't the best time for Bandipur if the idea was to meet one of the predators. However, to us, a trip to Bandipur wasn't about tigers, leopards or dhole. Bumping along the familiar tracks was something we both enjoyed, even if it was wet weather. I decided a day off from school would not be a problem and we packed up and drove off.

9th August, 2013

The rains had been playing havoc with the highways and our usual route through Nilambur would have been risky. We had been reading about landslides all over Kerala and some had occurred on the road we usually took. It seemed, driving through Coimbatore, Satyamangalam and Chamarajanagar was safer though we would be traveling an extra 55 kilometers. An early start was in order since the four lane, widening work on the NH-47 had been revived. An hour's trip to Coimbatore now took twice as much time if you got the timing wrong. We decided to take the longer route through Velanthavalam off the Pollachi road. After breakfast in Coimbatore, we hit the Sathy road as the morning traffic was building up.

The stretch between Bannari and Hasanur goes through the Satyamangalam WLS. We had encountered gaur, elephants and sambar on some of our previous trips. We always slowed down on this part hoping for the unexpected. Nothing interrupted our drive except a grey francolin. These birds are found in small groups, foraging in gassy or scrub forests. I had been seeing a few of them the last few weeks but never managed a good shot of them.

We reached Bandipur Safari Lodge in time for lunch but an overcast sky wasn't  particularly mood elevating. The garden lizard cocked an eye at me, bobbed its head up and down and posed for me, despite a light drizzle.

The evening safari was a wet affair. The terrapin in the muddy pool looked like it had no care in the world. It was obviously enjoying our discomfiture since it did not disappear into the water at the sight of us!

The peacock was drying off.....

.... and even the normally shy black naped hare continued cropping the grass unperturbed by our presence!

The rain had slackened and the sun was peeping out of the clouds. My son suddenly hissed, "Papa, leopard!" At first I didn't see it because I was looking everywhere but forward. Then I saw it. Lying on the grass, not 50 feet from us. It was enjoying the warmth of the sun on its coat. The rain must a have made it cold and it was probably just starting to enjoy the sunshine when we blundered into it's presence.

It lay for a few minutes trying to ignore us but it seemed the clatter of the diesel vehicle made it uncomfortable. It got up and walked off....

.....then it turned back looked at us, went back off the track and marked its territory. Perhaps, it was ensuring that we knew who was the master of this part of the jungle.
 This was an unexpected bonus. We expected a green jungle with dense undergrowth that would hide all the predators but we ran into this magnificent creature, a male leopard in it's prime. All the leopards we had encountered in our trips to Bandipur had been in wet weather. I wonder if I should during the rains if I felt like seeing a leopard again!

10th August. 2013

The rain had let up overnight and the morning's drive seemed full of promise . I hadn't been down the Moyar valley for a long time and the monsoon seemed the best time for that. The jeep track divides into three at Mulapura. The track on the left goes to the dam and it was overgrown. With plenty of water animals wouldn't want to go there. Birds, of course, had no such restrictions!

The track to the right goes to the Moyar valley. It is very tortuous and runs downhill almost all the way. There are times I have wondered what we'd do if we encountered an ill tempered elephant as we went downhill but that has never happened. However, this time we met with this romantic pair.

She was sedately tearing up the succulent grass and munching on it calmly but her boyfriend wasn't looking very friendly.
He didn't seem very happy to see us and was showing signs of his annoyance. Signs of immaturity!
His girlfriend seemed to realize that her buddy was about to lose his cool and ambled over to calm him.
 Her presence seemed to soothe the young tusker and they turned around together to go deeper into the forest.
As the driver revved the engine, the pair turned around, trumpeted at us. Perhaps, reiterating their triumph over us puny creatures.
There are misfits everywhere but none like this chap I saw. He just couldn't avoid his iPad for a two hour safari. I wonder why they holiday in place like Bandipur?!

We got off for a brief stop at the Moyar view point. The river that separates Bandipur and Mudumalai was in full flow. The forest around was lush and green, looking very ideal for a trek!

The evening safari was practically, a wash out as this really wet and miserable peacock will testify.
It kept trying to shake itself dry but the rain wasn't making things easy. 

It just gave us a dejected look before it went back to staring a that 'middle distance', perhaps praying like us, for the rain to stop. 

Even the langur looking heavenward seemed to have a prayer in it's heart, "God. Please stop this rain."

Bandipur is good in summer but it's in it's greenest best after the Monsoons. Besides, the leopards always put on their show for me when it rains!


R Niranjan Das said...

Wow!! That is a brilliant sighting. I too was in Bandipur in the month of august and was lucky to spot a tiger.

cappuccino said...

beautiful shots capturing the colours of the monsoon...

Anuradha Shankar said...

wow! that must have been quite an experience!

Rohan said...

Wao that was a nice snap of Leopard. I am wondering which camera & lens you used :)