My Maiden Leopard Sighting
Despite of a Disastrous Trip to Pench – MP last year; I decided to visit the park again this year. Though last year’s trip was unsuccessful as far as Tiger sightings were concerned; I loved the park and decided to give myself one more chance to try my luck. From past 2 years (20 Safaris in all) I haven’t been able to See and Photograph a Tiger.
With recent reports of good sightings @ Pench – MP; I was super excited about this trip.
First 3 safaris of this trip turned out to be disappointing and we were about to finish our 4th safari as well with NO Tiger Sightings.
We were returning towards the Exit gate and suddenly our guide (Mr. Vipat) said “Sir Leopard … woh patthar ke paas baitha hai”. I just can’t express what it felt like when I saw a Wild Leopard for the First time. Me and Anup took some Record shots but the overall sighting was not good from photography point of view. The safari was about to conclude and we had to rush to the Exit gate.
While returning towards the gate our guide told us that as per his judgement the Leopard is going to stay there till the afternoon safari (The leopard was sitting in a small cavity between 2 huge Rocks). He said that we must visit the same spot as soon as the afternoon safari begins and all of us readily accepted his proposal.
My funda is pretty simple ….. When in Jungle; Don’t try to be over-smart. TRUST the guides and drivers. They are the ones who know the Jungle better than you and me. We visit the Jungle once in a while but they visit the Jungle almost everyday. So their judgement with respect to animal activities is much better than us. Once your driver and guide gets a feeling that you trust them; these guys will try their best to make your safaris memorable. We were eagerly waiting for the afternoon safari and while having our lunch at the resort; me and Anup discussed about the possibility of making some high key images of leopard sitting on the Rock.
As soon as the gates opened for afternoon safari; we rushed our vehicle to the same spot. Our guides judgement was Bang On! The leopard was sitting at the same spot. We were delighted. At this time ours was the only vehicle there and we have decided to position our vehicle in anticipation of possible leopard movements once other vehicles start coming at the spot. We were waiting patiently for the leopard to come out in the open. Slowly and steadily other vehicles started arriving at that spot. Within next 30-40 minutes almost all the vehicles in the park were at the same spot. As expected; the leopard started feeling uncomfortable with the presence of so many vehicles around. Within few seconds leopard came out of that small cavity and decided to climb a tree which was there in front of the rock. For next few minutes our cameras were firing like machine guns.
Once the leopard settled on the tree me and Anup checked our camera settings. Both of us knew that this was our opportunity to make some high key images; something that we have pre-visualized and discussed earlier on our lunch table. After few minutes the leopard went to sleep and we decided to wait. Slowly and steadily all other vehicles left the spot. Now we had last 30 minutes of the safari. The leopard woke up and there were 2 Jackals walking on the safari track right in front of him. We were expecting some action but the leopard was in no mood to make the move. As the safari closing time was approaching fast; we had to leave the place. This was my maiden Leopard Sighting and it turned out to be something to be Cherished Forever.
I would like to thank Mandar Diwakar and his wife Divya for being extremely patient and allowing me and Anup to take our time and make the images we wanted. Despite both of them being non-photographers; they were extremely patient.
Thanks a lot guys for your co-operation. Special thanks to my friend Anup Deodhar for planning this trip so well and allowing me to be a part of it. Thanks a lot Anup. Hoping to have many more jungle outings with you in future.
Narendra Arvind Pandit,
Nature & Wildlife Photographer,
Solapur – Maharashtra.