About a year ago, we went to Kenya with my entire family. It was a long 8 day trip with safaris in Masai Mara and Amboseli. As usual, I was geared up to shoot as many pics as possible.
But its the wild. Wild animals have their own ways, their own minds. It is not easy to get them where you want, or against the right backdrops, at the right levels. So, one has to wait often.
There was one such occasion when had to wait for a Leopard. We had already spotted 4 out of the big 5 animals of Africa. We were looking for the elusive leopard and our guide received some information on his radio about one in the vicinity.
We had left very early from our lodge for the game drive at around 6:25 AM and headed straight for the leopard location. When we first reached there, there were around 6-7 vehicles already there. The leopard was barely visible under the bush.
Well, at first, one gets really excited to see the animal so difficult to spot. And you see the small spotted yellow patch from a tiny gap in the bush, and one goes in a hushed excited voice like:
“Look, look, there it is, can u see it? I see it! I see it!”
Yeah, the excitement is laughable in the afterthought. But heck, the first glance always makes one happy.
As time passes, and you see the wild fellow just wants to rest and is not interested in how much money you paid to everyone to see him, you start wishing you could call out to him, or just start thinking of ways he might want to come out.
Of course, you are NOT supposed to do that. This is their home, and they are not supposed to be disturbed. So, you wait, wishing for some miracle to come your way.
It did not help the affairs much when it started raining after about 40 minutes. All this while, there were at least 7-8 vehicles waiting for the leopard to come out, while other tourist vehicles kept popping in and out, with the usual tourists doing their “ooh”s and “aah”s. But after the drizzle started, the crowd starting thinning out. Even the leopard plonked down on the ground and hid herself further. Soon, there were only 2 groups left. One with a couple of photographers, and us.
Around an hour and fifteen minutes into the wait, the rain stopped and the protagonist of this play reared her head up. Immediately, the nearby group’s camera shutters started buzzing rapidly. The radio briefly erupted with the announcement of the leopard again, and voila! More tourists arrived!
At this point, we were getting rather tired. Our guide informed us of lions and cheetahs elsewhere. So, I looked around and asked the good old people if they wanted to move on. But they knew how desperately I wanted to take a few clean shots of the leopard. And in the 4 safari trips that I had experienced till then, getting a leopard this close and getting a clear picture is very tough. So, they just shrugged in reply and said, “Upto you!”
So, that settled there. I had license to stretch our time a bit more there.
This was where the wait started yielding some results. The sun was out and the leopard decided to move out a bit into the warmth.
This was the moment I was waiting for. For the leopard to sit up and give me a chance to shoot within the frame of the tree and the bush, with some of the sky in the backdrop.
Although she was acting too pricey and just showed us her back, I was still content. Over an hour of wait and if this was the best I could get, I said to myself, I am not going to complain.
And yet, I was a bit hopeful she would turn and show us a bit of her face. And she did tease us again and again, with a little left turn and a little right turn.
And then it happened, she turned her head completely to groom herself.
And then a good 1 hour 45 minutes wait later, finally we had what we wanted. I think its best I let the next picture speak for itself.
In all my trips to any safari, I had never experienced anything more satisfying. And it took us a long wait, while multitudes of tourist groups arrived and left, but we stood on. It was a reward worth the wait.
This went on for another few minutes, and then she moved. She disappeared into the bush. All of us thought, yup, its over for now. And yet, we looked on longingly for another appearance in the distance.
Well, somehow we were extremely lucky, and it did make an appearance again a few meters away.
Our guide commented, she probably was waiting on her cubs and since tourists were around, she was guarding the spot.
Well, fair enough. We thought maybe it was time for us to move on. But there were so many tourists around that we had constant FOMO.
But soon, she decided she could have a better spot guarding her young and climbed up a tree.
And that was the last we saw of her. The sun was much brighter now as the rain clouds had shifted. It was getting a bit hot and we decided, much to the satisfaction of everyone, that we have had enough opportunities. And as a parting gift she gave us one last look, which I happened to capture on my camera.
That was one hell of a successful game drive for us.
Although I was apprehensive that our older folks might get bored, they were understanding enough to understand my passion for this and allowed us to wait long hours on wild animals, just gazing at them, waiting for moments to capture. If they hadn’t then I would have never gotten this shot.
Please feel free to drop your comments below. Would love to hear what you think or if you have similar experiences.