We opted for maximising our safari driving time, so as soon as we had deposited our bags in the tent and splashed the dust from our faces we were back in the jeep heading for the park, cameras, long lenses and monopods at the ready. We were accompanied on each safari drive by a trained naturalist and at the park entrance we were joined by a tracker from the Park service. This meant a trained pair of eyes on each side of the vehicle, on the look out for the slightest indication that a critter lurked in the jungle through which we soon found ourselves hurtling at breakneck speed. Our minders were in mobile phone contact with their counterparts in other jeeps throughout the park, meaning that information about sightings of prized animals like leopards and sloth bears was shared around. Of course, this led to traffic jams at times, but the animals didn't seem to mind the crowds too much. We ended up having one afternoon, one whole day and one morning safari in our two-night sojourn at Mahoora. This involved waking at 5 am both mornings, and resulted in aching muscles from bouncing around in the jeep for hours on end. We were fortunate enough to photograph some magical animals and birds in their own beautiful habitat, making all the pain worthwhile.
Here's a quick sample of what we saw...
|Crested Serpent Eagle|
(Canon EF300mm f2.8 + 2X Extender)
(Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L)
|Grey-headed Fish Eagle|
|Black-faced Langur close-up|
Mother and very young baby
|Two very young Tocque Macaques|
These monkeys 'coo' at you - we were having lunch and they watched our every move as if to say, "Ooooh, I'd like some of that banana", "Ooooh you couldn't possibly eat all that sandwich...".
|Indian Brown Mongoose|
|Green Bee Eater|
|Green Bee Eater|
|Chestnut-headed Bee Eater|
|Orange- Breasted Green Pidgeon|
|Sri Lankan or Indian Pond Heron|
This is a rare bird in Sri Lanka and its fast movement and twitchy behaviour made it hard to get a sharp shot.
We must have stopped five or six times to get a snap of this species only to have it fly then hide in dense undergrowth
These birds are native to Sri Lanka and India and are very common throughout Yala National Park
|Although Peacocks can fly, they don't like it much but will roost in trees to avoid predation from lepoards.|
A tiny bird that feeds off seeds and small grubs in the leaf litter of the bush.
It is perfectly camouflaged and hard to see unless it moves!
|Trio of Painted Storks|
These graceful birds sift the bottom of waterways like this, 'spooning' side to side for food.
|Lesser Adjutant Stork|
This is Sri Lanka's second largest bird. It's very shy and moves away as soon as you pull up in a vehicle.
I was lucky to get this shot, taken through a narrow gap in some bushes
|White Breasted Kingfisher|
These small iridescently-coloured birds are hard to miss when they fly but even harder to shoot unless they are resting on a conveniently placed branch like this one.
Another exotic visitor to Sri Lanka, the Pitta is stunningly coloured - it has seven different coloured plumage.
Like the Paradise Flycatcher, it is also very hard to see let alone photograph.
Seen flying across the lagoon with Elephant Rock in the background
|Cattle Egret riding a water buffalo as it plods its way through a lotus infested tank (Sri Lankan reservoir)|
|Male Spotted Deer in late afternoon sunlight|
|Sri Lankan freshwater crocodile or Mugger warming up in the early morning sun.|
These can grow up to four metres in length
|Close-up of a large, one metre Land Monitor|
|Conjugal Bliss #1This male should really be smoking a cigarette by now...|
|Conjugal Bliss #2|
Thought he female clouted the male over the muzzle immediately after mating, she went off a few metres then rolled on the ground in what might have been a victory roll, or maybe to get his smell off of her.
|Conjugal Bliss #3|
Nat's shot of the male after he had mated several times - licking this chops in satisfaction maybe?