WILDLIFE EXPERIENCE WITH TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER JOSE JEULAND
NATURE – A WORD THAT WE ALL KNOW WELL BUT A WORD TO WHICH WE CAN ASSIGN DIFFERENT MEANINGS. SOME MAY THINK OF IT AS AWE-INSPIRING AND HEALING, A FORCE THAT CAN REJUVENATE THE BODY, MIND, AND SOUL, WHILE OTHERS MAY SEE IT AS A FORCE OF DESTRUCTION THAT CAN LEAVE TRAILS OF UNPARALLELED DEVASTATION.
As an avid travel photographer, I constantly dwell upon the very definition of people, things, and environments. At a more philosophical level, you could say that it is about the exploration of polarities in life.
Patience is the most fundamental quality that any photographer needs to possess if he is to capture those stunning moments that speak through the still. When one is out in the wild waiting for that single perfect shot, he is at the mercy of nature. It was the feeling of absorbing everything that Mother Nature has to offer, contrasting with the excitement of fulfilling one’s passion for photography that led me on a journey to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a country that is misunderstood by the many but raved about by the few. The country boasts a wide array of immersion opportunities that appeal to all types of traveller from the culture vulture seeking rich cultural heritage, to the paradise pilgrim in search of scenic landscapes and to the adventurous daredevil exploring an untamed side of Sri Lanka filled with the natural wonders of its wildlife.
Elusive Leopards and Humanity
This was my second visit to Sri Lanka and words alone cannot describe the beauty of the country, one of my favourite places in Asia. Through my photographs and this accompanying article, I shall attempt to bring you into the world of the wildlife in Sri Lanka and to immerse you in the wonders of it.
I contacted Sri Lanka Tourism Board for assistance on the best places to visit for capturing wildlife animals, specifically the leopards, and was recommended three national parks – Wilpattu National Park, Gal Oya National Park, and Yala National Park.
I was especially recommended to stay at Gal Oya Lodge when visiting the Gal Oya National Park as the lodge offers boat safari rides to guests – the one and only boat safari experience in Sri Lanka. The charm of it lies in the opportunity to observe various birds and animals, particularly elephants, seen in their natural habitat while cruising down the river.
Although leopards are the smallest of the big cat species, they are still a powerful force to be reckoned with. The dominant colour of the coat and the variation in size is dependent on the habitat that the leopard lives in. These characteristics piqued my interest in photographing them in their natural habitat.
Wilpattu National Park
My trip started out in Colombo where I took a bus to Palagama Beach Resort. The resort is located on a private beach that is well away from the usual hustle and bustle of beaches that we are all too familiar with. The tranquillity was a refreshing change from the fast-paced society that I usually find myself in.
After completing the check-in process I deposited my luggage and, armed with an XT1 camera and 100 – 400mm fujifilm, I set off in a jeep to Wilpattu National Park accompanied by a local naturalist.
was told that leopards and sloths have been sighted in the park and these are the main attractions and I find myselfexcited at the thought of seeing these animals close up.
When we got to the park wefoundmany different species of birds, elephants and other animals which I was able to capture in their natural habitat. But – no leopards and, after a few days of revisiting the park, the elusive leopards were still nowhere to be seen.
Gal Oya National Park
In between the ongoing hunt for leopards, I took time out to enjoy the sand, the sun, and the sea at the Palagama Beach Resort. Then, feeling fully rejuvenated and having bid farewell to the resort’s pristine beach, I decided to travel on to Gal Oya National Park for a change of environment and a whole new experience.
On my arrival I was greeted at the charming Gal Oya Lodge – an eco-friendly lodge set deep within its natural surroundings. Spread over 20 acres of private forest, the lodge disconnects travellers from the world outside and transports them into a
world of wonder. Pushing the boundaries and championing the idea of sustainability, each of Gal Oya Lodge’seight bungalows are constructed from locally-sourced materials.
Visitors to Gal Oya National Park can choose from a myriad of activities to satisfy the adventurous soul! From wild jungle drives to adrenaline-pumping mountain biking rides and nature walks, Gal Oya National Park has got all your needs covered.
Taking time off from hunting the ever elusive leopards, I took the opportunity to visit the Veddas, an indigenous group of Sri Lankan people. The Veddas speak Tamil and Sinhala as their indigenous language is almost extinct and so, with the help of a translator, I was able to learn from the tribal chief about the tribe’s traditional use of medicinal plants, their ancient hunting grounds and their cave dwellings.
Yala National Park
The last stop of my Sri Lanka trip was at the Yala National Park, one of the most famous national parks in the whole of Sri Lanka and home to a wide range of wildlife animals including – leopards.
What is so captivating about wildlife photography is the uncertainty involved and the excitement that comes along with it. You prepare yourself carefully ready to capture some wild moments, you set your mind to it, pursuing your target and staking out likely places sometimes even risking your life for it. Once prepared all you need is for the stars to align and for that magical moment to happen
Well, as it happened lady luck was with me this time. I was able to track down not only one, but two leopards at different locations within the park. The sight of their agile, gracefulforms with theirdensespotted coats was truly majestic.
Taking in the breathtaking magnificence of it all, I feel truly blessed to have been able to enjoy such special moments and for the immense feeling of accomplishment that came with them.
Beauty of Sri Lanka
My trip to Sri Lanka was a rollercoaster ride for me – from anticipation to disappointment and ultimately, the exhilaration of seeing leopards up close and personal. Hailed as one of the most culturally, historically, and spiritually-diverse countries in the world, Sri Lanka is indeed a land of wonders only visible to those who seek them out. There is, of course, so much more to do in Sri Lanka and I am sure to return one day.
We each have our own approachto travel and my personal motto is: by taking the path less-travelled you can find a sense of exultation in creating your own special memories and, as the age old adage says, a life well-travelled is a life well-lived.
Article by Jose Jeuland (used Fujifilm Camera XT1 & X100T)