Rashmi and I had been to this place called BR Hills near Mysore. It was early April and it was supposed to be a good time for sighting animals. But we were disappointed to know that a forest fire had burnt very large tracts of the forest and since there was no vegetation for the deer and other grazers, they had all moved away.
But luck was on our side. On the second night, we saw a bear in the moonlight, quite close to our log hut. It was scratching the ground and lazily moving around, making a lot of rustling noises among the fallen dry leaves.
The next day evening, as we were coming back from the safari, we saw a couple of deer, right by our side, totally ignoring us, and staring at something right ahead of us. They called twice, the sharp and loud "cow", the alarm call of the spotted deer. And then, from the grasses to the left, something came out on the road. In a second it vanished around the bend in the road. In a frenzy of excitement we urged the driver to drive down. He had not seen the animal come onto the road, but started driving down slowly to the bend. But the animal was gone.
We looked around, excited, frustrated and expectant. Someone saw a movement on the raised bank on the right. There it was, a full grown leopard, moving stealthily towards cover. A few more moves and the vegetation consumed the cat.
The now very excited driver guessed it must come out again a bit further and he started moving. And then we spotted it again. A magnificent animal, sitting right there, a few feet away, at a height on the raised bank which let us look at it straight in the eyes. I clicked away shaking with excitement. The leopard was just beautiful. I had never seen one so close and for so long. It just sat and looked at us. And slowly moved back, while still sitting, so that it was covered by some undergrowth. This is exactly how a tiger had behaved a few months back in Bandipur. Slowly creep backwards in imperceptible movements but soon be hidden from view behind some neighbouring undergrowth.
And then the leopard started moving. It came down the embankment and walked across the road and then down the curvy road which bent in a U to be parallel with us again. And man, was it brilliant. The leopard moved effortlessly, purposefully, silently, stealthily and man, so beautifully. And it was in full view of us all the time!
15 minutes had gone by and it was still around! Perfect sighting!
And then we started moving towards it, as we had to return to camp, and by then the leopard decided to vanish. And vanish he did. We could not figure out where he went.
We were again rewarded th next day with a bear sighting while we trekked nearby! Quite an eventful and satisfying three days!