On a pleasant morning just at the beginning of monsoon season, I along with my family was on a safari in the fabled forests of Kabini. The Leopard was and is still my favorite big cat and in the 6 years I had been traveling to jungles around India, I had never caught a glimpse of one. We had heard a thing or two about the ease with which friends had seen Leopards here, and came to Kabini to test our own fortunes. This was to be our final jungle drive of the trip, and so far, we were Leopard-less. And then there it was; the cackling of a group of Langur monkeys the way they do only when they spot a predator, usually a Tiger or a Leopard. Our hopes were up in a flash, and as our naturalist focused on a small patch of forest from where the alarmed calls of Langur resonated through the forest, we heard our driver say the words which to this day sound sweeter than sugar, “Sir, leopard!”. Thus ended my dry streak of 8 years without seeing a Leopard in the wild, and Kabini became my go to place to closely observe these elusive cats for the next decade.

leopard-ghost-of-the-jungle

Photograph: Bhargava Srivari

 

Things for you to consider before you freeze on a destination for a wildlife safari are which place is best suited for your sighting interests, what is the best time of the year to go there, and if the destination has top of the line options for your stay. And Kabini comes out on top with flying colors on all of those aspects.

If Leopards are your forte, I think it is safe to say that it is easier to see and photograph Leopards in Kabini than it is in any other forest in India. And I say this with the experience of tracking these rarely seen cats in forests nestled in every corner of the country. Not only that, but these cats of the spotted variety are also bolder here than I have seen them to be anywhere else; I account this to the availability of perfect “leopard perches” in abundance from where Leopards feel safe and secure even with photographers firing away their bazookas of the shuttered variety.

leopard-ghost-of-the-jungle

Photograph: Bhargava Srivari

 

The general advise you always get from travel consultants is that the dry season is the best time to go to a jungle if you want to maximize your chances of spotting wildlife, specially the big cats. As true as this is, Kabini has been known to turn this stereotype upside down and throw some exceptional sightings of Leopards even during rains. I know from conversations with wildlife enthusiasts that seeing a Leopard lying on a tree tens of meters from the ground is a dream for many, and it is not uncommon to be privy to such a sight in Kabini during the monsoon months. This can be attributed to the fact that the tree tops offer some great cover from the rain and also act as perfect vantage points for Leopards to keep a watch on their prized territory.

Any blog post on Kabini is not complete without mentioning how well Leopards here coexist with their larger cousin: The Bengal Tiger. Many visitors have often spotted Leopards and Tigers in the same area and even at the exact same place within a span of minutes, making Kabini among the few genuinely good places to sight both the Leopard and the Tiger.