Panthera pardus, commonly known as leopard, is one of the five big cats. My bucket list item to see at least one of them in the wild was ticked off on that lucky day. For the love of wildlife, my friend and I had decided to spend the long weekend of Republic Day in Biligiri Ranga betta (BR Hills). We desperately wanted to see the big cats.
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About Biligiri Ranga Betta (BR Hills)
BR Hills is a protected tiger reserve in the state of Karnataka in India. It is the corridor between the Eastern and Western Ghats in southern part of India.
Panthera pardus / leopard in the wild
We had reached BR Hills in the evening and had decided to stay at Gorukana Resorts (one of the beautiful resorts in BR Hills). Unfortunately, we had not seen any big cats on that day.
On Republic Day (Next Day)
Following our guide’s suggestion, we started early morning that day and our car was the first to enter the forest.
Fact: In Karnataka, the forest entry and exit gates are closed between 6 PM to 6 AM and no vehicle can pass through the forests.
After driving slowly (literally in 10s) for about 1 to 2 kilometres from the entry gate, there was something. Yes, we had spotted a fully grown leopard, walking on the side of the road. As soon as the leopard heard the voice of the engine, it sprang from one side of the road to the other into the bushes. We rolled our car slowly near the bush where the leopard had jumped. The leopard was hiding, behind a bush. The leopard was so up close, say about 10 feet away from the car. It was magnificent and amazing. It was my first leopard sighting in my life. Wow! What a beautiful creation by God that was.
Within seconds, the leopard realized we were not leaving anytime soon and decided to disappear into the dense bushes. We were thrilled and super happy. “What a lucky day”, we thought!
But we wanted more, so we started driving a little further into the forest. Few meters ahead, we saw another leopard walking on the road, which soon jumped into the bushes and disappeared. I think we would have got anything we had asked for on that day from God. I am sure it was one super lucky day for us.
This has been one of the most memorable and fruitful wildlife trips I have ever had. We wanted to see the big cats – even though we didn’t see the tigers, we saw the leopards. Not one but two of them.
Apart from the leopards (Panthera pardus), we spotted a sloth bear (again a very rare sight – hurray!), many many spotted deer, a barking deer, a giant Malabar squirrel, an Indian gaur, and lots of colorful birds.
I would definitely recommend BR Hills for any wildlife lovers out there. It is definitely a hidden jewel that is very close to the hustling and bustling city of Bangalore and is a perfect weekend getaway.
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