An engineering student’s first wildlife trip became a surreal experience when he ended up capturing stunning photographs of an extremely rare black leopard at Maharashtra’s Tadoba Reserve in India.
Abhishek Pagnis, a Pune-based photographer was on a two-day safari trip with his parents, and it was on their second day when he came face-to-face with the black leopard.
“It was my first ever wildlife trip where we were looking mostly for tigers. We started looking for leopard on our last day of safari after having enough sighting of tigers,” he said.
He stayed in close proximity to the majestic creature for about 40 minutes, capturing the big cat’s unusual dark spotted coat.
“I went blank when I spotted it. I hadn’t seen anything so beautiful, I was completely stunned and came back to my senses after 10 minutes and started clicking pictures,” he said.
Pagnis shared that he had to wait for around two hours to get the “perfect” shot, and heard some alarming calls of the animals, including deers and langurs before the leopard was sighted.
“Usually people have seen it around for two or three minutes but I was very lucky as I could see it for 40 minutes. I witnessed it drinking water from a pond, marking its territory and stalking langurs and monkeys. It was a brilliant experience.”
The 23-year-old knew how lucky he was to have spotted the black leopard during his first safari trip, as some professional wildlife photographers spend millions and several months to catch a glimpse of such rare animals.
“There were 10-15 safari jeeps but they left when they did not see the leopard and just three or four safari jeeps stayed with us,” he said.
“None of them had a camera so when it came out in the open, it was just me who had the camera and could take its pictures.”