Lawrence Bruce Kekule, an American by birth, has lived in Thailand for more than four decades.
Bruce has photographed Thailand’s wild creatures and habitats for 15 years. He has travelled all over the country on a photographic odyssey portraying the natural world. Bruce’s passion for the Kingdom and its wildlife, and his mission to show the world this beauty, will surely create awareness amongst the present generation that action is needed now to save Thailand’s wild places and animals for the future.
Chasing a Wild Dream
He published his first book Wildlife in the Kingdom of Thailand in 1999. His second book entitled Thailand’s Natural Heritage was published in 2004 and Wild Rivers, his third, was completed in 2008. He has also written many newspaper and magazine articles about wildlife. Born in the United States, he has lived in Thailand since 1964. His dream to produce wildlife photographic books continues.
Kekule is married to a Thai national and they live in Bangkok with their daughter, son-in-law and two grand daughters. His main objective is to educate the Thai people about their natural heritage before it is too late. A second objective is to help the park rangers who patrol the forests with food, clothing and equipment to create incentive among these men who put their lives on the line for the Kingdom’s forest and wildlife.
The big cat makes a surprise appearance in India
In 2013, I visited Tadoba Tiger Reserve and national park in the State of Maharashtra, Central India, and spent nine days chasing after tigers with my good friend Luke Stokes from England but who also lives in Thailand like me. We saw seven tigers in nine days that was just awesome for our first trip to the ‘Land of the Tiger’. But the leopard stayed elusive and we did not even get a glimpse of the smaller big cat.
Female posing for me very close to the road – my favorite shot…!
Last year I decided to return to Tadoba once more in March 2015 but had to make bookings way in advance to guarantee a slot. Plans were drawn up, the lodge was selected, dates were locked in and fees were sent. Unfortunately Luke was not able to make this trip with me due to other commitments so I had to go it alone this time. But after a trip to two other Indian tiger reserves in November 2014, I have now become familiar with travel in India that is hectic but has now become almost second nature learning the ropes and system of chaotic India.
Jumping across the road in front of us…!
The flight from New Delhi to Nagpur (the closest city to Tadoba) further south takes about one and half hours and is pretty straightforward. The crowds and security at the airport are tight in Delhi with loads of flights leaving first thing in the morning. I arrived safe and sound to a waiting taxi for the three-hour drive southwest to the lodge just outside the park gate about noon. After some lunch, I rested up and got my cameras ready for the next morning’s safari first thing at 6am.
She is winking at us…!
After a quick coffee and some toast, I jumped into the jeep with a driver and a new acquired friend named Sundran Rajendra, an Indian guy born in Malaysia, brought up in Australia, and now from London. We become immediate friends so at least I had a companion. This was his first trip to India but he was a season traveler having been to Africa many times. We arrived at the gate in five minutes and after paying a small fee for our cameras, moved into the protected area in the dark with a forest guard in tow. The sun began to rise and light filled the forest as we spotted deer and peafowl and other birds just waking up. I was all pumped up but the morning dragged on a bit as we plugged along.
Got her eyes on us now…!
All of a sudden, a leopard was sighted disappearing into the bush. At first I thought that would be it but the driver has worked here for some 35 years and knew what to do. He skillfully moved along the road and stopped ahead of where the leopard might appear. And as sure as the day is long, she moved out of the forest in front of us, hesitated and then jumped across the road disappearing once again. I took a few shots and then we moved once more but this time near a deer kill the mature female had made earlier that morning. She had been chased off by the arrival of several jeeps.
Her final pose before slinking off into the bush – another favorite…!
Once again the driver moved forward and then we waited once again. And like magic, she appeared a third time right in front of us. I did not stop shooting until she left being spooked by too many jeeps arriving. The light became harsh and we had run out of time as the Forest Department has strict rules that must be followed to avoid being fined. Later that morning when the jeeps and everyone had gone, she came back and took the deer kill into the forest for a meal. Sundran and I cheered and jumped up and down celebrating our luck at a rare sighting of an elusive cat. It certainly made our day…! The next morning, we bumped into a female tiger up-close but that is another story to be posted at a later date…Enjoy…!