A tryst with the Indian Chameleon

Chameleons are those beautiful reptiles which, as all know, have the ability to change their skin colour. Their independently moving eyes are truly a marvel of nature and captivating too. Their slow, bobbing movement is very characteristic as well. It has always been a wish of mine to see one in the wild. It had been eluding me for all this while.

Early this December, I was leading a bird photography tour to the fabulous place of Hampi. Hampi is as rich in its bio-diversity as it is in its cultural and architectural heritage. I love going there and have it as a workshop destination each year. There are a lot of species of birds that one gets to see and photograph in and around Hampi. Incidentally, my previous post was about ‘Birding in Hampi’. Apart from the lovely avian friends, Hampi is also known for it good Sloth bear population and Leopards too.

On the second morning of our outing, we were on our birding session along the Tungabhadra high-level canal or the Kamalapura canal, as they call it. We just finished shooting the Indian Eagle Owl and also had made some beautiful images of the larks and Large grey babblers. Just as we were driving back for breakfast, our guide, the inimitable and energetic Pompayya, who was driving our vehicle, suddenly swerved the car and came to a halt. We were wondering as to what was happening. We all got out, went to the front of our vehicle and saw that something was moving slowly along the sandy track. The characteristic swaying movement was a clear give away, it was a CHAMELEON !

I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was definitely neither on the agenda nor on our mind when we landed in Hampi. The shock and happiness on all our faces were quite evident :) It took sometime for the fact to sink in, that my long pending dream of seeing an Indian chameleon had been realised.

Inspite of their reputation of being a slow mover, they can be quite fast when it comes to it and dash away quickly.


The entire body of the chameleon is covered in what looks like little, shiny beads. They are known as granules or tubercles. The detailing is just so amazing.


The eyes of a chameleon are truly a marvel which stands out among all of nature’s creations. Each of its eyes can move independently and pretty much in all directions. When one eye is focused on you, the other watches elsewhere.

It is like a ball rotating against a pivot, similar to the ball-heads used for tripods. What kind of an amazing image this little reptile might be getting of its surroundings.

Indian Chameleon

The beautiful structure of its prehensile tail also grabbed my attention. The way it was curled up, like one of the most lovely spirals in nature. Again, so much detailing and colour on this little creature.

From what I have observed, most chameleon sightings happen around the time of the monsoon. Coming across one in December in Hampi and that too on a birding tour, when it was least expected, was an absolute surprise and a very welcome one at that.


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