Ian and the Bus Sized Elephant

Going back in time for this blog post…


In the early 1990s I was living in Harare, Zimbabwe. As part of my job as an eco-tourism consultant for Environment 2000 I spent a lot of time traveling throughout southern Africa. I would visit lodges, camps, and hotels and educate them on how to save water, reduce waste, and so on… teach them how to be “green”.


One afternoon I was out fishing on the Zambezi River (near Ruckomechi Camp in Zimbabwe) for Tiger with professional Zimbabwean guide and good friend, Dave Christiansen. The sunny hours passed talking smack, laughing at each other, and catching the odd bream, Tiger and Vundu – which is a giant catfish. Mana Pools is paradise on earth and I could easily live there… little grass roofed mud huts and banana trees line the river banks… smiling locals wave as you cruise by… the blue Zambian escarpment in the background… hippo, crocodiles, elephants, baboons… all the usual suspects. But I digress…


In between fish we spotted a bull elephant, the size of a bus, on a nearby island. Dave ran the boat up next to the island and grabbed onto some reeds to keep us from floating off in the current. He said “Ian – give me your camera and I will get a photo of you with the elephant in the background. Hop onto the island!” I said “Yeah right Dave! As soon as I jump out you are going to float off leaving me stuck with this beast.”


Giving him a “don’t you dare leave me here look” I jumped onto the island and squatted down for the photo. The elephant was about 30 feet away. Dave spent a considerable amount of time adjusting the camera… he quietly noted “Hang on Ian… almost there… just wait… I want to get the elephant in just right…”


Meanwhile I could feel the island trembling under my feet…. I glanced over my shoulder and the aforementioned elephant was charging. It was now about 15 feet away… Dave said calmly “Ian look this way… that’s it… Got it!” (Writing this I am I getting goosebumps remembering the goosebumps I had!!)


As he said “got it” several things happened. His right hand unwound itself from the reeds while his left dropped the camera and grabbed my right arm. He yanked me into the boat. With his right foot he pushed us off the island into the river current.


I collected myself off the floor of the boat and looked back to see the elephant halfway into the water trumpeting. Dave had a big smile on his face noting “that was close”…. I smirked back uttering a few choice words about Dave’s lineage.


Ian and elephant 2

Ian and elephant


As this was before digital cameras we had no idea how the photos would turn out… as you can see – they turned out pretty well!


I was to learn at a later time that Dave had won several photography awards prior to this including “Best wildlife action photo” and so on….


Thanks China* for the great memory! Love you bro!


And for those of you astute enough to notice – yes I had a ponytail and was wearing a puka shell necklace.


*In Zimbabwe “China” is slang for a great friend

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