Swimming with Elephants

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Limited Edition Giclée Canvas

Gallery Edition:
• 75 s/n plus 7 Artist Proofs
• Canvas: 33" x 40" - $1,500
• Artist Proof: 33" x 40" - $1,800
• Frame (Artisan): 41" x 48" - $1,100

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"My guide and friend, Mike Penman, from Animal Planet`s Mad Mike and Mark show, and I kept reminding ourselves of this while we tried to coax one of the bulls into a show of aggression. I hoped those bulls remembered that nine out of ten rule. Mike and I share a "no touch" policy with wildlife – interactive, not invasive. By our tenth day on the Kwai River in Botswana`s Okavango Delta, we`d seen more than 500 elephants. One night, nearly 300 bulls, cows and calves gathered around us – an indescribable moment. Now, a dozen patriarchs milled about, drinking and wading. One of these old boys had to give us some action. When we approached the first one, he shook his head, grunted and moved away. Each bull we tried to approach did the same. Shrugging, we shook our lowered heads and slogged toward the vehicle."Let`s go in," Mike said.

In the water? With the elephants? What a crazy idea. Why not? How many people get to swim with elephants?

Stripping to our shorts, we sloshed into a hippo and croc infested river. Even though I hadn`t seen a croc in this specific location, it offered little comfort. I might be a fool, and a croc might pull me under, but if it didn`t, I`d remember this for the rest of my life.

"Hey, fool. If a croc does grabs you, go for its eyes – it's your only chance."

With water rising above my waist, I focused on the threat I could see – the hippo pod. They turned to face me, a hint of murder in their eyes. Maybe their eyes held only curiosity, but when you`re in the water, eye to eye with hippos, their stares feel murderous. When the front two hippos submerged, I wondered if a two-ton torpedo was about to take me down. A moment later, they reappeared in the same spot. When they repeated this up-and-down behavior, my fear eased. "It`s okay," I said gently. "I`m no threat." The look in their eyes seemed less homicidal, so I turned to face the earth`s largest land animal.

With water up to our armpits, we bobbed closer. Instead of moving off, these giants waded deeper into the water next to us. Swirling water with their trunks, they swung these unique nasal appendages to their mouths and sprayed it in. Looking into the mouths of wild elephants, I realized we were no longer intruders. They had accepted these two longhaired dudes as harmless – or they thought we were small, white hippos. Either way, it was fantastic.

Engaged in the moment, I almost failed to notice other elephants approaching the water. It was breeding herd – the most dangerous of all elephant herds. I tensed. But their posture never turned threatening. They came to drink and cool off and accepted our presence as normal.

For the next hour, we swam with fifty elephants, sharing a moment when the distinctions between man and beast drifted away like forgotten memories. I had crossed a chasm, a dimension in life, from the human world to the animal world and saw them for what they were – gentle giants." - John Banovich