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DAVE CHRISTENSEN : Walking With Big Animals

audio A Day in the Life of a Walking Guide [audio]

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meet Dave Christensen

Dave is an exceptional walking guide and wildlife photographer

Dave Christensen | elephant - Zimbabwe [2006 ©]
Dave is an exceptional walking guide and wildlife photographer

Dave is a walking and canoe safari guide, an outstanding example of the great generation of safari guides that emerged from Zimbabwe in the ’80s and ’90s. His face lights up whenever he talks about wildlife, especially the big animals – buffalo, rhino and elephants. His pure enthusiasm comes from a fascination not only for their power and strength, but also their character. He speaks of individuals and their habits, like Babu, a giant elephant in northern Tanzania. He describes their inquisitiveness, their courage, stoicism. Dave relishes watching them, and will walk with a herd for many hours at a time if he can. He allows the experience to change him, to restore his humility, which is an evident aspect of his character. It is this sense of intimacy with big animals Dave loves to share with travellers and also through his excellent photographs.

Dave Christensen | canoe and hippo - Zimbabwe [2006 ©] - Dave Christensen - Walking With Big Animals - Great Guides

Like so many other Great Guides, Dave is quick to speak highly of his mentors. Growing up on farm near Hwange park in Zimbabwe the wild was never far away, and by 8 years old he knew he wanted to be a wildlife ranger. The excellent National Park service encouraged youth camps, and in particular Dave was mentored by a senior park warden, Dolf Sasseem.

Canoeing on the Zambezi river amongst hippo

At 18 Dave was apprenticed for a year with Dolf in the Mana Pools region. Then he was taken on by Gavin Ford and John Stevens at Fothergill Island on the Zambezi, which Dave describes as ‘an amazing tutorship’ in an ‘unbelievable eco-system’. For five years he led canoe and walking safaris for John and Gavin before becoming a camp manager and guide with Wilderness Safaris, a pioneering safari company, first on the Zambezi, and then in Hwange. Here he developed a passion for tracking buffalo on foot.

In 2006 Dave started guiding freelance. By this time he was a very well known walking guide and photographer. Zimbabwe, however, was in financial and political turmoil. He continued to live and work in his home country, but also looked north, to the vast reserves and massive herds of East Africa.


Dave Christensen - Ngorongoro, Tanzania [2010 ©] - Dave Christensen - Walking With Big Animals - Great Guides
Babu, the old 'Tusker' in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Justin Bell, a Kenyan, asked him to become a partner in Wilderness Africa and most of Dave’s work is now in East Africa, although he guides the Zambezi Valley whenever possible. Walking is not a traditional part of the East African safari experience and Dave is developing this more intimate, experiential, way of being in the wilderness, especially in the Selous of Tanzania.


Dave Christensen | wild dogs - Zimbabwe [2009 ©] - Dave Christensen - Walking With Big Animals - Great Guides

Travellers enjoy an intimate experience in nature with wild dogs.

In addition to being a top guide, Dave has won many photographic competitions and his work is widely published. He has been a semi-finalist in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year. A dedicated naturalist, Dave is licensed to dart for transportation - an anaesthetist for big animals! He is also involved in guide training, and has been setting exams for the rigorous guide training qualifications in Zimbabwe, since 1992.

In his audio, "A Day in the Life of a Walking Guide", Dave recalls leading a canoeing safari on the Zambezi, and some unexpected encounters before breakfast.

Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 02 Dec 2010
Location: Southern Africa, East Africa | Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Kenya
Themes: natural world, travel | safari guide