Phi Alpha Founding Father Completes Bucket List Item in Africa

Retired state employee and founding father of Eastern Illinois University’s chapter, John Schmitt has been traveling the world in an attempt to cross some things off his bucket list.

Schmitt spent a part of his career working for the Department of Natural Resources in Illinois, and developed his interest in wildlife and nature. This inspired him to embark on a seventeen-night photo safari to Africa.

Traveling through tour company Overseas Adventure Travel, Schmitt was allowed a unique experience.

The group stayed in permanent tents equipped with running water and hardwood floors as they traveled to three different camps in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia: “Deluxe camping,” as Schmitt would call it.

Schmidt was amazed at how close he was able to get to the animals.

Each morning and late afternoon, the group would go on Jeep drives to see the various animals. Schmitt recalls seeing many lions, some elephants, a leopard, giraffes and more, but one of the most memorable animals he saw was the very rare African Wild Dogs.

“We saw one of the rarest animals called the African Wild Dog, which I had never heard of,” explains Schmitt. “There are less than 10,000 of them in the entire continent, and we saw a pack of twenty preparing to go hunting for their pray. We watched them do their ritual ceremony that they go through before they go off and find something to eat.”

Schmitt found it unusual that the man driving the Jeep did not carry firearms.

“They explained to us that the animals are all in national parks so they don’t have that fear of being hunted,” describes Schmitt. “When the animals see us in that vehicle, they just see one big object primarily, they cant differentiate the fact that there are people that they could eat if they wanted to.”

The company Schmitt traveled with also provided a chance for him to interact with a native village and witness their daily routines.

While visiting an elementary school, Schmitt learned how much the children value their education and that it is not always easily accessible.

“They divided us up among the kids and we got to actually talk to the kids about their careers and aspirations,” Schmitt discussed. “One of the girls I talked to walks 3 miles every morning to get to class by 7 am. The kids are definitely making an effort to get an education.”

Schmitt enjoyed his time overall and looks forward to crossing off his next bucket list item.

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