Summer in the Savanna

Summer has come and gone and it’s time to get back into the rhythm of school. Several Thunderbird students and faculty traveled around the world over the summer. One of the many SUU study abroad groups visited the South African savannas.

Communications professor Jon Smith led the trip. Six students, comprising of three outdoor recreation and three communications students, joined Smith as they toured portions of South Africa and Swaziland. This was Smith’s fourth time leading a group of students to Africa.

According to Smith, the team packed in as many experiences and activities possible. “I am just constantly amazed at the wide variety of things we are able to do on this trip,” Smith said.

The adventure began in early May when the T-Birds flew to Johannesburg, South Africa. After a five hour drive to Swaziland, the team made it to their destination.

Students toured smaller game reserves where they were excited to see impalas, zebras giraffes, and hippos. Later, they were also fortunate to see Africa’s “big five” which includes the elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, leopard and lion.

Throughout the trip, students participated in activities that ranged from zip lining to spending time with the children in orphanages. Accommodations ranged from safari tents to kings cottages in the national park.

Although Smith is a communications professor, this trip is open to any major. “In the past years, we have had education, business, and biology majors come,” Smith explained.

This trip offers a diverse opportunity to all students. Participants doesn’t need wildlife photography experience in order to appreciate the beauty of all the spectacular wildlife Africa has to offer.

Professor Smith plans to return with a new group of students in May of 2020. Students interested in SUU’s study abroad program can visit


Story by: Cade Higbee
Pictures by: Yuri Bertacchi