|December 5, 2006|
It was never more apparent to professor Michael Jackson that he was far, far from Temple than when a lioness decided to cuddle up at the wheel of one of his group’s safari Jeeps, or when he found him self playing nursemaid to a couple of rhinos.
The director of graduate programs for sport and recreation administration in Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Jackson’s yen for adventure landed him the chance to host a group of 18 people from around the United States in Africa for a 12-day trip in September.
The trip, with stops in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, was aimed at finding ways to increase tourism in the region while conserving area resources.
Jackson led the trip on behalf of both the Philadelphia and the San Diego zoos and World Travel Vignettes. For the experience, he says, “Asante sana”: in Swahili, “thank you very much.”
Through encounters with thousands of wildebeests, a walk through the Serengeti Desert, and even a trip to Ngorongoro (an ancient Tanzanian crater carved out from a volcano that now serves as a 130-mile-long wildlife preserve), the trip featured enough adventure for a lifetime.
Fortunately, that lioness resting in the group’s Jeep only wanted a shady spot for a quick nap. About two hours later, Jackson and the group were on their way again.
“Everything in Africa will eat you,” said Jackson. “As long as you’re in the vehicle, you’re safe. Once you step out of the vehicle, you’re in the food chain.”
The group also visited Kenya’s Maasai tribe, where they stayed in modified tents for several days while learning the culture and studying ways to improve their co-habitation with the environment. Jackson said the Maasais’ village sits at the edge of the jungle, and while they welcome tourists to visit, they are vulnerable to the development around them.
“But they know about the outside world,” Jackson said. “And it’s sad because we’re imposing many of our values on them. What people must understand is that as we are imposing, we’re taking away their habitat.”
Jackson holds a strong interest in “CERTS” — Conservation (both human and animal), Education, Recreation, Tourism and Sports — and how the areas can “work in harmony to create more opportunities and a worthwhile quality of life for Africa,” he said.
Jackson now hopes to develop a program where Temple and its students can become active participants in the future CERTS of East Africa,” where he hopes to develop educational relationships with some of the region’s universities.
Jackson also is exploring the possibility of starting a program that would send elite U.S. runners to Ethiopia and Kenya. There, they could train with both nations’ top runners in a safari by foot rather than vehicle. If this idea pans out, it could be an economic boost to a struggling region that is growing in its interest for sports and recreation.
“It’s both a training excursion and one for culture,” said Jackson of the idea. “And eventually, it could build not only comradeship, but also the quality of our runners.”
For those looking for their own close encounter, Jackson suggests visiting East Africa in the late summer, right around the time of the Great Migration.
This, he enthused, is when one could watch and experience the drama of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra cross the Mara River in search of grasslands while trying to avoid numerous predators seeking dinner.
- Vince Paravecchia
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© 2006 TEMPLE UNIVERSITY