Sophomores and juniors to camp in Africa

By Alex McNab

The first ever six week Harvard-Westlake camping trip to Africa is being offered to 15 10th and 11th graders, who will visit five countries for the summer of 2013.

“It’s going to be like ‘The Lion King,’” said Florence Pi, the Middle School science teacher who created the trip and who will be leading it along with Upper School science teacher Dietrich Schuhl, assistant director of admission Melanie Leon, and head of Upper School Harry Salamandra, who will be bringing his wife Joanna, a nurse, with him.

Students on the trip will traverse South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Tanzania by overlanding, cross-continent travel by driving and camping.

Students will ride in an overland expedition vehicle equipped with electricity but no bathrooms driven by guides from an eco-friendly, adventure travel company, Intrepid, and, each of the six weeks, students will camp in the bush for at least four nights.

“It’s a way to see the country,” said Pi. “It’s designed for [students] to be looking out the windows.”

In addition to looking out the windows, while on the road, students will be given lectures on the places they’re passing by that cover a wide range of topics including zoology, ecology, and history, and they will be given a list of recommended books to read while on the road.

Activities include safaris, a two day canoeing trip, snorkeling in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, board surfing down the world’s largest sand dunes, visiting local schools, walking with lions, and interacting with cultural villages including spending a night with bush men that click.

“Learning and appreciating cultures is an incredible education, but you can’t get that in a classroom,” said Salamandra.

Students will blog at and will be allowed to take only one photo a day to teach them how to live minimally.

“I hope they learn how to be really good independent travelers,” said Pi.

No cell phones will be allowed, and students will be allowed only one call home a week.

“Every week or so, we will hit civilization,” said Pi, “where there are ATMs.”

During the trip, students will keep a travel journal, create a road cookbook, a radio show, and a video documentary.

When they return to school, they will put on an art exhibition retelling the story of their trip.

“I’m hoping, as the students come back, Harvard-Westlake will send kids on more trips like these,” said Pi.