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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Trainer

Geology’s role in safaris

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

BY: Darryn Murray, trainer at the Bushwise Mahlahla campus 

So, your holiday is planned. You’re off on safari to one of Africa’s many wonderful game reserves, or national parks. 

How will having an understanding of geology help you to find the ever elusive leopard, a particular bird species or maybe even the very sought after ground pangolin? Let’s start off by answering some questions.

What is geology? And why would it play such a big role in a field guide’s career?

Geology is the study of the composition, structure and history of the Earth. Planet Earth is made of rock composed of various minerals. By studying the geology of the area you’ll be travelling to, you can understand the various soil types that occur there and the vast array of wildlife that’s associated with them.

Field guides exploring a sandy area

How does geology affect soil and wildlife?

Soil is formed due to the natural process of weathering and erosion of rocks. The composition of the original rock gives us a better understanding of the type of soil that can be found in a particular area. The soils determine the types of vegetation as well as the densities that they can be found in.

In turn, the various types of vegetation will determine the different browsers, grazers, birds and insects that will be attracted to them. The browsers and grazers will naturally attract predators (and scavengers), both big and small into the area.

Certain species of plants attract certain species of insects, which attract their own predatory species such as birds and reptiles. All of these interactions are what make up a safari experience.

Topography: What is it? And how will this help?

The topography (shape and slope) of the landscape affects the quality of soils and where they are likely to be found. Generally, the tops of slopes are nutrient poor. The bottom of slopes are nutrient rich due to rainfall and other factors such as gravity carrying valuable minerals downhill.

That’s why the bottoms of hills are likely to have a higher concentration of flora and wildlife. 

Water: What role does H2O have in this?

The geology and topography explain how, why and what the soils do, but the rest comes down to water availability. Without a steady or constant water supply very few plants will grow. This will not be an ideal area for wildlife.

Before heading out on your next safari, read up about the geology, topography and water supply in the area. Then study up on the preferred habitat types of your favourite animals. And who knows, it might mean better sightings on your next safari.

Field guides exploring through water

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