Ecology of the Savannah
and its Big Mammals
Type of Course: In person field course to be held in Kenya.
Places: The course has its main headquarters in the Mpala Research Centre; we will also visit Lake Naivasha, Lake Oloiden, Crater Lake Private Reserve and the large Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, where we will visit several community reserves and the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Language: Spanish and English
Academic professor: Iñaki Abella Gutiérrez
Academic professor: Dr. Pablo Manzano Baena.
Duration: 11 days
Start date: August 2020.
End date: August 2020.
Amount: 1800€ for students (200€ more for non-students; does not include flight or travel insurance).
Dates and prices need to be updated.
The great mountains with their impossible peaks or the high cliffs of the coast with an infinite horizon may represent for many the ideal landscape, but according to anthropologists, the ideal landscape for humans is that of a field of grass dotted with trees scattered on soft and undulating hills. It is the landscape where humans have evolved the: African Savannah!
In addition, the savannah is an exciting ecosystem, of which we have not yet fully explained the reason for its existence, and full of the best set of vertebrate fauna that one can observe: the Great Mammals!
The African savannah with its large mammals represent the dream of every nature lover.
Although the savannah is a very complex ecosystem with many varieties of landscape, what comes to mind when we think of a savannah are the infinite meadows of the Serengeti-Mara dotted with acacias shading a herd of lions.
For this reason, there is no better place to study the savannah and its large mammals than Kenya, because almost all the types of savannah on the continent, the savannah par excellence (Serengeti-Mara) and the best research centres with the best facilities, come together here.
With this course, in the heart of the wildest Africa, we intend to give a complete view of the savannas, their ecology, their geomorphology, their formation, the factors that define them and their interaction with large mammals, facts that make African savannas the most fascinating ecosystems in the world
The course begins at the Mpala Research Centre, a reference centre for ecological and biological studies throughout East Africa.
In Mpala we will spend 6 days learning about the savannahs, their very special interactions with all the large mammals that populate it and doing some practical field exercises so that we know how we can know more about the animals and their environment.
From Mpala we will visit one of the most famous private reserves with the best conservation programs in the whole country: Ol Pejeta.
From Mpala we go to the area of Lake Naivasha, in the Rift Valley.
The great Rift Valley is a geological formation unique in the world and the best place to see the formation of the continents. Its appearance has much to do with human evolution and with the formation of the most famous savannas of Africa.
Lake Naivasha is the highest lake of the entire Kenyan Rift, being at 1,900 m.a.s.l. It is freshwater and contains one of the most interesting bird populations in the country. In addition, there is still a good population of hippos.
Next to Lake Naivasha and separated by a small land corridor is Lake Oloiden, which is a miniature replica and where we will take a boat ride to enjoy their birds and observe hippos in their habitat.
In the same area is the Crater Lake Private Reserve, which is, precisely that, a lake in a crater, beautifully landscaped and surrounded by areas of well-preserved savannah where we can walk among animals such as zebras, elands, impalas, gazelles, buffaloes and giraffes.
From here, crossing the entire Rift Valley towards the west, we will go to the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem including the Maasai Mara National Reserve, perhaps the most famous reserve in Africa and of course the most visited in Kenya, where there is one of the largest migrations of land animals in the world.
Between July and September the great migrating herd is in the wettest areas of the Mara, having left the Serengeti completely exhausted.
Pablo Manzano Baena
Iñaki Abella Gutiérrez
Pablo is a biologist from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and has a doctorate in ecology and environment from the same university, with a thesis on grassland ecology. He has worked with ecological research centers in Germany, Argentina, the United States (Texas) and New Zealand.
Pablo also has experience in the field of development cooperation, especially on the environmental side, having first worked several years in Bosnia-Herzegovina and later on different continents as world coordinator of two sustainable grazing programmes in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
He has lived in Kenya since 2010 and is currently working as an independent consultant and scientific researcher. He mainly studies the sustainability drivers of landscapes dominated by herbivory as an ecological function, and the development options in them conserving biodiversity that integrate ecological factors with other economic and social factors. He carries out field studies in pastoral areas of South America (Gran Chaco ecosystem and Uruguayan pampas), Mediterranean basin, Horn of Africa (mainly Kenya) and India (Gujarat).
In addition to research in science, Pablo has a strong commitment to scientific dissemination and has published or given interviews in various media.
Pablo has worked practically all over the world including, in addition to those already mentioned, Antarctica, Inner Mongolia (China), Chad, Ethiopia, Uganda, Turkey, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia (Somaliland), Senegal and Tanzania.
Iñaki is the coordinator of the course in Kenya and teaches part of it, in charge of all logistical aspects in that country, where he has lived since 2010 and from where he directs all Bio+ activities.
With studies in biology, specialising in Zoology and with a Master's Degree in Nature Conservation, he has extensive experience in field work, having developed his career in more than eight countries with very different animals and ecosystems.
Iñaki has worked with primates in Bolivia, with sea turtles in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico, with amphibians in Costa Rica and the Central African Republic, with mammals in Kenya and Spain, with whales and coral reefs in Mexico, with birds in Spain and Costa Rica.
From the marine depths of the reefs of the Sea of Cortez to the highlands of the Galapagos Islands; from the Caribbean beaches of Costa Rica and Panama to the mountains of Spain and Bolivia; from the coastal estuaries of northern Spain to the mountain peat bogs of the Sierra de Guadarrma; from the jungles of Congo to the savannas of the Serengeti-Mara.
This great diversity of experiences makes him a great connoisseur of the world conservation status and an excellent host in Kenya.
In Bio+ he has combined his great passions, nature conservation and environmental education, within the framework of the necessary sustainable development.
Iñaki Abella Gutiérrez
Iñaki Abella Gutiérrez