Savannah: Between desert and forest

"Savannah" is often associated with the vastness of Africa's Serengeti or the Big Five. But in other parts of the world you find savannahs as well, which are completely different from the Serengeti. Learn more


The term ‘savannah’ is often associated with the infinite vastness of the African Serengeti and the "Big Five". But there are also savannahs in India and South America which are completely different from the well-known Serengeti. What are the different forms of savannah and what do they have in common?

The word ‘savana’ comes from a Caribbean language and means "wide plain". Depending on the climatic zone, it stands for a type of landscape characterised by a more or less closed herb layer consisting of grasses and an open layer of woody plants with individual trees. Savannahs can be found in both tropical and subtropical areas of the earth, mostly in the transition zones between desert and rainforest. They can be found mainly in Africa, India and Southeast Asia, but also in South America and Australia. If you think of the "typical" savannah, you probably quickly picture the dry and barren bush landscape of the African Serengeti. In fact, however, there are different types of savannahs. In general, a distinction is made between the forms wet savannah, dry savannah and xeric shrubland. The climate, the amount of precipitation and the vegetation are regarded as distinguishing features.


The wet savannah, which can be found mainly in Africa and Southeast Asia, but also in Australia and South America, has a rather humid climate with up to eight rain months. The vegetation is determined by evergreen grasses up to 6 m high and so-called gallery forests (forests that grow along river courses in an otherwise unwooded landscape). In addition to the tropical rainforest, the humid savannah is home to the world's most species-rich areas.

In the dry savannah there are five to seven humid months, the vegetation type is characterised by chest-high grasses and loose tree stands. An example of a dry savannah is the Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.

Xeric shrubland is one of the driest types of landscape and climate besides the desert. Here there are only two to four humid months with relatively little precipitation. The deciduous trees are replaced by thorny plants and the herb layer usually consists of only 30 cm high grasses.


What all savannahs have in common is that they are subject to a strong vegetation change due to the summer rainy season. During the rainy months, the barren landscape turns into a lush and juicy paradise from which the herbivores (in Africa, for example, giraffes, gazelles, elephants, wildebeests and zebras) benefit most. But also predators like lions, pumas and cheetahs use the dense vegetation to ambush their prey and satisfy their hunger.

When joining a Natucate trip to South African Kruger National Park, the breathtaking Masai Mara or the magnificent Okavango Delta you get the chance to immerse yourself into unique savannah landscapes including all typical facets and their incredible biodiversity – for example, as part of a Professional Field Guide training, a field guide course in Kenya or a safari in Botswana.

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