The Wits University school of geosciences has partnered with a new KwaZulu-Natal game reserve to provide an interactive earth sciences course.  

Wits University is providing an accredited, interactive earth sciences course at Babanango Game Reserve from July 26 to July 31 that will provide a unique opportunity to see rare geological preservations that are found in this region. 

The Exploring the Earth and Solar System course will offer participants short theoretical lectures every day, facilitated by Dr Grant Bybee, and other lecturers from the Wits school of geosciences, as well as hands-on learning opportunities through game drives and bush walks to important formations situated on the reserve.  

The course will include informative astronomy talks with a view of the Milky Way, free of light pollution, and at the end of this course, all participants will receive certification from Wits.  

“In the Babanango Game Reserve, along the White Umfolozi River, there is preserved probably one of the most remarkable sequences of rocks in the country,” says Dr Grant Bybee, a senior lecturer in the school of geosciences. 

White Umfolozi River in the Babanango Game Reserve.
Photo: Jessica Bunyard

Bybee adds that some of the features preserved are not commonly seen in rocks as old as these. These rocks are up to three billion years old and still have unique features that one would typically see preserved in rocks from only one million years  

“This particular river section … shows you almost all the rock types you would want to use to teach someone about beginner, intermediate geology,” adds Bybee.  

Justin Hall, the head ranger at Babanango, adds that they have “some of the world’s oldest rock structures in and around the reserve. Rocks that are magnetic, lava flows and other interesting geological finds.” 

The stargazing experience, if weather permits, will offer an opportunity to discuss planetary geology and teach attendees about the stars and planets. These discussions will include topics such as why the geology of planets is different and how astronomy “gels with geology”, says Bybee. 

Image of the Milky Way. Photo: Jessica Bunyard

Bybee says that if successful, he hopes to bring international undergraduate geology students to this area to show them one of South Africa’s geoheritage sites and promote geotourism into the country.  

There are no requirements to take part in the course besides an interest in geology and astronomy. It is open to the general public of all ages. The course can accommodate a maximum of 35 people and everyone must fill in the registration form. 

The cost for the course is R8 950 per person, which includes three meals per day, daily conservation fees and safari-style tented accommodation. This cost excludes personal items, transport to the reserve, and any additional activities and beverages. Guests are to bring their own pillow, sleeping bag and towel. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Grant Bybee and the Babanango team at the rock formations. Photo: Provided