An African Tale of the Baobab Tree

On a trip to Africa last year, part of our journey was spent at Camp Nkwazi near Livingston in southern Zambia, lying upon the banks of the Zambezi River (Link). This beautiful riverside resort is superbly run and maintained and offers a high-end camp experience. The trip was made during the winter dry season – hence the lack of leaves and brownish tones.

A wonderful amenity at Camp Nkwazi is the option of having guided tours of the area – by boat on the Zamezi River, and by jeep. We did both tours and they were great. I made a special request to see if we could see some baobab trees, as I have a forestry background and have always wanted to see them for myself. Our guide Alfred was excited to show us this large specimen near the camp. And, what a wonderful tree it was (picture below)! I estimate the diameter to be approaching 15-18 feet at the base and 70 to 80 feet tall.

Adansonia digitata, the African baobab

As we walked around and observed this colossal tree, Alfred told a tale from his childhood of the baobab tree from his village elders: They said that you must not go near the baobab tree, for if you go too close, the tree will swallow you up and trap you inside of the tree! And, if you listen to the baobab on a windy day the people inside can be heard moaning and scratching trying to get out.

I loved that tale and am grateful to Alfred for telling it to me. He explained that the baobab, when they get that large, are hollow on the inside. When the wind blows, the branches move and rub and make scratching, creaking, and moaning sounds that are amplified and transmitted to the hollow trunk. I suppose it’s something like a guitar body.

In fact, some of the baobabs in Africa are so large and hollow that the insides have been used as a pub or a jail.

I also included below, some photos of a local, legendary tree near Livingston simply known as “The Big Tree”. It is also well worth the short trip from town (Link). You can also pick up some local art for sale by crafters across the road from the tree.

The Big Tree

The Big Tree near Livingston, Zambia – Height 23m, Girth 18m