Legends and stories about baobabs abound; they harbour the souls of the dead; they’re a poacher’s look out; they offended God, who took his revenge by planting them upside down…..
The big baobab in South Luangwa is a great landmark and countless numbers of visitors have stopped beside it over the years for morning coffee or evening sundowners. There must be photos of it in all corners of the globe.
It stands tall, the master of all it surveys. Its girth is more than fifteen metres wide but that measurement can’t be used to tell us its age, only carbon dating can do that. It’s an impressive example of a baobab, but how sad that this ‘tree of life’ which has so much to offer is isolated and forlorn. It benefits only passing wildlife and the killer bees that have made it their home.
Compare it with another baobab tucked away behind the main road through the village. Bent over as if the weight of the years has taken its toll – it can’t really compete in the classic baobab looks stakes but what stories it could tell!
This is Sendamira, the place where women meet to dance. The results of carbon dating are awaited but it’s estimated that this baobab is between 800-1,000 years old. Unlike Big Baobab, which very few locals have seen, Sendamira is well known. It used to be the village gathering place, sitting in a clearing at the junction of several tracks and even today people congregate for meetings, especially during elections.
Daily life goes on around it – it’s never alone.
Now children (and visitors) climb its silver-grey trunk. They walk past it on their way to school.
Albert uses its shade as his hang out. You can often see him at work making mats or carving souvenirs to sell to tourists – the elephant key hooks in the rooms at Marula Lodge are all his handiwork.
Its leaves can be eaten like spinach and its seeds and pulp are now described as ‘superfoods’. The trunk is fibrous and can be made into twine, ropes and craft products.
For anyone who wants to see the other side of life, away from first world lodges, a walk through the village past Sendamira to Uyoba school, where pupils will proudly show you their library, is really worthwhile.
You won’t be alone. You’ll have children to keep you company and their families shouting a greeting as you walk past.