In search of the mighty baobabs of Southern Africa

In search of the mighty baobabs of Southern Africa

The first documented sighting of a baobab led the discoverer to think he had stumbled upon “upside down trees” – a reference to the baobab’s branches which have unusual root-like branches. Since then, the tree has become one of Africa’s most recognisable and oldest natural attractions. Baobabs are extremely resourceful trees that store water inside them and bear nourishing fruit and seeds. This is why you will find them thriving in arid climates where local wildlife will eat their spongy bark for hydration and bird life will nest in their large trunks. Here’s where to find these ancient and legendary trees.

The Sunland Baobab

The Limpopo Province is the best place in South Africa for those going baobab hunting. The Sunland Baobab is one of South Africa’s most underrated attractions. Where else could you visit one of the largest and oldest trees in the world and have a drink inside it? Situated on a lush mango and palm tree farm, the “Big Baobab” is over 1700 years old. It’s an impressive 47m in diameter and stands at an impressive 22m – truly an awe-inspiring experience as you stand next to this natural relic.

sunland baobab

The Sunland Baobab complete with restaurant and perfect shade. Photo: Huffington Post

sunland baobab tzaneen

The Sunland Baobab even has its own wine cellar. Photo:

The stoutness of the tree led to its establishment as a pub in 1933, when the owner hollowed it out. Ever since, the Big Baobab has drawn curious travellers from all over the world to its gnarled branches. Apart from Sunland Farm, visitors can also explore the Modjadjiskloof Cycad Forest or the Magoebaskloof Hills and Forest nearby.

Other notable Limpopo baobabs include the Glencoe Baobab in Hoedspruit, which is 15.9m in circumference and the Sagole Baoab east of Tshipise, with a trunk width of 10.47m.

The Baines Baobab

Found in Botswana’s Nxai National Park, the Baines Baobab is named after the artist and explorer who first documented it, an Englishman called Thomas Baines. It was he who thought that baobabs looked like regular trees upside down. In 1862, after a gruelling trek through Botswana’s desert and pans, he was amazed to stumble across an oasis of baobabs amongst the mostly empty landscape. He quickly drew the tree, featuring the ox wagons around the base. Today, you can stand next to exactly the same baobab, seemingly unchanged by time. 

Baines’ travel companion and fellow explorer, John Chapman, would later discover another baobab, which would be named after him. Sadly, the Chapman’s Baobab is no longer in existence.

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The Ombalantu Baobab

Known as the Tree of Life or Omukwa waaMbalantu, this baobab has cemented its place in Namibian history. The Ombalantu is 28m high and 26.5m in diameter, with its age estimated to be 800 years old.

Ombalantu Baobab namibia

Visit the education centre at the Ombalantu Baobab Photo by Heike Pander via

A door leads you into the trunk which can accommodate 35 people. Over the years, the tree has been used as a chapel, post office, residence and hideaway. Today, travellers are encouraged to visit this iconic National Heritage Site to learn about the rich history of the tree. The Ombalantu is found in northern Namibia in Outapi.

Find out more about Namibia safaris.


Cover image credit:

Kinondo Kwetu Baobab Metal Print by Geraldine Robar

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