Victoria Falls Big Tree: A silent tourist attraction The Big Tree

Leonard Ncube – [email protected]

VICTORIA Falls is Zimbabwe’s tourism capital and its story as a destination is not complete without mentioning the Big Tree, a silent tourist attraction.

The Big Tree is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Victoria Falls.

Located along Zambezi Drive, about two kilometres from the Zambezi River bank, the Big Tree is estimated to be more than 1  200 years old, according to scientists who used radiocarbon dating to confirm its age in 2021.

It is one of the must-visit places which tourists from various countries wish to see and pose for pictures.

The Big Tree is a large baobab (Adansonia digitata) and is sometimes called the upside-down tree, or Livingstone’s Tree, after David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary who arrived in the area in the late 1850s. It is the same tree that was on the old Zimbabwean 10 cents coin.

David Livingstone is believed to have carved his name on the Big Tree and his statue is in the Rainforest.

The Big Tree is 24 metres tall with a circumference of about 22 metres at the bottom.

It is protected by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe and Pristine Victoria Falls Initiative, working with Palm Hospitality Group, maintains the tree to make sure it is protected.

Tourists who visit the world’s largest blanket of falling water known as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” — The Smoke that Thunders, take time to pass by the Big Tree to pose for pictures and also capture its photos to show their folks in the respective countries.

Usually, mornings and late afternoons are busy with tourists making brief stops at the tree for photo shoots.

Locals also use the place for photo shoots when they have weddings.

Curio vendors have also established a curio market on site to take advantage of the visiting tourists.

African Sun Limited also established Chipala restaurant close to the Big Tree where conference organisers hold bush dinners to enjoy meals in the natural environment.

While baobab trees can store 120 000 litres of water in their trunks, enabling them to survive during drought, climate change seems to have taken its toll on the tree as it now produces few baobab fruits each year.

When travel agents and tour operators sell the destination, they include the Big Tree although viewing it is free of charge.

Tour guides take their clients to the Big Tree where they make brief stop-overs to pose for photos and view its magnificent trunk.

Some even enjoy the sumptuous baobab fruits from the tree, which are often eaten by baboons and elephants.

“We didn’t know about the tree and the guide brought us here as we were coming to see the Falls. It’s an amazing site that complements a number of attractions here in Victoria Falls,” said a tourist who identified himself as Alex from Russia.

He was part of a small group of Russian tourists that visited the Victoria Falls by road from Botswana.

A tour guide, Shepherd Muleya said some tourists who have heard about the Big Tree request to pass by the tree to see it and take pictures.

Mr Chiku Mulinde

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North chairperson Chiku Mulinde recently said the Big Tree is one of the attractions that complement a package of activities in Victoria Falls.

He said while there could be no statistics for people that visit the tree, a majority of those that tour the Rainforest pass by the tree.

Nkululeko Jubane, vice chairperson of the Big Tree Craft Market said the more tourists that visit the site, the more business they get.

“These days business is slow but we expect more numbers now that we are entering the winter season when tourists usually flock the destination.

“When they come they go straight to the tree to take pictures and from there some visit our stalls to view what we have. Some buy and we hope more people can come so that we are able to sell our stuff,” he said.

Big Tree Craft Market has 30 members but the place has no water and ablution facilities both for the vendors and their customers. -@ncubeleon

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