Heike Pander: Baobab Stories
We love hearing from people who share the same passion for baobab as us. So you can imagine our delight when we met fellow baobab enthusiast, and expert, Heike Pander. Heike is a freelance ethnologist, journalist and artist who has spent more than 20 years travelling around Africa learning about the incredible baobab tree.
Like us, she is on a mission to Make Baobab Famous, and posts her findings to the world through her website baobabstories.com. She shares valuable research and findings into baobab trees, where they come from, the impact they can have on some of the poorest people in rural Africa and documents her own experiences of these incredible trees through photos, drawings and blog posts. As a journalist and online editor she uses her story telling skills to share the wonders of baobab trees globally, including writing for the likes of Huffington Post.
She's even growing her own mini baobab trees in her flat in Germany!
We couldn't wait to find out more about Heike and her love for baobab:
Describe yourself in a sentence... I am an adventurous spirit with a deep love of nature and its diversity, a passion for life, travel, discovery and naturally BAOBAB.
What inspires you?
Experiencing freedom of body, mind and soul and being outdoors whenever possible, preferably in places I deeply love – for example some baobab locations in Africa, apart from that the Baltic sea or the mountains. The beauty of baobab flowers opening like umbrellas at sunset at the end of a busy day is a breath-taking moment for me and easily opens my heart.
When did your love for baobab trees begin?
Generally, my love for trees started very early in life. For baobabs – that is difficult to say, really. I had read about the trees in books – one of them being “The Little Prince” of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I always thought he was not being fair to baobabs because as trees they simply cannot be that bad. The first ones I saw in the “wild” approximately 20 years ago in Kenya engraved a lasting impression in my memory. It was a baobab “forest” on my way from Nairobi to Mombasa around the area of Voi but far away from the road. Nevertheless, they stood out like icons from amidst all the other “greens” because they had no leaves and were much taller and larger compared to the other trees and shrubs. The driver told me they were baobabs. I got very excited and decided to make sure I follow up on them to get a closer look and soon the “closer look” turned into a passion.
Heike Pander under the Sagole Big Tree in South Africa (c).
Tell us more about your website Baobab Stories – what can people expect from it?
You can expect all sorts of different information revolving around the topic of baobab:
- Learn facts about the ecology, biology, geography, traditional and current uses of baobab trees and where to find them.
- Find out what people from all over the world are willing to share with me. In “BaobabFriends” you can read what people living with baobabs, fruit collectors, researchers, scientists, baobab experts, artists, filmmakers, entrepreneurs or simply people who have a special interest in baobab and/or have a baobab story to tell about these iconic trees.
- See beautiful baobab photographs from the “wild”, some of my paintings, drawings and sketches of baobabs and watch short introductory videos into the world of baobab.
- Read and enjoy plenty of my own baobab stories that I experience on my journeys to baobab regions and learn about my latest baobab activities.
- Get information on how to grow your own little baobab at home and where to get seeds or saplings. There is plenty of information on how to take proper care of the little giants and what they need in order to thrive.
- Share my love for baobabs by sending your own baobab story & become a “BaobabFriend” yourself.
When I started to do research about baobabs only little information was available on the internet and there were only a few books but I found loads of scientific papers. I felt that everybody should have access to easily digestible, but thoroughly researched, information about the trees. As I did (and still do) a lot of research about baobab, I decided I might as well put it all on a website for everybody to read and enjoy and therefore contribute to “make baobab famous”, and hopefully grow a great baobab fan community.
What is your favourite way of having baobab?
I love baobab powder in smoothies, curries, my muesli, and the best ever: plain powder stirred into a glass of water, adding a little bit of cherry juice to it. And I’d love to taste baobab leaves as a spinach one day…
You can discover more of Heike's world, read her fascinating articles and explore her photos and paintings on baobabstories.com.