When you arrive at Ngoma Safari Lodge on the western border of Chobe National Park, the view from the main deck will blow your mind. It looks out over the veld, a baobab tree and a waterhole towards the Chobe River. If you’re lucky when you stay here, you might meet the tree man of Ngoma.
As a guide he’s interested in everything from animals to rocks and plants, but it is trees that truly have his heart. In fact, he loves them so much we dubbed him the ‘tree man’. He seemed to like that, telling us that in the language of his Subiya people it translated to Mokwame we zisamo.
Back home in the Linyanti he has planted guava, banana, pawpaw, mangosteen, baobab, brown ivory, hard mahogany, jackalberry and sausage trees. He collects seeds in the wild – not in the park, he’s quick to add – and nurtures them to germinate and grow.
Bevan also grows chillis. ‘The others take my chillis when I’m away on leave because they like spicy food, but I don’t mind,’ he said. What bugs him is if he asks them to water his plants and they forget or don’t bother.
Although his grandfather, a traditional healer, was killed by an elephant when he was out gathering plants one day, Bevan bears the animals no ill will. But he sees elephants eating tree bark in the dry season and he’s worried that some of these of trees – like the majestic baobab – will die out in future. ‘I see too many trees dying from damage by elephants or people,’ he said.
And who doesn’t dream about living in a tree house? It’s just that most people don’t grow the trees from seed first!
* This is part of a series called Voices of Botswana, which shares the stories of some of the people we met on our Botswana adventure. You can find them all in the people category of this blog.