Gabriela Staebler is a nature photographer and loves African animals. I met her for an interview at her home near Ammersee (a lake in Bavaria, Germany). As our conversation proceeds we touch the topic of baobabs. Certainly, she has seen and photographed many of these giant beauties during her long practice of photography. She laughs and says she could only share a rather unpleasant story about a baobab with me.
Baobabs are huge – and can often be regarded as a small ecosystem in itself. They are the home for many living creatures, provide food, water, shelter and nesting sites. Besides birds they host small mammals and numerous insects, including bees – as Gabriela Staebler experienced herself.
A Painful and Prickly Affair
At lunchtime during one of her game drives in the Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, she sought a shady place for a picnic. The huge shadow of a giant baobab trees looked just perfect for the job. The photographer parked her offroad vehicle under the tree. She took notice of the bees living on one of the branches in a big nest but thought nothing of it.
She prepared the pcinic area and unpacked the food. The bees did not approve and showed their dislike immediately. They felt disturbed by the new guests, did not like the smell of the food and according to Staebler attacked immediately. Their behaviour was very aggressive – the photographer was stung in her head a couple of times.
In no time, the picnic was dismantled and stowed away in the car – “let’s get out of here”. Since then, she is very careful when she approaches a Baobab – the bees have left a lasting impression with her. “As I have learned from my encounter with the bees, I do not drive under Baobabs for a picnic any more.”
Baobabs in Gonarezhou National Park
She has seen plenty of baobabs in other places during her journeys. A particularly impressive specimen waited for her in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. She learned that it was one of the oldest and biggest baobabs in the southern African region and that it – like many of its age group – was completely hollow inside. She continues to say that baobabs of that size were not just used for shelter but also as prisons. “(Baobabs) are impressive trees, I think they are really great.”
She plans to visit the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe during one of her upcoming projects. This park hosts many fantastic baobabs. The elephants there like to tear the bark off the trees. The park is considered as a tip for insiders because it is not highly frequented by tourists yet and therefore not as crowded as other national parks in the area.
Baobabs behind walls
Staebler has another interesting detail to share – at Gonarezhou parks authorities think of building walls around the baobabs to protect the giants from elephant interference. This will make it difficult to take nice photographs – who wants to see a wall next to a beautiful giant in the wilderness? On the other hand walls might help to protect the baobabs and ensure their survival. The question is whether the elephants will be stopped inflicting damage to the trees by walls. They are clever creatures and will find their way around. Gabriela Staebler will certainly bring home impressive photographs of both wildlife and baobabs from her Gonarezhou tour – with or without walls does not really matter.
Gabriela Staebler takes photographs of animals and landscapes around the world. But her favourite destinations are the wild and natural landscapes of Africa. There she takes the most beautiful photographs of wild animals. She is author of various coffee table books which show her work and she shows her stunning photographs in photopresentations. For more information see: www.gabrielastaebler.de