In Modjadjiskloof, South Africa, a 72 feet tall, 155 wide, 1,700-year-old baobab tree sat in the middle of a field. The size and age brought in tourists from far and wide. But the real reason for the thousands of tourists who traveled to the region was inside: a 15-person full bar.
The tree, called the Big Baobab Tree Bar, was hollow — something that happens naturally to baobab trees after around 1,000 years. Beer taps provided sudsy entertainment, and wine and cocktails flowed freely. Then, on April 13, 2017, at 4 a.m., it all came crashing down, completing the circle of life. The premier tree bar in the world is no longer. In the collective memory, however, it lives on.
Big Baobab Tree Bar was owned and run by Doug and Heather van Heerden, who purchased the land and the tree stands on in 1989. They built the Sunland mango farm around the tree. The couple quickly found a side business inside the tree, though. In 1993, the van Heerdens cleaned the debris from inside the tree and got to work transforming it into a bar.
The van Heerdens put in beer draft lines, a wine cellar, wooden benches, a sound system, dartboards, and an outdoor restaurant area. Over the years, they hosted day visitors, overnighters, and weddings, with one party reaching 60 people, according to the Big Baobab website.
Parties raged for years. But in August 2016, the first sign of trouble started to show when a third of the trunk crashed to the ground. People online blamed the bar inside, but the owners wrote on YouTube that the breakage was due to heavy rainfall in the tree that caused rotting.
“Scientists have assured us that the tree is not dying and are going to do tests on it,” the Sunland Baobab YouTube account wrote. “It is not because there is a bar inside of the tree, the bar was put there because the tree was naturally hollowed out, as baobabs do.”
Furthermore, it was “still open, still awesome, and probably one of the very few trees where you can see the inside from outside.”
Less than a year later, the van Heerdens made an announcement on the Big Baobab website that the tree had fallen.
“Never in our lives could we have imagined that this great giant that has stood sturdy all these years could break so tragically. We are open, come and have a braai and a beer in front of the brave baobab.”