For years, I’ve read about a special tree that stands tall, deep in the forest in Fish Bay. This tree – the baobab tree – is believed to be both sacred and magical in many parts of Africa. The cool thing is that there is one baobab tree on St. John, and on Tuesday, I set out to find it.
After reading Gerald Singer’s See St. John blog, I realized I could find the baobab tree from two different trails – either the L’Esperance trail that begins up on Centerline Road or a lesser known trail that begins in Fish Bay and connects to the L’Esperance trail. I chose the Fish Bay trail.
To access this trail, take Southside Road past the Westin and out toward Fish Bay. After driving about 10 minutes from town, you will see a small bridge. Cross this bridge and take an immediate left onto Cocolobo Trail. Follow Cocolobo until you see a concrete wall on your left with a small sign on it that says Skytop. Take a left there. Drive up the hill until you see a switchback. That’s where the trail begins. Park your Jeep on the side of the road, but not in the roadway of course.
The trail at first is narrow and rocky at times. Follow this trail for about 10-15 minutes until it curves to the left. Continue on the trail and soon you will see to rocks that you will have to squeeze through. Once you pass through, you are pretty close to the L’Esperance trail. Once you hit the L’Esperance trail, take a left.
Take a left once you get to the L’Esperance trail. Walk a few minutes until you see a small group of rocks on your left, which are placed at a small trail. This is the trail to the baobab tree.
As you walk down the trail, you will see the Sieben ruins. According to See St. John, “the Sieben plantation once covered more than 150 acres. The extensive ruins include the remains of the sugar factory, rum still, estate house and various other structures. In addition to sugar, Estate Sieben was one of the few estates to grow coffee.”
You will notice a stone wall near the ruins. Walk over the wall – there is a small path – and behind it you will find the baobab tree.
The baobab tree:
According to See St. John, “the first seeds from (the baobab) trees were brought to the Caribbean by enslaved Africans. Although there is only one baobob on St. John, St. Croix has more baobob trees than any other island in the Caribbean. The seed pods which are edible. They are filled with a dry powder tasting something like a sweet tamarind. They develop between February and June. The Baobob has also been called Guinea Almond on St. Croix and Guinea Tamarind on St. Thomas. The large white flowers open at night and are fertilized by bats.”
Random fact: The Tree of Life at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is a baobab tree – a fake one of course.
Here’s some more info we found on the baobab tree:
“The amazing Baobab Tree is the most famous tree in the whole of Madagascar and also it’s national symbol. The people believe these massive trees hold the spirits of the death and that is why they are also referred to as the Sacred Baobab. Also in Africa, the Baobab Tree plays an important role in African culture. In ancient times, kings and other leaders would have their meetings under huge Baobabs to discuss matters of great importance. According to them, the Baobab Tree didn’t just provide shelter, but also holded magical properties which would aid them in making wise decisions.”
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
In total, it probably took about 30 minutes or so to get to the baobab tree from the Fish Bay trail. My dog Charlie, an Animal Care Center rescue, accompanied me so our journey was a bit longer.