We get rather sentimental when we think about forests. Because of how much they mean to us. It’s safe to say that we are living right in the thick of one, in our space on the Zambezi’s banks. The island itself is one large green lung that gives our little lodge between the trees and bushes of riverine life a home. It is our sanctuary and whenever possible, and even more so when it seems impossible, we like to steal a moment to walk through the dappled light, to look up and to get really close to our giant ancient baobabs and jackalberry.
The colours of the forest let us know when the seasons are changing, moving between sparse browns to deep overflowing greens. We watch the life ebb and flow in and around it – the bugs and birds and baboons all flocking to the woods in the rainy season like never before. We breathe in its fresh oxygen and we frolic in the yellow snow of the Pterocarpus antunesii petals creating magical carpets on our paths.
Even in the dry season, walking the island’s paths reminds us that there is time for rest as much as activity. It lets us exhale in the open spaces between the trees, lets us see the trees in their naked states – their bumps and bruises. The forest is family. We live among it at River Lodge too, with the giants that hug our raised walkways and treehouse-like villas on stilts. We watch how the natural world revels in all that it provides and we never feel lonely, even in moments spent alone.
We don’t want to imagine our lives here, our lodge, but also our world, without these great green hearts. Living as gently as we can among them, letting them thrive naturally and go about their lives beside us, is one step. Taking guests on walks with us through the island forest, to discover the variety of treelife and plantlife, the known and unknown, is another. Our guides share their love for the wilderness, invite you to lift your eyes to the sky where canopies enclose the sky and to your feet – where the wild flora twists and turns and rises and falls.
Today, International Day of Forests, we celebrate the forests of the world – the myriad woodlands and trees – and we honour the ways in which they sustain and protect us. We loved the key messages from the United Nations for this year’s theme – Forests and Sustainable Cities – and wanted to share them and a look as our own forests below.
- Forests and trees store carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change in and around urban areas.
- Trees also improve the local climate, helping to save energy used for heating by 20-50 percent.
- Strategic placement of trees in urban areas can cool the air by up to 8 degrees Celsius, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent.
- Urban trees are excellent air filters, removing harmful pollutants in the air and fine particulates.
- Trees reduce noise pollution, as they shield homes from nearby roads and industrial areas.
- Local populations use the fruits, nuts, leaves and insects found in urban trees to produce food and medicines for use in the home, or as a source of income.
- Wood fuel sourced from urban trees and planted forests on the outskirts of cities provides renewable energy for cooking and heating, which reduces pressures on natural forests and our reliance on fossil fuels.
- Forests in and around urban areas help to filter and regulate water, contributing to high-quality freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people. Forests also protect watersheds and prevent flooding as they store water in their branches and soil.
- Well-managed forests and trees in and around cities provide habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals, helping to maintain and increase biodiversity.
- Forests in cities and surrounding areas generate tourism, create tens of thousands of jobs and encourage city beautification schemes, building dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies.
- Urban green spaces, including forests, encourage active and healthy lifestyles, improve mental health, prevent disease, and provide a place for people to socialise.
Read more about our island walk through the trees of our riverine forest here >