La Maison du Banian is a rustic treehouse located 10km from Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila. This eco-accommodation is recessed into an enormous Banyan tree and is located in the grounds of a 2 hectare property owned by local lady, Odile (Odile lives on the property). Priced from $141 per night AUD, this unique treehouse is simply spectacular and will leave you completely relaxed and rejuvenated.
Things to know: It is quite isolated and accessed via a bumpy dirt track. Bring your own supplies, including meat and snacks. Cooking materials are included however there is no electricity, so everything is cooked over an open fire pit. Insect spray is recommended as the treehouse is open plan and enveloped by forest.
The sun is setting as we pull into Odile’s driveway. I spot it immediately as it is impossible to miss! Towering overhead is a giant Banyan Tree, dwarfing the surrounding countryside as it has for hundreds of years. My mind wanders to scenes from Avatar where an ancient tree gives life to the village and all kinds of mystery and magic lie within its limbs.
Giant Banyan trees are native to Vanuatu, growing up to 80m high. These enormous trees have religious and cultural significance for the Ni-Van and the clearings beneath them are considered sacred. With a vast network of aerial prop roots and thick, woody trunks it’s easy to see why the Banyan is a popular choice for treehouses.
Here at la Maison du Banian nature has met the creativity of a French woman named Odile who, after years of travelling, settled on the island of Efate and built a spectacular treehouse 10km from Port Vila city. The first level is a large, open plan living room complete with single bed, dining table, lounging areas and a fire pit. Upstairs is a small bedroom with a double bed. The lack of walls allows branches, prop roots and vines to run wild and provide a tranquil outlook over surrounding forest. While mosquitoes could get bad we have no problems as Odile explains “Cyclone Pam wiped out a lot of the mosquito population, including the larvae”. Still, we are thankful for the mosquito coils and the nets draping over our beds.
Odile lights a myriad of kerosene lanterns and gives us a tour of the surrounding gardens and the bathroom (a short walk down a garden path). She lights the fire pit so that we may cook dinner but, since we didn’t have time to buy meat from the shops prior to arrival, we have nothing to cook. Instead we enjoy a small casserole dish of vegetables that she has prepared straight from the garden.
As night falls the surrounding forest come to life; flying foxes find refuge in the Banyan’s stately branches, bugs hum in nearby foliage and the three resident dogs bark as cars pass by. The lack of electricity means that all activity is by fire light which adds to the romantic atmosphere and allows you to truly tune in to nature.
I had intended to wander down to the nearby Nakamal (kava house) to join locals and share some stories, but the firelight and forest sounds have completely relaxed me and I nod off earlier than usual. I have an array of strange dreams and am woken twice during the night – first to the flapping of a bat’s wings as it circles my mosquito net, then to the sound of the lid being pushed off my casserole dish followed by a curious munching noise! It is too dark to identify what species of animal was feasting on my dinner leftovers but the next morning the dish is empty and licked clean!
La Maison du Banian was indeed the experience of a lifetime – somewhere completely unique to anywhere I’ve ever been. The use of rainwater, solar panels and recycled materials really added to the feeling of being at one with nature and the experience of sleeping inside an ancient tree is simply incomparable. If you’re looking for somewhere to slow down and rejuvenate, there aren’t many places that are more ideal. I can’t recommend this eco accommodation highly enough and I am already planning my next visit!