5 Best Tree Houses
Experience the height of luxury in the most natural surroundings, says Annelise Goodsir
Saturday 20 March 2004
The Indian "eco-entrepreneur", Babu Varghese, dreamed of building an ecologically-sound resort that would both appeal to nature-loving tourists and support the local community. The result is the Green Magic Nature Resort, on an old cardamom plantation in northern Kerala.
The tree-houses, camouflaged by the thick foliage, are modelled on the traditional homes of the local Paniya people. Access is via an indigenous cane lift and a rope bridge, which hangs 90ft above the forest floor. The tree-top rooms have spectacular views across the valley and sway with the cool mountain breezes, while the big double beds are dressed in warm woollen blankets and colourful Indian textiles.
Enquiries through TourIndia (00 91 471 2331 507; www.tourindiakerala.com). Prices from US$180 (£112.50) per night for a tree-house, including all meals
Lake Manyara, Tanzania
At the remote southern tip of Lake Manyara National Park, which is noted for its tree-climbing lions and 387 species of birds, lies an ancient mahogany forest. Here, against the backdrop of the Great Rift Valley, 10 elegant, stilted tree-houses can be glimpsed, scattered among the boughs of the trees. Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is the only safari accommodation within the park. Each tree-house suite has been built using local timber and makuti (palm fronds), and is decked-out in contemporary safari-chic style with earthy tones and voluminous mosquito netting. Tree-house balconies overlook a boma (outdoor dining area), where theatrical meals are prepared.
Prices from US$355 (£221) per person per night, including all meals, two game drives and nature walks. Enquiries through Conservation Corporation Africa on 00 27 11 809 4300, www.ccafrica.com
Cedar Creek, USA
When Bill Compher bought land near Mount Rainier National Park, a few hours' drive south-east of Seattle, he decided to fulfil a childhood fantasy and build a tree-house. Twenty years later the result is perched 50 feet up in a giant cedar. At the top of the stairway leading into the tree, a glass observation deck affords 360 degree views of the dense forest and craggy mountains beyond.
The tree-house sleeps up to five people and contains a living room, kitchen, bathroom and sun room. You sleep in a loft. A skylight gives clear views of Mount Rainier's icy summit, while the sun provides solar energy and the friendly owner hauls water up on his back every day from the clear mountain stream.
Cedar Creek Tree-house (001 360 569 2991; www.cedarcreektreehouse.com) costs US$250 (£156) for two people sharing and $25 (£16) for each additional person, self-catering. Closed February.
Tsala Treetop Lodge, South Africa
Swing off South Africa's famous Garden Route just west of Plettenberg Bay and you'll find a tree-top haven overlooking the vast sweep of the Tsitsikamma forest. The architecture of the main lodge is dramatic: soaring roof, exposed beams, chunky pillars and rough stonework. To reach the 10 secluded tree-house suites, guests pad along winding wooden walkways that meander through the forest canopy. Each tree-house has a private deck with infinity pool, and inside you'll find a living room with roaring log fire, a bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows and an enormous bathroom with a free-standing stone tub. A candelabra-laden dining area juts out on a platform so diners can eat outside.
Tsala Treetop Lodge (00 27 445 327 818; www.tsalatreetops.com) Doubles from R2,290 (£190) per person per night including breakfast. From 16 April the price drops to R1,720 (£143) per person
Hinchinbrook Island, Australia
Hinchinbrook is Australia's largest island national park, lying off the tropical north Queensland coast and surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef. The only accommodation available is barely visible in the tree-tops - the Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge has been carefully designed to blend with the landscape and offers peaceful seclusion in four roomy timber tree-houses. Accessed by winding boardwalks, each is stylishly furnished, dappled by natural forest light and freshened by cool sea air. Timber patios allow incredible views across the rainforest to the ocean beyond.
Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge (00 61 740 668 270; www.hinchinbrookresort.com.au). A one-bedroom tree-house costs from Aus$355 (£145) per person per night, based on two sharing, and includes all meals
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