Which child hasn’t been intrigued about living in a tree house, extending the Enid Blyton description of a summer vacation in the woods? There is a magical quality about a house being constructed atop a tree. The very thought immediately conjures a vision of a mystery and an adventure, where the star cast is clearly the friendly squirrel, the exotic range of chirping birds, the threat of a looming bear or a leopard in the horizon and of course the monkeys that can very well be your room companions!
Tree houses provide the perfect opportunity to be right in the lap of nature. Serious wildlife enthusiasts too opt for a tree house vacation, which in India has a diverse feel to it. Each of the tree houses featured in this shortlist are located in a different Indian state, making it unique and exclusive. Kerala hosts some of the most famous tree houses in the country with Vythiri Tree Resort (Wayanad), Rainforest Boutique Tree House Resort (Athirapally), Nature Zone Resort (Munnar) and Vanya tree house (Thekkady) to name a few. Most of these are known for their coconut and spice plantations, the famous Kerala ayurvedic massages and spa therapies, yoga and meditation facilities.
The Tree House Hideaway resort in Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh) is right in the middle of the jungle with all its trappings of wild animals. The Tree House Resort in Jaipur is known for its five star amenities and a range of in-house facilities in the midst of a gently wooded environment. Carmelia Haven Resort, Vandanmedu, Thekkady brings nature right to your doorstep mesmerising you with the sights, sounds and smells of a luxuriant wooded forest. The Machan, Jambulne on way to Pune in Maharashtra has at least five kinds of ‘machans’ to choose from, each offering a different vantage view. Here, World Travel Magazine presents five of the most memorable tree houses in India.
Vyathiri Tree Resort in Waynad, Kerala
Vythirir Resort is one the largest Tree House Resorts in India, offering luxurious facilities atop live trees, set in the untouched natural ambiance of an eco friendly tropical rainforest. Rustic themed cottages in indigenous architecture sit snug beside a frolicking jungle stream rubbing shoulders with exotic tropical birds on overhanging branches, amidst colourful butterflies and an insistent chatter of cicadas.
A trek to the tropical rainforests surrounding the resort is highly recommended. The two-hour guided trek is conducted by the resort’s in-house naturalist. Guests can spot Nilagiri Langur, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Malabar Grey Hornbill and the Yellow Browed Bulbul besides other species endemic to the Western Ghats. If you are not up to a trek, take a leisurely walk to a waterfall near the property, anytime during the day. Cycling trails wind through the resort and surrounding forest which are equally exciting. If you want to be indoors, opt for a culinary demonstration and with time to spare, check out close by places such as Kuruva Islands, Soojipara Waterfalls, Chembra Peak and Pookot Lake.
Best time to visit: All year round.
How to get there: 18 km away from Kalpetta and 65 km from Kozhikode; 85 km from Calicut International Airport.
Tree House Hideaway, Bandhavgarh National Park of Madhya Pradesh
The Tree House Hideaway is located in the Bandhavgarh National Park of Madhya Pradesh. This is a unique lodge with only 5 tree house cottages built on stilts. Built entirely from wood, they blend effortlessly into the surrounding jungle, giving the lodge a beautiful and natural feel. There is a high probability of your spotting animals from the cottage balcony that provides a good view of a hide overlooking a local water hole. The property is set on 21 acres of land and with so few cottages, is able to offer a high level of privacy in each. The restaurant is built around a mahua tree with a tempting open air bar on the upper level.
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is famed for rewarding jungle safaris by jeep. Besides safaris, other cultural and enthusiastic indulgence are offered such as cycling and picnics in the park periphery, village visits, craft workshops with local artisans and bamboo weavers. Having a local guide is a must as they understand the topography and the general mood of the animals in the vicinity.
Best time to visit: October to March.
How to get there: Nearest Airport is Jabalpur (200km) & Khajuraho (250km); Nearest railway stations are Umaria (35km) & Katni (100 km).
The Tree House Resort, Jaipur
Situated in the foothills of Syari Valley, the Tree House finely blend the comforts and luxuries of a five-star. Perched atop ” keekar” trees, the rooms have several live branches running through, making nature your reliable companion. Waking up to the sound of several winged visitors of all hues and shapes, chirping merrily outside the windows, present a unique morning alarm call. Here, rooms or ‘nests’ as they are called, sit pretty on top of large trees, equipped with all modern amenities.
Each of the tree house cottages have been built to a height of 15 to 30 feet by local craftsmen using indigenous materials and construction technologies. Wooden stairs lead up to the structure that rests on an iron frame wrapped around tree trunks. All rooms have a different design based on how the tree has grown its branches. The 22-cottage resort has a near ‘house-full’ tag through the year. Future plans include floating water cottages and mud villas. The concept is right and it thrives on word-of-mouth publicity, placing the Jaipur Tree House on one of the best tree houses in the subcontinent.
Best time to visit: July-March.
How to get there: 38 km away from Jaipur Railway Station; Jaipur Airport is 40 km from Tree House Jaipur.
Carmelia Haven Resort, Vandanmedu, Thekkady
Carmelia Haven is a stylish, eco friendly resort set amidst a tea and cardamom plantation. Close to the village of Vandanmedu, the resort is abundantly endowed with cardamom bushes, pepper vines and alluring scents of clove and cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg; trees are awash in season with succulent tropical fruit. The exquisitely furnished cottages and suites with thatch roofs, lofty tree houses and honeymoon suites offer beautiful views that extend welcome to cupid’s designs.
A mountain road traverses through stunning undulating landscapes. In-house attractions include a handicraft store, leisure area and well equipped suites. A gazebo attracts immediate attention, sitting on an immaculately manicured lawn that has comfortable wrought iron furniture strewn around for guests to find their ‘own zone’. A multi cuisine restaurant with a verandah and banquets are both built with a stone façade and thatch roof. Stone paved pathways branch out along a ridge towards two ends of the property. Fringed on either edge by lush cardamom bushes, vines of pepper and clearings with fruit trees, guests are transported on electric carts to cottages set along the hill’s slope.
Birds sing their welcome, shy squirrels scamper into the underbrush that has plenty of cloves, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In season, trees are loaded with oranges, mangostene, jackfruit, rambuttan, butterfruit, papaya and rose apple. There is plenty to do within the property and time permitting to take short day trips to nearly areas. This is a popular honeymoon destination providing utmost privacy and a frozen in time quality that allows couples to bond and experience a rare kind of intimacy.
Best time to visit: Mid October to February.
How to get there: Half an hour drive from Thekkady along the Thekkady – Munnar road. Closest airports is Madurai (145km) and Cochin (150km).
The Machan, Jambulne, Atvan, Maharashtra
The Machan is one of the 25 biological hot-spots in the world and a popular weekend getaway for residents of the busy commercial cities of Mumbai and Pune. Located in Jambulne, the different Jungle Machans or living abodes are raised off the ground, designed as arboreal accommodation providing the perfect vantage position to sight local flora and wildlife. Each Jungle Machan has a master bedroom, modern bathrooms and wooden deck. Living trees sprouting from the floor and going through the roof has a strangely calming effect as if Mother Nature is there to protect and nurture. An elevated wooden walkway takes you through a thickly set grove of evergreen trees and shrubs before bringing you to the majestic Sunset Machan from where you get a beautiful view at dusk.
This exclusive eco-resort with unique tree houses rising 30 – 45 feet above the forest is run on sustainable resources and is devoid of pollution. Gazing up from the comfort of private decks, guests enjoy the starry skies and spot various constellations such as Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Orion, Ursa Major/Minor, Sephious, Sirius and if lucky, even a shooting star. For those more adventurous, guided treks to the 1,000 ft. peak above are organised. From this height, the views of historical forts, valleys and expansive lakes can be enjoyed. There is plenty of history in the area with the Koraigad Fort, located about 4 kms away and the Lohagad Fort which has a 2,000 year old history.
Best time to visit: Monsoon (Jun – Sept) and winters (Oct – Feb).
How to get there: 2.5 hours drive from Mumbai or 1.5 hours drive from Pune.