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Vanuatu: Giant banyan tree

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Giant banyan tree | Vanuatu | Oceania

[Visited: November 2012]

After I had had three intense, and spectacular, visits to Mount Yasur in the south-east of the island of Tanna, it was time for something else. There are many things to do, I decided to walk up to the Giant Banyan tree from the town of Lenakel on the west coast, the main town of the island. When I got close to the tree, the guy collecting the money on behalf of the community had disappeared, and I promised someone else to pay after I came back. One serious boy offered to guide me, while a bunch of other followed us. I walked fast; it was the rainy season, and it looked like it might rain again. At the same time, it would probably be easy to take shelter under such a huge tree. After walking slightly uphill on a partly muddy road, we reached a viewpoint from where we looked directly down on top of the enormous crown of the tree.

Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): Looking up part of the giant banyan tree near the village of Leitouapam

We got down shortly thereafter, on some kind of steps leading down directly to the base of the tree. I realized its size only when we started walking around, through tunnels cut throught he aerial roots, regularly looking up at the awesome branches of the old banyan tree. It is claimed that when Captain Cook visited Tanna island in 1774, attracted by the glow of active Mount Yasur volcano, the tree was already enormous; it has not been dated so far. The facts about the banyan are impressive: its height is 80 metres, and it is over 100 metres across: larger than a football field and it actually still grows.

Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): There are several paths leading through the maze of aerial roots under the enormous banyan tree

Walking around it, I often looked up, where daylight was trying to find a way down through leaves and a maze of aerial roots. There must be hundreds of those roots, thin and thick; most running down straight from above to the ground, thus supporting the enormous branches higher up. The tree certainly must consume an impressive amount of water to stay alive and be able to grow. The boys guided me around the tree; unfortunately, they did not speak English and were not able to explain more than what I was seeing myself. All I could do was to be in awe by the sheer size of this old monster, that looked very healthy to my untrained eyes. When we looked back at the tree again on the way down to Leitouapam village where I was to pay my entrance fee, I now knew what was under that vast canopy.

Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): View of the canopy of the giant banyan tree from slightly above
Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): Aerial roots under the enormous banyan tree
Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): In some places, the aerial roots look like a forest under the giant banyan tree
Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): Aerial roots and leaves around the base of the giant banyan tree
Picture of Giant banyan tree (Vanuatu): View from under the giant banyan tree

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