The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #224


A reader is aghast:


Another wonders, “Are you sure you didn’t mix up the daily VFYW and contest photo?” Another gave up in about 20 minutes:

Clearly you decided to put up an easy one this week.  What with the Ents in the distance, I know I won’t be the only one to pin this down to the Fangorn Forest in Middle Earth.  I think I see the mist of the river Earwash ahead, putting us at or close to the site where Gandalf the White met the hunters. Heck, it’s as good a guess as any other.  A tree in the middle of the forest?????

Another goes for a “shot in the dark”:

Looks like deciduous trees, the coastal range, and a fog bank. That sounds like Walnut Creek, CA to me.

Or South America?

Ariau Towes, an eco-lodge outside Manaus, Brazil:


Another looks for clues:

There are a bunch of deciduous trees. That’s less than helpful. We seem to be on a mountain. I see nothing outside to help me other than that. Given that the paucity of detail outside, I chose to focus on what was inside. There’s more to work with but … yeah, not a lot. It looks like some recording equipment (headphones, cabling, something that might possibly be a sound meter), a water bottle, and a floor with interesting swirly markings. I’m sure someone will recognize the logo on the water bottle instantly, but I got nothin. Same with the floor.

Based on the trees and recording equipment, my husband guesses Tennessee. I don’t think you’d stay in North America four weeks in a row, but I don’t have a better alternative. So, we’re going with a recording studio in Tennessee. On a mountain.

It’s not recording equipment. Another reader figures out the key characteristic of this week’s view:

[I]t’s a treetop hotel, built around a tree. No doubt about it. You would think that would narrow it down – I mean, how many of those can there be? Lots, it turns out, but none that I can find with classy inlaid wooden floors. Our best guess is Dad’s: somewhere on the coast of Peru.

Which brings me to another point: this is superficially mind-bogglingly difficult. There are no landscape clues, except the unbroken vista of trees, which does little more than prove that we’re not in downtown Manhattan or Beijing. All clues have to come from the “window” itself and surrounding items.  Despite this, because you posted the contest, it follows that it must be solvable in a reasonable amount of time by a reasonably-intelligent Dish reader. Therefore, I propose the View Anthropic Principle: no matter how hard a “view” is, the fact that it is posted at all means that it is solvable with the information on hand. 

Maybe so. Just not necessarily by us, this time!

Most of this week’s guesses correctly got on the treehouse track:

This treehouse doesn’t look like the one I stayed in, but the view reminds me of some of the views while we we ziplining around in the Bokeo Reserve for three days is Laos almost four years ago.  It was one of the only times I’ve seen a jungle view that just went on and on the way it looks like this view does. I can tell this is definitely a view from a tree house so its worth a shot, right?

Here’s a view of what one of the tree houses looked like as you were sailing towards it on the zipline:


Another reader is thinking Africa:

I just spent my Monday morning at work googling “African treehouse.”  I looked at lots of images, but nothing fit, so I’m guessing Botswana, mostly because it’s fun to say.

Another suggested “Youvegoddabephukingkiddingme, Thailand”. But this guess gets pretty close:

Although the foreground view is a little more cluttered than I remember it, I am fairly sure this is taken from the platform of the Canopy Tower, Soberania Park, near Gamboa, Republic of Panama. That appears to be a Cecropia tree on the right (often sloths feed there), and the view is, I think, towards the North West, overlooking Soberania Park from what used to be a U.S. military-intelligence messaging center, that has been converted into a nature observatory / hotel.

A reader nails the right country:

Wow! I can only guess about where this is, but I really want to go. We’re in an octagonal (maybe hexagonal) observation platform-like structure that appears to be built around a tree overlooking a rain forest. Apart from the forest itself, there are no telling geographic features, and apart from the structure we are in, no architectural clues. So, we need to know something about the building we are in, rather than what we are looking out at.

The structure seems well-built and well-maintained.  That, the bag on the floor to the left, the pile of rope (zip lining?) and the bottled water suggest “tourist destination”. That doesn’t narrow it down a great deal, but I’m going to go with Costa Rica. And since satellite views seem a lost cause here, I looked for treehouses in Costa Rica and found the Finca Bellavista community, which seems like the sort of place (some) Dishheads might find themselves on vacation. Plus they have a couple of structures that, while not being a dead-on match for the one here, share an awful lot of features. So even if we aren’t in Finca Bellavista, I bet we are someplace close by.

Another pinpoints the location:

Ok, so I was a bit glib last week. I promise I’ll rein in disparaging comments about the difficulty of the contest because, damn, this one is pure evil. Trees. All we can see are trees. And floorboards. But wait, we’re IN a tree. And those floorboards are pretty unique with their painted viney patterns. Just fire up the Google machine. Somebody else has stayed in this treehouse and put a picture of it on the internet. An hour of searches along the lines of “jungle treehouse resort” later, and then, there it is. These guys stayed there. One click later and I’m on the web page of Nature Observatorio, located in Manzanillo, Costa Rica.  Not too shabby for a picture of some trees.

Not shabby at all. Here’s how all the entries broke down:

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Image searching was by far the most popular method for the dozens of correct guessers this week:

At first glance this appeared to be one of those impossible views that only the champ and one or two others would solve. When I realized it was a treehouse however, I at least had some VFYW-Treehouse-2search terms. After a few searches I was amazed at the sheer number of awesome treehouses that are out there. My fourth try on Google Images I used the terms “treehouse rainforest ocean” and found [the composite image to the right]. That led to this website that offers neat “glamping” places. Glamping is “glamorous camping” apparently (something I didn’t know – thanks VFYWC!).

The VFYW is the upper level of a two level treehouse in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Rain Forest of Costa Rica. You can stay there for $320.00 a night, and “all meals are hosted in the tree house and hoisted up by staff. Guests are supplied with harnesses, helmets, and gloves.”

Here’s a wonderfully specific entry:

The picture is taken from the Nature Observatorio (aka Amazing Treehouse), located in the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife refuge in Costa Rica (which is called the Refugio Nacional Gandoca-Manzanillo, 36, Costa Rica by Google Maps):


The closest town is Manzanillo, which is not visible, but would be on the right side, or northeast, out of frame of the picture roughly 3km to the city center. It is taken from a hammock on the first floor (observation level) of the treehouse, facing the Caribbean Sea to its (approximate) north. The deck is 79 feet (or 25 meters) above ground, and is reachable by rope or rope elevator. There aren’t exact GPS coordinates for the Observatorio — even the owner doesn’t have them — and the only ones I found were actually for the road and beach roughly 2 km to the north.

Visible on the left of the picture (west) is the “host” tree, which is amazingly supporting the treehouse without a single screw or nail driven into it. I hope your readers will research and watch the available interviews with the owner, Peter Garcar, and read up on the location itself. His efforts and passion are truly inspiring, and the treehouse is a wonder of both engineering and natural education. I only wish I could visit and climb to appreciate its views and all it offers. To whomever made the trip and took the picture, I am envious beyond description!!!!!

This reader only needed the floor:

Okay, I was searching in Australia before, but then an image search on Google for rainforest treehouses found me the distinctive floor of this treehouse in The Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife refuge in Manzanillo, Costa Rica. Here is the floor:


Another key clue:

It was an Instafind, and shows up in first couple pages of Google image search for  “treehouse winch remote”.

A regular player takes a shot at circling this week’s “window”:


A breakdown of the exact view:

I consider the window to be the space between the exterior vertical supports that, along with the major floor beams, create the octagonal framing of the structure. The contest photograph looks across the two sets of floor boards that are lifted to provide rope access to the tree house. These were identified by comparing the vine tendril pattern in the contest photograph with those next to people about to descend or just arrive through the open floor boards:

vfyw_Costa_collage_9-27-2014 copy

Photographs taken from beneath the tree house show which floor boards are opened. The contest window is that adjacent to the more westerly of the two openings.

A previous winner makes a connection:

A few weeks ago, we were in Manzanillo, Mexico and now we are high up in the trees of the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge south of Manzanillo, Costa Rica.

Probably the best entry we got this week:

“Haven’t they broken the rules?” asked my wife when I showed up at her elbow, having found the window this past Saturday in minutes and wanting to proclaim my triumph.  She’d noted the absence of any distinguishing features in the landscape and it seemed wrong to her that I’d had to depend solely upon objects within the room to pinpoint the location.

“Rules?  In a knife fight?  No rules!” I might have said, evoking Ted Cassidy’s assertion to Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy just prior to his being kicked in the crotch.  I knew that, apart from the one rule that requires at least part of the window frame to appear in the photo (to prove that it really is a view from a window), then nearly anything else is fair.  And this week there was really nothing in view but a vast verdure framed by a distant sea.  Great view but lacking in specificity.

So inside, then. We see climbing ropes and a winch controller, bamboo rails, a loopy painted design all over a wooden floor, a framework of cable and wire that surrounds a hole in that floor, a hole which itself appears to center on a TREE TRUNK. So we’re high up in a tree house gazing out over a jungle view.  

The design on the floor proved to be the most valuable clue, because it appeared around 150 images deep in a simple google image search using the terms “tropical” and “treehouse.”  It’s called Nature Observatorio and it’s in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Refuge in Costa Rica, suspended 25 meters up a tree in primary rainforest.  The photo was taken looking north from the lower of its two floors.  We’re told by the proprietors that guests fall asleep lulled by the exotic chatter of parrots (along with the Caribbean breezes), that they awaken in the morning to the roar of howler monkeys.

Observatorio group

Wonderfully, its Airbnb listing says that, along with internet and breakfast, its amenities include “elevator in building,” which unavoidably raises a string of philosophical questions: what parts of an elevator can be stripped away and have it remain an elevator?  If it lacks walls and floor, but consists rather of a harness, ropes, and a winch? If it dangles BELOW the building, suspended from it, is it indeed IN the building?   


I’m picking at nits there, but the Observatorio comes equipped with mosquito netting, so that’s ok. Honestly, I’m ready to sign up. It look’s wonderful!

It’s hard to resist the charming enthusiasm of this happy guest, as he shows us around:

Chini felt challenged:

Well one thing’s for certain, we’re, uh, hell and gone from the Arctic. And we’re like totally in a tree-house. Now all we need to do is find the right one. Easy, no? No. Turns out, tree-houses are the new orange, and that made this hunt one of the wilder ones. India, Thailand, Brazil, Borneo, you name it, they all got in on the act. By the time I landed in the right spot, I knew more about tree-house construction than I’ll ever need to know. But that’s the VFYW contest for you; the obscure begetting the even more obscure.

This week’s view comes from the best damn hotel room any contest viewer’s ever stayed at, i.e. the Nature Observatorio in Manzanillo, Costa Rica. The picture was taken on the lowest, main platform of a multi-platform, non invasive tree house/observatory/hotel room built in 2012 and looks east-north-east on a heading of 62 degrees towards the Gulf of Mexico in the distance:

VFYW Manzanillo Bird's Eye Far Marked - Copy

This reader has traveled in the area:

We spent a month in Costa Rica and thought the Atlantic coast was much better than the Pacific side.  Less touristic and a bit more raw country, with much friendlier Ticos – it’s got that rasta-Caribbean vibe.  Manzanillo is perfectly ramshackle and laid-back, with some great small beaches, waterfalls, and mellow roads for bike riding.  And there is still plenty of tourist infrastructure.  We ate most lunches at a great French bakery / deli (Bread and Chocolate Cafe) and stayed in a couple of mid-range places on the beaches (Banana Azul and Cabinas Yemanya).  A week looking for turtles and sloths, building sand castles with the kids, or swimming in the turquoise ocean was too short – we wish we had stayed on the Atlantic side the whole month.  I’ve included a picture from the tidepools and beach near Punta Cocles, about five miles toward Puerto Viejo from the Tree House.  A great place to reread Paul Theroux’s Mosquito Coast (a favorite book of mine – made into a decent but not quite as good movie too).


Our winner this week describes himself as a “long-time correct guesser, long-time suffering loser”:

An interesting clue this week.  My initial thought was that it was impossible: a nondescript view of a forest with not much else.  Seeing as how it was a beautiful day, I was thisclose to abandoning my search this week for more productive endeavors.  Before I did, I lightened the picture to bring out some of the features in the foreground.  This is what I got:


A tree trunk to the left, a climbing rope, swirly designs on the floor, a backpack on a chair and what looks like the ocean on the horizon.  Typing those elements into the google machine, I had to scroll through about a page of results until I spied this:


Large tree trunk, swirly floor, climbing rope, similar chair.  I found the answer before my morning cup of coffee had gotten cold.

This week’s contest view actually came from the Dish’s own Chas Danner. He writes:

My wife and I took a belated honeymoon to Costa Rica over the winter, and our stay at the Observatorio was absolutely one of the highlights of our trip. It was an unforgettable night alone in the canopy of a lush primary rainforest.


And yes, you do wake up to the howler monkeys, a pack of which rolled by like a thunderstorm around 5:30am. Our only regret was that we didn’t spend more than one night. Also, Peter, the Czech engineer who dreamed up and built the treehouse, was a delightful guide and host as well as one of the coolest people I’ve ever met in any country. Here he is holding the rope as I ascended in my tree climbing harness: