A stay at Banyan Castle is only a couple of notches above primitive camping, so just be prepared for that and you will have a great time! The location is very close to the volcano, and very beautiful.
Others reviews tell about John and Linda (very nice), so I will focus on some practical things I wish I had known ahead of time, along with some of my experiences:
• Banyan Castle has its charms and its frustrations, so just relax and be prepared for both. I thought it was clean (all things considered).
• You may or may not get to stay in the upper tree house, even if you booked it ahead of time and have proof of confirmation with you. The upper tree house was triple-booked when I visited, so two parties were accommodated in other huts.
• You can see the orange glow of the volcano from outside the other huts at night, so it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the upper tree house.
• There is no running water at Banyan Castle. The latrine hut is divided into a toilet area and a bathing area. There is a floor to almost ceiling bamboo wall in between the two areas, and a separate bucket and scoop on each side. The toilet is porcelain, and amazingly it did not stink. Don’t know what their secret is, but it works.
• There is a generator that provides power for a couple of hours at night for cooking and eating the meal. After eating and a little conversation and fun with the family, the generator is turned off and there is no more power.
• Bring a torch (or two). You will need it for walking around after the generator is turned off and for light in your hut. It will also come in handy walking around the volcano rim at night. I had two torches, and used them both for light in the hut.
• There are no electrical outlets in the huts for recharging. Bring extra camera/phone/torch batteries.
• Transportation from the airport to Banyan Castle should be about 2,000 vatu each way (as of October 2011; may be a little more now). I was originally quoted 6,000 vatu via email, but thankfully I was never charged that.
• Nothing is pre-paid. You will pay for everything in cash as you go, so make sure you bring plenty with you. The only ATM’s are near the airport, 2+ hours away, or back in Port Vila.
• On the way from the airport to Banyan castle, we stopped at a little store for supplies. I bought two loaves of homemade bread (delicious), and I was very grateful I did. Breakfast is whatever the family has on hand, which was crackers with peanut butter and tea while I was there. Luckily, I had a few instant coffee packets with me from Australia, plus the bread to supplement breakfast. Buy bread and a couple of other things if you stop at that little store, and have some extra snacks with you regardless. You can give what’s left over to John and Linda's family afterwards. I also gave a Linda a colorful beach towel, and the Australian couple gave her a purse. She loved them! Pens and other kid stuff would be great gifts, too.
• You can walk to the volcano rim from Banyan Castle, but it is a long and very steep hike with no food or water along the way. Take anything you may need with you. I think it’s worth paying for a ride to the top, unless you have time and really want to hike.
• Do not trust a man named Damien who may be handling bookings for John from Port Vila (I made all my reservations through him via email). He quoted me prices that were very inflated, and NONE of my reservation information was passed along to John because he and Damien were having a row regarding money that John owed Damien. Miraculously, Damien happened to be at Banyan Castle escorting a French tour group when I got there. When I talked to him about this, it precipitated a yelling match between him and John. I only had transportation to Banyan Castle because an Australian couple was also being picked up, who had booked with John for the same time as my visit via phone from Port Vila. They also had the tree house reserved. Because the French group arrived before us and were settled in, The Australian couple and I had to stay in other huts. They kicked Damien out of the hut I ended up staying in.
Bottom line: book directly with John somehow, or he may not know you’re coming.
I would absolutely visit Tanna again, though I would probably not stay at Banyan Castle if I return. I would stay at the Port Resolution Yacht Club, which I also visited during my stay. It still has bungalows, but also a proper toilet/shower area with running water (not sure if it’s hot water or not). Don’t be put off by the words “yacht club”; this is still a very basic (but very beautiful) setting, and it’s easy to arrange transportation to the volcano. But if you really want the closest accommodation to the volcano and are prepared for what it is, stay at Banyan Castle and you will love it.
Seeing the volcano made this trip absolutely worthwhile, and made up for the hiccups along the way. Tanna is a wonderful place, and you should go before they finish the sealed road around the island, and add electricity to the airport so international flights can arrive. It's magical sharing the volcano with only a handful of people, and having the freedom to roam where you like (but use common sense). This could change as Tanna and its volcano become more accessible, so pack your sense of adventure and don't miss the chance to visit!
Stay in the upper tree house if you can,
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.