In the bowels of a giant Yellowwood tree

Today is the day you find out whether this photo (see here) was photoshopped or not. All of the people who commented on my previous post, got it right!

Some of you may already have read my previous posts about an intrepid band of tree surgeons who climb very big trees in their spare time. If not, check out the posts What do tree surgeons do on their day off? and Hanging about in the tree tops (click on links) for some amazing – and at times terrifying photos. You can also read there how they go about scaling these giants.

Recently, they went to go and climb a huge Yellowwood tree in the indigenous forest in Nature’s Valley (Southern Cape, South Africa). In photos taken at a distance, one does not appreciate the size of this old tree. It was measured at 30 metres (98 feet) thigh, with a canopy 30 metres (98 feet) in diameter. The tree is estimated to be between 650 and 800 years old.

Above left: The Yellowwood which was climbed that day is the one in the centre background – towering above the other trees in the forest. Above right:  Looking up at the tree. If you follow the climbing ropes upwards, you can see the climbers as black dots towards the top. ©WMB/

On a previous climb of this tree, Leon Visser and his team (Cameron Brand and Terry Grimbeek) had seen a hollow in the stem, but not climbed into it. This time they returned to investigate the hollow further and do a “first descent”. They found that the main trunk of this huge tree is actually hollow from ground level to a height of 15 metres i.e. half the height of the tree.

[A very scientific method was used to determine whether the “floor” of the tree interior coincided with actual ground level. This was done by Leon inside the tree tapping at floor level and Willie on the outside of the tree listening for the taps! Communication between them was via two-way radio.]


Image: Leon Visser

Looking into the tree stem from the top. Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

The descent into the tree. Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

From the inside of the tree you see the top opening, as well as light coming through some of the holes in the trunk.  These were formed by the knots of branches which have fallen off. It was through one of these smaller holes that one of the climbers had stuck his hand, creating a horror movie effect for anyone standing on the outside. Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

A branch which is still in place. Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

Like all caves, this wooden one shelters a bat. Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser

At the bottom of the tree trunk. The “floor” of this tree cave is at ground level. Image: Leon Visser


Peekaboo – a climber emerges from the tree trunk. ©WMB/



Image: Leon Visser

Climbing out of the jagged “cave” opening. Image: Leon Visser

Although the tree currently looks healthy, with such a huge part of the stem interior missing, it is becoming structurally unsound. The tree has a very big canopy and big branches above the 15 metre level, which means that at some stage the tree will start losing major branches and may even collapse. So a warning to anyone who has the idea of climbing the tree – do not try this unless you’re a very experienced tree climber!

Below are two videos. In the first Leon Visser shows the various features of the tree. Watch this in HD so that you can see the green pointer dot travelling down the tree, as Leon points out various features.


In the second Leon is inside the tree, about to descend to the “floor of the cave”.



So what do you do after you’ve climbed into a tree trunk? You keep going up and hanging about in the branches of course!

Image: Leon Visser

It is a long way down! Image: Leon Visser



Image: Leon Visser

Image: Leon Visser


The climbers (Cameron Brand, Leon Visser and Terry Grimbeek) safely back on the ground again. ©WMB/

Image: Leon Visser

Anybody need a tree surgeon?  Go here for more information. Image: Leon Visser

For further information about Trees Unlimited go to their website at

Thank you to Leon Visser and Willie for providing the photos and information for this post.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Nature/Environment, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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15 Comments on “In the bowels of a giant Yellowwood tree”

  1. October 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Wow, that is SO fascinating, Lisa! I’m glad to know that I guessed correctly, but that photo doesn’t compare with what you share here.. Totally incredible! Hope you and Willie have a wonderful weekend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • October 11, 2014 at 7:21 am #

      Hi Kathy!

      Oh, you folks are just too smart to fool! 🙂 I really wouldn’t have expected such a big tree to be hollow inside.

      Greetings to Sara & have a fun weekend!

  2. Cindy Naidoo
    October 10, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    This is just amazing. Thank u for sharing.

    • October 11, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Hi Cindy! Glad you found the post interesting.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  3. Eha
    October 11, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    What a fascinating series of photos . . . besides the scientific aspect methinks the ‘boys’ enjoyed being boys 🙂 ! Thanks to Leon and Willie and hope they will take us along again on any future journey!! love . . .

    • October 11, 2014 at 7:25 am #

      Hi Eha! 🙂 They are an amazing set of photos. I agree, when boys grow up they just become “big boys”.

  4. October 11, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    Wow! That is extraordinary! I love the colours and textures inside the tree.

  5. Estie
    October 11, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Wow.That is so interesting!

    • October 15, 2014 at 7:01 am #

      Hi Estie! Yes, it is interesting. I would not have expected such a huge tree to have a hollow stem. Leon’s team also recently climbed the redwoods at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve. Great photos and video again. He wants to write that story soon! 🙂

  6. Madoqua
    October 14, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    This is incredible and fascinating! Trees are such amazing and awesome plants!
    Wonderful post!

    • October 15, 2014 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Madoqua, Thanks! Leon plans to start writing his own tree tales soon. Am looking forward to that as he climbs all sorts of trees including Karri gums and redwoods.

  7. October 16, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    Amazing footage of a majestic tree – reminds me of our giant Karri’s down south.

    • October 16, 2014 at 10:30 am #

      Hi iAMsafari!

      We have some Karri gums growing here too – although they are not indigenous to South Africa. Leon’s climbing team has scaled some of the very big Karri gums too – see this post for photos and info.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  8. Richard Muller
    October 27, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Terry and others

    Well done – You make us proud here at Saasveld

    • October 30, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Richard! Leon and his team do some amazing stuff, don’t they?

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

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