For years, I have been dreaming of seeing the Lan Ha Bay of Cat Ba National Park, which is just 3 hour-drive from the capital city of Hanoi. The real area for adventure and nature lovers, full of limestone islands and wildlife, and welcoming local fishermen. On my bucket list was to see wildlife – especially a Cat Ba Monkey at the park, and I really wanted to kayak through a dark cave to explore a lagoon that I have read about on a travel magazine at home. I finally had the chance to go, and it was an amazing experience with Incense Travel.
I started out early one morning with my guide – Jack Nguyen, and we headed into Lan Ha Bay by the Ben Beo entrance on Cat Ba Island. My guide told me he has been coming to Lan Ha Bay since he was 12 years old, spending the whole week in the bay every month with his grandparents and later his friends, and now his tourists. After spending so much time in the bay, Jack told me he “just goes by gut” and gets a good feeling of where the wildlife can be found.
I shared with him my hope to see a Cat Ba Monkey, the special primate of Cat Ba National Park. He kindly explained that they are not actually monkey, but a langur – and monkey can be found in many places in North Vietnam. The Cat Ba Langur, often known as the golden-headed langur, is among the rarest primates in the world, and possibly the rarest primate in Asia with a population size estimated at less than 70 individuals. The good news is that Cat Ba National Park is home of this rare primate. My one wish became to see a LANGUR, and within less than 30 minutes, I met a family of langur sitting on the limestone rocks!
And then the islands opened up to this stunning vista:
It was incredible!
We spent an amazing day exploring the Lan Ha Bay on our kayak, paddling through Ba Do cave with a torch, visiting a fishing family, and of course, swimming on Van Boi Beach. It was so good to have a dry bag with me on the kayak, I was too exciting to get my camera out so many times. Third item checked! We saw tons of limestone islands, lagoons, fish, and birdlife throughout the day.
The following day, we cruise our wooden boat up north of Lan Ha Bay toward the center of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Truly, the scenery along the way is wonderful.
Though I was looking around, I was still with my guide’s stories, and it made me realize what a valuable thing it is to have a guide who can show you around to see the highlights and who is especially keen at spotting the wildlife and amazing spots.
We arrived in the famous Dark and Bright Cave – a famous kayaking sport, locating between Cat Ba National Park and Halong Bay. We headed out along the island foot, gliding through the bat cave to enter the tranquil lagoon behind it. It was the most amazing scene – and then we spotted a female Cat Ba Langur and her baby.
I and my guide were sitting quietly on our kayaks and watch them for a good ten minutes as the mother lead her babies back to their cave. I learned so much about langurs that morning from my guide, who had spent years learning, researching them and toting a fantastic collection of articles about the favorite resident langurs in the Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba National Park. I later met up with my Vietnamese friend for dinner who said that she had only seen a langur once, after traveling back and forth to Halong archipelago for many times, so it was certainly a treat to see the langur and her golden baby.
We continued on to Viet Hai village locating inside the national park to take a picture of the forest from a park ranger’s observation point, and there we spotted so many colorful butterflies. On the way back out, two beautiful water buffalos were eating the grass and crossing the road right in front of us.
My time in the Lan Ha Bay was the most amazing experience – on top of the incredible scenery in every direction – I was so grateful to Jack Nguyen for not just showing me but teaching me about the wildlife in Cat Ba National Park. I am so excited to go back with my family and show them, too. I do think that Lan Ha Bay, with its private sandy beaches and mysterious lagoons, can be one of the best honeymoon ideas!
Read our adventure kayak cruise in Lan Ha Bay.
Contact Sara for help planning your journey to the Cat Ba Island and its national park.