Nam Cát Tiên
The Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST) is a UK charity established by Monkey World-Ape Rescue Centre (UK) and the Pingtung Rescue Centre (Taiwan). Their mission is to help conserve Asia’s endangered wildlife by tackeling the illegal wildlife trade in Asia, engaging communities through conservation education and awareness and encouraging responsible tourism, respecting wildlife and wild places. For more information their website is here: http://www.go-east.org
Our Gibbon Tour
It’s 4.30 a.m. and our alarm is ringing out loud! Usually this would make us both grumpy but this morning we’re going on a trek into the thick Vietnamese jungle to see gibbons in the wild, so we excitedly jump up and get ready. Wearing long sleeves, trousers and long socks, we also douse ourselves in mosquito repellent. We then pack our rucksack with waterproofs, cameras and a bottle of water and set off to meet our guide, Tom.
We’re staying in Cat Tien national park in a private bungalow on the island, it’s a fairly basic room but adequate for one night as it’s just a 100 metre stroll over to meet our guide in these early hours.
It’s now 5.00 a.m. and our small group of 7 (including tour guide and gibbon student) has assembled at the headquarters and we’re ready to begin our trek. We begin with a short stroll along the park path and after 200 metres on the left, there is an opening into thick forest. We walk over a plank of wood into the opening and are immediately engulfed in trees and vines. It’s pitch black but we have torches and while the path is thin, it’s relatively well trodden, aside from the odd root sticking up or branch poking out. It’s also a little slippery from the rain overnight so we’re glad to be wearing hiking boots.
We follow our guide Tom, for around 100 metres into a clearing and remain silent as he listens for the gibbons morning calls. After 15 minutes or so we follow Tom along another thin path and wait, we look up and can just about see one of the gibbon families that we have heard about, how exciting! This family is right at the top of the tree canopy and as the forest is thick, we get far off glimpses of them as they move around the tree tops.
We’re all silently watching when suddenly there is a loud thump directly to the side of us and we see a flying fox land midway down a tree and scurry up it – well, that made us jump! Our group whispers out a laugh, careful not to make too much noise.
We stick closely to our guide as we move off the path and onto the jungle floor to get a better view of the gibbon family, this is a family of four with two infants, a mother and a father. It’s a waiting game as we watch and try and get a better view. As we’re watching the gibbons the sun rises and we get a better sense of our jungle surroundings and hear the rest of the jungle creatures morning calls. About two hours pass and our guide tells us we were very lucky to get such a good view of the family.
On our way out of the jungle we walk a different route, past a giant tree and then back out of the opening and onto the path we had walked a couple of hours before. We then head back to the headquarters where we check ourselves for leeches – thankfully we’re in the clear.
It’s now 7.30 a.m. and we are taken to a restaurant for some breakfast- all the excitement has made us pretty hungry! We sit with two other visitors that were also on the tour and talk about our experience while eating Pho Bo and drinking Vietnamese coffee – simply amazing!
At 8.30 a.m. we are told to all go back to the headquarters where we wait for our student guide who will be taking us by boat over to the gibbon sanctuary. We all walk up to the jetty and climb aboard a boat and it’s a ten minute trip up the river – we spot a few birds along the river including an incredible bright blue King Fisher.
On the island we are greeted by an English lady Jenny, who tells us more about the gibbons and the sanctuary that they run – Jenny is both knowledgeable and witty in her delivery and we find as expected, that we humans have a lot in common with our monkey friends.
We spend around an hour with Jenny and then we hop back onto the boat and back to the resort. We truely loved our morning, it felt like a very well rounded and exciting experience.
It’s 10.30 am and we’re back in our room and a little tired from our morning activities so we opt for an hours chill-out and blogging before getting packed and checking out at midday.
Green Bamboo Lodge
For our second night in the national park we take the boat back to the mainland and collect our bikes, we stay on the opposite side of the river in green bamboo lodge. Ours is a beautiful bamboo hut overlooking the river so we spend the afternoon chilling out on our balcony and rocking in hammocks – when in Vietnam, after all.
That night we stayed in the lodge and ate dinner in the restaurant which has a fantastic view over the river – we also spot a very rare hornbill bird and make friends with the local cat and dogs – what a day!