HOW TO NOT DIE WHEN TRAVELING IN CAT BA
With its rugged rocky horizons, cool, glittering caves, thick jungles teeming with wildlife, and golden beaches, Cat Ba Island is an explorer’s nirvana.
Cat Ba offers the chance to get outdoors in so many ways. You can choose to kayak in private mini bays, hike in the National Park, swim at any number of gorgeous sandy beaches, take a boat trip, cycle or motorbike around the island or even do some rock climbing to fully appreciate what the island has to offer.
Of course the last thing you want on your holiday is for something to go wrong, so we have put together a brief list of things you can do to keep yourself safe so you get the most out of your stay on the island.
Kayaking is one of the most rewarding ways to properly appreciate the sheer size of the famous limestone karsts that make this part of the world so famous. There are so many reasons why you should kayaking in Cat Ba. However, as in many South East Asian countries, rental equipment can be damaged or not quite up to the safety standards many western tourists are used to.
When renting a kayak, check the boat is firstly and most importantly, water tight. If not, don’t get in and ask for another one! Secondly, make sure your paddles are not brittle or broken and ask if they can be tied to your kayak to avoid losing them and ending up a creek without a paddle! Insist that you are given a lifejacket and inspect it for any damage first.
Before setting out make sure you have plenty of water, sunscreen and it pays to have a wide brimmed hat. Once you have all the gear you are good to go and will easily spend hours discovering beautiful private bays, pristine beaches, enchanting sea caves and tunnels and capturing photos of the rugged landscape from an entirely unique perspective
If hiking is your thing, Cat Ba National Park will not disappoint. Here you will experience nature and views like you will not find anywhere else. You will wander through shimmering greenery; pass caves like works of art, carefully perfected by Mother Nature over billions of years.
Just like anywhere in the world it is important to take the appropriate precautions to ensure you have a safe experience. Always bring plenty of water and food. The jungle is incredibly humid and you will sweat bucket loads. Consider bringing a cloth head band to keep the sweat out of your eyes or wear a hat. Wear appropriate shoes with plenty of grip as after rain the ground can get very slippery. Do not approach snakes or any wildlife you might encounter. Never hike alone and always make sure someone is expecting you back at an agreed time.
Cycling and motorbikes
Cycling or hiring a motorbike is a popular way to get around the island. The freedom of having your own bike is priceless and means you can explore everything the island has to offer at your own pace as well as giving you the chance to get off the beaten track and discover parts of the island that even the locals might not know about.
The roads are probably your biggest enemy here. The island is quite hilly and in some places there are un-sealed roads with giant pot-holes. These can pop up quite unexpectedly and can be deadly so always watch where you are going, wear a helmet and go slowly. In Vietnam you must cycle and drive on the right-hand side and cyclists should give way to motorbikes. When driving or cycling in traffic it is customary to give a friendly honk of your horn or ring of your bell when approaching traffic or pedestrians from behind. This lets other drivers know where you are and is an essential part of traffic culture in Vietnam.
Taking a boat trip in the bay is by far the most relaxing way to fully appreciate the incredible natural rock formations and get up close and personal with the unique fishing villages that are scattered throughout the bay. To ensure you are safe make sure you book with a reputable company. Nam Travel only partner with providers who meet the safety standards set by the government. Boat skippers have to comply with certain maritime regulations but to keep yourself safe make sure there is a life jacket available for you and your family. Take enough food and water with you if the tour does not supply this and wear long pants and shirts, put sun-cream on your skin to protect yourself from the sun
For some people there is no better way to enjoy spectacular views across the island than by hanging from a rope half way up one of the magnificent craggy rock faces of a limestone karst. The only way to experience these views safely are by booking a guided trip from a reputable company which Nam Travel can help you with. Again dress for the sun. Wear long tight fitting clothing to avoid it getting snagged on anything and bring enough food and water for the whole day. Always wear a helmet and ask your guide about what kinds of shoes are suitable for the climb. Listen to your instructor carefully and follow their rules. They are there to keep you safe and are more familiar with the environment than you are.
Exploring the town
One of the most interesting parts of the island is actually the town and the local people. As Cat Ba has been a popular tourist destination for so long, locals are used to seeing tourists as well as travelers and will hardly blink an eye at you. The crime rate is very low here and there are very few reports of tourists being mugged. Women travelling alone can also feel safe even whilst walking at night as there are plenty of street lights on the road in the main part of the town.
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Good luck with your amazing journey in Viet Nam!
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