Day 11–13 Halong Bay

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We wandered around Halong this morning – in search of coffee and to stretch our legs before our boat journey. There’s a heap of construction so the area will look very different in a few years time.

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We walked to the beach. Lots of tree planting with each tree assigned it’s own number plate.

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The beach was deserted. Lots of chairs setup for anyone wanting to look out to the back.

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Then it was off to our boat to sail through the bay. We had a pretty swanky room for the first night with our own little balcony.

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First activity was kayaking at the Pearl Farm. The vests were a bit ‘interesting’ – hard to find one remotely the right size.

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Luckily we stayed dry side up as we did our little cruise around.

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Next was swimming and hiking. The beach was a little crowded for my taste we we opted for the hike.

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Lots of stairs, 100 humidity but a pretty decent view.

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There was a bit of a queue right at the top to get a photo.

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Eventually we could see the view.

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Next morning we could see sunrise from our bed

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Then transfer to the day boat for our stay at the “bungalow”. There wasn’t a lot of time but thee was a paid option to go to the shore. I’d spotted the Canon Fort on Cat Ba and thought we’d miss it.

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So we got our little boat ride to the island.

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Walked up the 10% gradient hill to the Canon Fort. Quite cool with a few canons and ruins to check out.

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View to die for at the very top with a well-placed café for an icecream and a cold drink.

Night at the bungalow and then boat back to Halong and a long drive back to Hanoi. Now it’s really busy – scooters everywhere. Time to hid in our hotel room to avoid the streets of Hanoi Smile

Day 9 10 Nihn Bihn and Halong

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After a good rest we get up for an early learn to make your own lunch. Pork spring rolls, mango salad and beef with lemon grass. Were too full by then to make the 2nd main.

We had intended to go for a hike but the rain rolled in so we chilled instead. My great plan to watch some You Tube originals content was foiled by the fact it’s block here Sad smile

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There’s so many ducks around here. We have tried to explain we rescue ducks to a few people and they seem perplexed esp when we mention we don’t eat them but let them go.

We do the 4 hour drive to Halong today and it’s a good travel day as it’s wet and miserable. So starving when we arrive we settle for the hotel restaurant. It’s certainly more western with western prices to match.

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John’s first proper coffee for over a week Smile

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I was going to get a coke but the mojito is actually cheaper than either the coffee or the coke.

For the last hot and humid week I’d been looking forward to the hotel pool. I’m not normally a hotel pool kinda person. It’s so much cooler here today we stayed in maybe 10 mins before we got too cold.

Tomorrow we’re off on our Halong Bay cruise so I assume we’ll have no internet till we get back to Hanoi on Wednesday.

Day 8–Bich Dong Pagoda

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Our last shift at EPRC today. They put us both on the hill in the soft release area. We got to feed the langur sweet potato and the gibbon did come down for food while we were there.

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Our final lot of untie the bundles of leave and we were done. Off for our last breakfast, packup and our car is ready to take us to Ninh Binh for a couple of days.

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Elke suggested Bich Dong as a stop on the way.

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It’s a pagoda and it looks old till you see this sign (or maybe we’re just old).

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There’s a few steps to climb.

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You do get a decent view from the top.

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It’s pretty exposed (read hot) so we head back into the cave area which is super slippery.

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Few statues to take photos of.

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And then we’re pretty much done. We know we’re already back in “civilization” cause there’s already a lot of people. Our driver suggests lunch and drops us at what seems to be a westernised restaurant. Burgers, toasties and a few cold drinks later and we’re off to our accommodation.

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We turn on all 5 fans, drop the mossie net and it’s time to relax.

Day 7–Asian Turtle Program

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This morning was a similar routine of feed in the morning, I feed 2nd shift while John helps repair cages.

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It’s really humid today and we’re just dripping.

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There’s a new volunteer/researcher arrived and he’s staying for 6 months.

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After lunch we head down the road to the Asian Turtle Program to have a look around.

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They have some invasive species for education along with the turtles they are breeding to release. These guys seem tiny after the giant tortoise we saw in Galapagos.

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They had some really cool tshirts but unfortunately they were all too tiny for me so I settled on some turtle tape measures instead.

Day 6–Save Vietnam’s Wildlife

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Today was a busy work day. Overnight, on of the Gibbons had given birth so there’s a new baby at the centrey. It was hot and humid. What’s hotter than that? Being on burn duty! I got to stand in the hot sun and make a giant fire. By the time we were done I was absolutely drenched in sweat.

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This afternoon we got to visit the neighboring centre – Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. They have some carnivaores and pangolins.

At 5 we got a tour and then helped with the food preparation for the animals. Then we sat with the keeper who pulled up some chairs in front of the fans for us, made us a cuppa and fed us a few rice crackers before we feed the carnivores.

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We fed the Civets which were very timid. They are about house cat size with similar markings on their face but then spotty on the body with much larger eyes as they are nocturnal.

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Next was the binturongs, These guys look like a small bear with a tail. A bit like a big red panda. We hide the food around the enclosure for it to sniff out during the night.

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Back at 8 to feed the Pangolins. They are quite cute with their scaly little body.

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Day 5–Van Long

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Usual morning of feeding and clearing today. Had a slight miscommunication for the next session so we wandered around to grab some more pics.

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The babies are always so full of energy and inquisitive.

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While the adults are happy to watch the tourists walk on by.

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There’s heaps of stick insects in the centre and the gibbons like to reach out through their cage and grab them.

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We’ve been trying to work out what these big green fruit are – a kind of grapefruit.

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We wandered over to the hill to try and grab some pics of the gibbon in the semi-wild area.

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Fortunately the hung around long enough for us to grab a few shots.

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They are just a giant ball of fluffy muscle.

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In the afternoon Elke took all the volunteers for a trip to Van Long.

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We took pics of the rice paddies while we waited for it to cool down a little.

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Then Elke sorted out 3 boats to row us to the cliffs in search of the Langurs.

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The normal touristy route is to turn right – it has nice scenery but less chance of seeing wildlife…or left – less pretty but more chance of Langurs.

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We left it up to Elke to choose left…there was a bit of commotion when the first boat turned left.

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Her choice paid off – we spotted a family on the rocks with babies in tow.

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It’s cool watching them easily traverse what appear to us as sheer, impassible cliff faces.

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We sat and watched as they moved higher and higher. There’s 7 of them in this photo – not so easy to spot!

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It was getting dark so we headed back and our boat rowers were very happy when we tipped them.

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Back just in time for dinner and to hang with the local cat wanting to share our food.

Day 4–Night tour

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This morning I did the perimeter check. This was super tricky in the wet as it was a bit flooded and very slippery. On one hand I regretted wearing my gumboots as they are heavy and don’t bend and on the other hand with the amount of water my hiking shoes would have been filled with water.

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After breakfast I worked on enclosure repair. We must have replaced half the enclosure. New beams and fixed up all the swings.

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The itch to ride was too much for John so he tried out one of the hire bikes…loving the crazy coloured spoke upgrade.

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He went for a ride through the local area with Elke and a vet from the other rescue centre while I worked on Loris enrichment.

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The local kids joined in and followed.

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Checked out he local water buffalo.

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Then back into town to get some snacks.

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At night we met up with Elke to check out the Loris at night. First we found a sleeping lizard.

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Being nocturnal, these guys were much more active at nighttime.

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And they love insects! This one looks super happy at the insect we’ve presented to it through the wire.

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We also spotted a few grasshoppers.

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And a sleeping bird.

Day 3– Enrichment activities

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Today we ensured we arrived well before 6:30am. We spent the first session watching the Langur introduction between a male and female. They’d spent some time next to each other in the enclosure before the main door was opened. They spent a lot of time at opposite corners with their backs facing each other pretending they didn’t exist. There were a few tense moments where they chased each other around the pen but generally seemed to go well.

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After breakfast John was on enclosure repair while I prepared some enrichment items for the Loris. They eat a lot of tree sap so we make up a paste and mix it with other sap and place into the timber with holes for them to eat.

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After lunch we brought in the zoo toys we’d bought from Aussie Dog. we met Joe on our Thailand trip 11 years ago when he was making shoes for elephants. We love bringing along his creations for the animals to use.

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The keepers had fun working out how we’re going to use some of the items and paired them with some home made enrichment.

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The langurs watched the excitement trying to work out what we were all up to.

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Then we were off with our wheelbarrow of fun.  Delivering toys to the varying groups of gibbons to try.

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They were excited to see a new toy. These tube feedballs are a bit more complicated. The food is placed in the red ball and they have to get it into a hole in the blue tube before it drops through the bottom.

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They were quite taken by the bungee. Inside the yellow ball is a marble that make the all rattle. It’s attached to a bungee that stretches when they pull and swing on it.

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They sniffed, licked, tugged and kicked at them.

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The went back to the homemade version that they knew well.

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But kept going back determined to work out these new toys.

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The even tried turning the feed tube upside down to investigate further.

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After all that fun it was back to bundling leaf for tomorrow.

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Day 2–Introduction to EPRC

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Up early to start our first day at EPRC (Endangered Primate Rescue Centre). We’re told to be there at 6:30am for the morning shift (if we were up to working). We arrived and started changing shoes and the keepers were already zooming off. 6:32 and we were the only ones left. Mental note for tomorrow – arrive at 6:20.

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They found us different keepers to follow for the morning. I looked after the gibbon feed which involved moving them to holding pens, then switching their bowls of food over and removing the leaf from the day before. Bowls are all carabineer’ed to the enclosure. The reason becomes obvious quickly when you see how much they bash on things.

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John was on pre-release duty – walking the fenceline and collecting all the stick insects who’d died on the electric fence during the night.

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Then off to breakfast for an hour. Our little restaurant had the choice of sandwich or soup.

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The pre-lunch shift I helped out preparing a few cages for Loris that are arriving soon in the quarantine area and John helped fix another area. Just before lunch we were on leaf bundling duty. I’m still not sure the right way to do this task as we were quality checked with conflicting instructions. I’m sure we’ll be much better at this by the end of the week.

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With so much food we basically skipped lunch and had a snooze for an hour or so. Our accommodation is this cool yellow house. We’re in one of the rooms on the ground floor

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The afternoon was a bit of a rush as the keepers were keen to knock off early are there was a big football final on. Lots more leaf bundling which was getting placed into buckets of water to make the next day’s job easier.

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We got to help out ie watch as they medicated the Loris that are getting ready for release and then the place was fairly empty. This worked out great for us as we got to spend some time with Elke, the head keeper, who could tell us all about the animals and meant we could get closer to some of the cages to shoot through the wire.

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In the evening we were treated to dinner at Elke’s house with Adam the director with a massive spread of food that was way too much to eat.

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