On our second day in Vietnam, we left the big city and traveled 25 miles southeast to the Can Gio mangrove, a UNESCO recognized Biosphere Reserve at the confluence of the Saigon and two other rivers, the Soai Rap and the Vam Co, and their delta on the South China Sea.
[NOTE: The full title of the Can Gio reserve in Vietnamese is Khu dự trữ sinh quyển rừng ngập mặn Cần Giờ, but from this point, I am going to give up on any further attempt to type the Vietnamese names of the places we visit on this trip, this language just has too many diacritics.]
We hired a local guide, Trinh, and a driver and car for the day. The 1.5 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City took us across the Saigon River by ferry, then to a boat landing, our introduction to the Con Gio.
Our first destination was to an isolated area to see a bat colony. On the boat ride out, we passed a number of fishing boats, all of which have eyes painted on their bows for good luck and to help the pilots see the channel.
At the lagoon, we changed boats and were paddled out to the viewing area (that’s our guide, Trinh, behind Dale).
We could hear the bats off in the distance, but they were difficult to see, hanging upside down in the mangrove forest. Our next stop was the crocodile lagoon.
We changed boats again and motored slightly off from the dock to “fish” for crocs. They wasted no time swimming over to the boat.
This one had his eye on me.
Back on shore, we saw a clutch of newborns.
After the crocodiles, we made our way over the rope bridge to “Monkey Island.”
Alas, it was low tide and the monkeys were all off in the trees. Probably for the best; we’ve heard they can be pretty aggressive, stealing caps, sunglasses and cellphones from unprepared tourists. Oh, well, back to the welcome center for a climb up to the top of the viewing tower and then back down for lunch.
Here’s the view from the top, a long way from the city, though it was just visible off in the distance:
Our final stop was the Hang Duong wholesale seafood market at the southern tip of the Can Gio delta, the supplier of many of the restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City.
Some of the selection was very familiar to us, but other items were new and exotic, like the octopus and cuttlefish.
At any rate, it all looked more appealing once it was cooked up.
We should have eaten lunch here. A couple lobsters to go, please!