Tag Archives: conservation

Birdwatching and crocodiles in Cat Tien National Park

“I am watching you” said the heron to the crocodile, while standing in the grass by the edge of the lake.
“I am going to get you” replied the crocodile to the heron, while swimming back and forth, slowly approaching the bird then moving further away as if studying what was the best approach.

Purple heron
Purple heron flying away from the croc

The “dance” between them kept us entertained for some time, as we were resting at the ranger station by Crocodile Lake. After an early start (6:30am), a lot of birdwatching and a 5Km walk, we had reached the lake by 10:30am and were now observing animal behaviour around us.

I am on a 3-day birdwatching tour in the Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam, with my Aussie travel buddies. Let’s be clear: I am not a birdwatcher and to the complete disappointment of our guide I can barely remember two-three names of birds even after seeing them dozens of times. But the tour is very interesting and a great opportunity to visit the National Park and get to know its varied fauna.

Black-shanked langur
Black-shanked douc

One of the best sightings of today (apart from the dance between heron and crocodile) was actually a monkey: the endangered black-shanked douc (Pygathrix nigripes). The individual we saw was on a watch, sitting high up on a tree for quite some time. Unfortunately the long lens on my camera is “only” 300mm, so taking decent photos proved challenging.
Only when birds were quite close, I managed to take some cool shots:

Stripe-throated bulbul
Stripe-throated bulbul (Pycnonotus finlaysoni)

But don’t ask me any birds’ names tomorrow morning as I will have probably forgotten them all!

A “PEEK” evening

“Pass me that torch, quick, there is something here!”.

It’s pitch black around, apart from our head torches flashing in the darkness. It’s 7pm and I am walking in the Con Dao National Park forest with a group of Vietnamese school kids, their teacher, a couple of parents, and the  guys from Senses Diving Con Dao, a  local diving school.

I am on the left :-)
I am on the left :-)

How did I get here?!

A few days ago I was chatting to Max, one of the owners of Senses Diving Con Dao, as I wanted to learn more about the island, and he told me about Biodiversity PEEK.
The Biodiversity PEEK (Photography Educating & Empowering Kids) educational program is run by the Biodiversity Group and it teaches children about their own environment. In Con Dao the program runs over two months at a time and it involves around six children from a local school per group. Weekly activities – usually run on a Sunday – range from trekking, to snorkeling, diving, clean up days, and are all aimed at teaching the kids about the wildlife on their own doorstep and what impact (good or bad) we have on the environment.

There was no need to ask me if I wanted to get involved in the night trek with the kids: I was already putting my hand up for that!

And so we went.

Local wildlife
Local wildlife

The trek led us into the forest and up the hill, and it was great to see the enthusiasm from the kids! No leaves were left unturned (in the real sense) and every finding was reported to the group with loud cheers. We mainly saw lizards, geckos, and spiders, and heard noises from bats and monkeys in the bush.

Something has been spotted!
Something has been spotted!

Kids had also been given digital cameras to document and report back what they had found.

The day after the trek they gathered at the bar run by Senses Diving for the second part of the activity:  uploading the photos to a website that will assist them with identification of the species found.

Uploading the photographs
Uploading the photographs

This is all part of increasing the kids’ awareness about their environment, which is of crucial importance. Even more so on an island like Con Dao, which is deemed as globally significant because of its marine life, terrestrial habitat and location. Read more about Con Dao biodiversity here.

I feel very privileged to have taken part in one of the Biodiversity PEEK activities in Con Dao! All tourists are welcome to join in, so please pop by if you are in town and ask the guys at Senses Diving Con Dao how you can get involved!