in Pu Luong
Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a largely unspoilt
limestone area about 140km south of Hanoi, consisting of two parallel
ridges bisected by a valley. It’s richly forested, with panoramic
views, magnificent rice terracing and stunning scenery. It is also
one of the few places in the world where a critically endangered
species can be seen in the wild.
The Reserve stretches from the White Thai ethnic
minority village of Mai Chau southeast to join up with Cuc Phuong
National Park. It’s an important centre for plant diversity, and
many unique species inhabit the forest, including the endangered
‘clouded leopard’, ‘Owsten’s civet’ and the critically imperilled
‘Delacour’s langur’. Fauna in the area is threatened by hunting
and collecting rare species for the illegal wildlife market. The
forests are also at risk from illegal logging and fire.
The hills and valleys of Pu Luong are home to
several Thai and Muong ethnic minority communities. The Vietnam
office of Flora and Fauna International (FFI) has been working with
several villages to set up an extensive trekking route and local
homestay facilities. Haivenu is collaborating with FFI in this venture.
The people living in the area are very poor.
By capitalising upon the potential income from carefully managed
tourism and directing it towards the local people, we hope to diminish
the threats to the environment by providing a sustainable and legal
source of income.
The village of Mai Chau is a rare example of
communal initiative that began several years ago. The villagers
set up their own homestay arrangement and the village has greatly
prospered since. However, lacking guidance, the village has been
the victim of its success and the once pristine village is now commercialised.
The current project has focused upon careful development that conserves
the environment and local culture.
For tourists, it’s first-class. The trekking
and cycling routes range from gentle to seriously strenuous. Those
who prefer a gentler experience can travel most of the journey by
vehicle. The nearby Ma River offers travel by raft or longboats.
The homestay are well organised, and the local rice wine flows freely
– after the first glass, it becomes increasingly delicious!
At the far south of Pu Luong is La Ha Market,
and beyond that, the remarkable fish stream near Cam Thuy. Large
fish are permanently crammed into a pool fed by an outlet of a river
running through a limestone peak. The local people believe they
have magic properties and leave them alone.
Oh, yes! The endangered species you can see
is a colony of Delacour’s langurs that have settled down on an isolated
peak with vertiginous sides. The only way to get near it is to travel
past on a gentle river in a small boat. From there, an average pair
of binoculars will usually provide you with a clear view of these
beautiful primates swinging languidly across the rock face, comfortable
in the knowledge that they’re safe in their lofty dwelling-place.