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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

7 December 2018

Smiley the Fixer Pixie

Speedboat at dawn

Speedboat at dawn

29 November 2018

We did a smart thing. We left Cat Ba a day early and took an afternoon bus to Ninh Binh.

But not before we got to see the Cat Ba langur! Although this hasn’t really been a mammal-watching trip, it was hard to resist this. The Cat Ba langurs are one of the rarest species of primate in the world: the last count was only 68 of them, all living on Cat Ba island in seven groups mostly isolated from each other. Surprisingly, tourists do report seeing them now and again, but only rarely. We needed more help than that to have any real chance. Enter Smiley, the Fixer Pixie.

Cat Ba langur

Cat Ba langur

Smiley gets good Trip Advisor reviews for arranging Ha Long Bay boat tours from Cat Ba, and while asking for a quote we also asked whether she could help with the langurs. She said she could arrange something. That something turned out to be a speedboat at just after dawn, and our “guide” was Smiley herself – who had a friend in the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project and so knew kinda where to look for them. She’s a tiny Vietnamese lady, wearing modern clothes and a blue plastic sun visor, a huge smile, and she talks constantly at a high level of bubbles. When we actually spotted the langurs on the rocks after half and hour of searching, she shrieked “OMG-I’m-so-happy-for-you-high-five!” and high-five’d us both.

Most wildlife guides don’t do that. : )

It was Smiley who sorted out our change of plans too; with a couple of phone calls she wrangled two places on what had been a fully booked bus to Ninh Binh, and then packed us into a taxi to the pickup point. She gives the impression of being able to sort out anything at a moment’s notice. I can’t entirely forgive her for the duff guide and the junk junk, but close-up views of one of the world’s rarest primates do go a long way!

3% of the world's Cat Ba langurs

3% of the world’s Cat Ba langurs


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