Tag Archives: snorkelling

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are an independently governed British overseas territory in the Caribbean. It is made up of three Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman), that are renowned for their beaches, reefs and trekking.

Grand Cayman is the largest of the Islands and is home to the capital, George Town. The city is a major cruise ship port and the site of the ruins of colonial-era Fort George.

The reality is that there are not really any fort remains and it is little more than a roped-off cannon. More like a children’s playground than a historical sight.

The Cayman Islands are a tax haven. This has spawned a thriving financial services industry, which is a major part of the local economy.  In fact, George Town is the world’s fifth-largest financial centre. There are about 250 banks registered in the Cayman Islands.

Grand Cayman’s main claim to fame is the undersea world that surrounds it.  The coral formations are almost everywhere and they are home to large populations of sea creatures.  There are also the numerous shipwrecks making both diving and snorkelling amazing. Add to this very clear water, with underwater visibility reaching up to 30 meters in the right conditions.

The USS Kittiwake was formerly a Navy Submarine Rescue Vessel. It was sunk on January 5th, 2011 in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands to create an artificial reef and shipwreck attraction for scuba divers and snorkelers.

The Crystal Caves offer guided walking tours of around 90 minutes through the tropical forest to see 3 caves and the associated stalagmites and stalactites.

Sting Ray City is an attraction where guests can snorkel and swim in shallow water in close contact with numerous sting rays. The blurb shows isolated images but the reality is more like this.

Grand Cayman to us was a very long strip of resorts. We came on a Sunday, which meant that most of the shops were shut. We did the long hike to 7-mile beach, expecting a long stretch of sand.

However, what we got was small 50-200 meter stretches as you hit private beach sections where the resort of the day had locked you out of their little section. This meant you had to wade through the water to the other side or go back to the road and walk around.

Beyonce bought a super mansion here and we walked past it. We were warned about it but I strolled by oblivious, Jill managed to get a photo of the gates. Needless to say the rest was hidden away.

Grand Cayman was nice. It felt safe and fun and the walk around was interesting enough. I am certain that on any day other than a Sunday there would have been more going on, and if you are looking for a resort style holiday, then this place would be tough to beat.

The clarity of the water and the various shades of blue are exactly what I imagine when I get to a tropical island. And this place delivers that at almost every glance. The snorkelling that we saw looked a bit “trampled on”, but we were in the main tourist area. I am sure with a bit of effort and more time you could find some untouched spots that would deliver the ideal snorkelling.

Palau Perhentian

As part of our ongoing monster commute, we headed out of Kuantan and hopped another bus to some random little spot called Jerteh. Happy to report that the bus standard went up considerably back to the standard that we first had. The organisation at the bus terminal however was atrocious.

There are about 6 gates, servicing 12 bays. However all but one of them are closed. So you end up with about 70 people (and their luggage jamming up the only access point listening intently to the guy yelling out which ones can board (in Malay). Even if you happen to catch the call you then have to try and fight your wat through to get to the platform.

Jerteh is a dot on a map around 15 km away from where we were spending the night (Kuala Besut) and we had no idea what transport arrangements were available to get us the last 15km. This was of some concern to me as the idea of walking that far in extreme heat was very unappealing.

As it turned out it was very simple, there was a waiting taxi, who charged a fair price, and dropped us straight to the door. The only real challenge was the absolute shitbox that we drove in. This has not been mentioned yet, but many of the cars in Malaysia are rubbish and should be taken off the road or put out of their misery. The Malaysian local builds are the Proton and the Perodua, and having ridden in many versions of both, they are trash.

The roads themselves are excellent and (for the most part) are of a better standard than we enjoy in Australia. But the cars are crap.

We got to our dodgy little homestay in Kuala Besut (which was ok but super simple) and headed out to find dinner. Unlike the Mersing dramas, it was a very easy and pleasant experience. Having found a nice little restaurant by the water we had a nice meal, well-priced, but with no option to have a beer. So we headed towards our Malaysian default, fresh lime juice.

The next morning we were up, on a ferry and on our way to Palau Perhentian. Another 60m walk from the jetty to our accommodation and another 3 days of beach and snorkelling to look forward to. We grabbed some lunch while waiting for our room to be ready, dropped off our bags and headed out for a snorkel. And within metres of where we were was coral and fish aplenty.

That night we did not do our research properly and thought (wrongly) that there was no beer to be had nearby and that the closest place was the next beach over. The only access to this was to hike a jungle track over a mountain to get to the next beach. We did this, amid much swearing, the emphasis here is more jungle than track. At one point Jill slid down the hill on one of her more fleshy parts while my dodgy football knee hated every second of this. Anyway, we got to the next beach, found the restaurant, had a very poor and overpriced meal (with some beers) and negotiated a boatman to drive us back rather than brave the track at night. The price was double during the evening than the daytime. So we paid our $3.40 and sat calmly in a boat back home.

The next day we mentioned it to our hotel and was told that where we were staying was the only one that didn’t sell beer and that the 3 others happily did so. The jungle track was never seen again. After breakfast we were picked up by our boat at 10am and were off. The trip took us to Coral point, Shark point and Turtle point. No prizes for guessing what we got to see at each.

There is no way that this place could not deliver. Even I got to see and swim with two huge turtles (about a metre in diameter). This time they were not one of Jill’s mythical beasts. This came along with some 3-4 foot black tip reef sharks. The usual fish and coral, a bloody good day.

Importantly we stopped at a restaurant on the way back to have one of the best meals that we have had on the entire trip. Beachbox is a boutique hotel/restaurant that does a single-item menu for each sitting. If you want it you order it, if not, go someplace else. And be sure to book, because everyone wants it, it is that good. But we ended up eating here twice and they were both spectacularly good. Our first foray was a lamb pie and the second (2 days later) was the fish. Absolutely the best restaurant on the island.

The next day we were going to have the day off but instead jumped on the Rawa tour which took in a ton of more snorkelling, to different locations and ended up seeing (surprisingly) coral, fish, baby sharks and the same turtle as the day before. We knew it was the same turtle as it had clearly had an adverse run-in with a propeller. The sharks this time were tiny (50-70cm ) and the contrast with the sand made them a bit tough to get a good picture of.

The one thing that Jill has been doing is identifying and making notes on great places to come back to. And the Maldives, Tioman and here in Perhentian have all made that list. While our commute to get here was unruly, it doesn’t need to be, and with an easy commute these places represent good value and a nice way to amuse yourselves for a week or two.

Mersing and Tioman

Mersing is a transit town for those people that are heading to Tioman Island. As a transit town, it is very popular as everyone must funnel through here. We figured that if we were coming that we should spend a day or two and look around.

To be fair, it was in the middle of Ramadan so virtually everything was closed. Perhaps, under normal circumstances, it might be worth visiting. But for us that was not the case. In reality, the place we stayed was fantastic, with great internet and an owner that couldn’t help enough. He even brought us free meals (as everything was closed for Ramadan), on two separate occasions, and would not let us pay.

On arrival (around dinner time) we settled in, found out where the restaurants were, and headed out for a walk.  Headed to the restaurants to find that they were closed, and that none, within a reasonable vicinity, were/or would be opening that day or for the next few. So we found where the shops were and aimed for them (about 2-3km away) in extreme heat. We wandered our way to the shops. On the way we came across the dying remnants of street stalls and I managed to purchase the last thing that was available for sale – a roti john.

Now, a roti john is a local dish, unique to the Malay Peninsula, that consists of a long bread roll that is used to soak up an omelette,which is then topped with onion and smothered in a particularly local tomato sauce and mayonnaise mix.

We then found the shops and picked our way through the supermarket landing on some bread, jam, eggs and butter before heading home.

I settled down to my roti john only to find it entirely unappealing, both visually and otherwise. Being the last item available for sale it may well have been sitting there all day before I came along. And it looked and tasted as though that may have been possible. In fact, upon opening of the parcel it looked as if it may have even come pre-chewed and pre-digested.

From Mersing our friendly inn keeper drove us to the pier so that we could make our ferry across to Palau Tioman. Two hours later we arrived on the island to find that our room was about 60m from the pier, facing straight out onto the ocean. It was simple and basic, with a balcony.

In doing her research, Jill found that Tioman was a duty free island and if we went for a (short) walk we could buy some well-priced alcohol (something we had rarely seen since leaving Vietnam). So we set off, in 32 degree temperatures, on a day that felt like 38, in full sun. The short walk was more like 5 km and I had melted and sweated through every item of clothing that I was wearing. It is an island, I tried to dip into the water but the only spot that I could access (along the walk) had sharp rocks and I could not get in.

The path was narrow and was regularly traversed by motorbikes, meaning you had to mount the railings to let them pass – or be run over. Their version of a speed bump was a strip of nautical rope laid and pinned across the path. So we kept walking, eventually we made it to the shop, only to find that nothing was that cheap and that anything that we bought we would have to schlepp all the way home.  We grabbed a few beers and headed back.

The next morning we hopped on a tour and headed out to do the round island trip. This involved stops at deep bay, Asah waterfall, Tomok island, Renggis island and Soyak island. Importantly, we got to swim with black tip reef sharks (about 4-5 feet long) and the usual assortment of reef fish. According to Jill she swam with a turtle for about 25 minutes. This was at Soyak Island where the guide told us to do a lap. Being nothing but obedient, I started swimming and snorkelling to do the lap and totally missed the turtle. Jill, who was behind me, saw the turtle and abandoned any thoughts of doing a lap.

This has become a pattern whenever Jill and I snorkel together. We snorkel along and see the usual fare of parrot fish, angel fish etc and when we separate she returns asking whether I has seen the unicorn, the griffon or anything else she can dream up. It seems that all of these magical creatures turn up when I am nowhere around. My response is usually that I missed it and then she raves about how good it was. In the mean time I saw coral and little fishies.

The main issue that we had here on Tioman was that it was the last few days of Ramadan and that almost all of the restaurants were closed and those that stayed open were packed and only had a limited supply of food and an abridged menu. That said, we did not go hungry and were able to have some really lovely meals. The highlight of these was Jill’s foray into what was called a “Shell Out”. Pretty similar to the Philippine “Boodle Fight” but in individual portions. The “Shell Out” was a mass of different seafood (with your choice of sauce mild-spicy) piled in the centre of your table, served with rice.

Backing the snorkelling up day on day we were off on the Coral Island trip. This involved Malang Rock, Tulai Island, Salang Village, Soyak Island (again) and Monkey Bay.  Usual story, lots of fish and coral to see and a bunch of underwater shots. Once again others in the group saw the turtle and I missed out (again).

Given that visibility is not always the best for photographing the fish we see I thought I would grab some better photos off the internet of the fish that we regularly see. These include (clockwise from top left) the angelfish, banner fish, barracudas, parrot fish, sweetlip, rabbitfish and the ubiquitous parrotfish.

Leaving Tioman started what was to be a monster transit that took us the better part of 3 days to get to our final destination. The timing and linkage between transport services and our low trust in timetables and scheduling meant that we spent a lot of time transiting. The ferry from Tioman to Mersing was easy and comfortable. The bus station was about a 2km walk but we had 6 hours to kill while we waited for our bus, so we decided to walk it. It was another hot day and we sweated considerably. A few days earlier (when we arrived) we saw that there was a food court at the bus station so figured that food would not be an issue.

Have I mentioned the end of Ramadan yet…well this kicked in in earnest. Virtually everything was shut. The exception was 2 little take away shops selling chips and drinks, any other option involved doing the 2km walk back to near the dock. Having lugged our bags one way we did not relish the idea of doing it two more times. So we sat, read books, did crosswords, listened to music and waited. Finally (6 hrs later), the time came and our bus came to get us.

Having given a rap on how good the Malaysian buses were, we were met with one that shot that idea down in flames. Clearly, not all companies are equal, and we had an almost 4hr crappy ride that saw us delivered in Kuantan at around 9 pm. Given the time, we stopped for the night (taxi from the bus station to a hotel) and steeled ourselves for the next leg.  


Boracay is another of the islands in the central Philippines. Boracay has been listed many times as one of the best islands and beaches in the world by all the travel experts. The island itself is tiny, being only seven kilometres long, and less than one kilometre wide at the narrowest spot. The total area is 10.32 square kilometres and it is packed with resorts, particularly along the west coast where White Beach is lined by palm trees, and directly behind them come the bars and restaurants.

In short, this place is tourist central. But unlike most places we have been to lately, this place is mainly for the locals to come. Not so many western tourists here, the lion’s share of people are local Filipinos enjoying the beach, diving, snorkelling, dining, and parties.

Our first raid on arrival was to wander down to White Beach for the famous sunset. Us along with about 2-3000 other people. This truly is a very popular beach. The sun sets here around 6:00 pm all year round and it is the busiest time on the beach, with lots of people taking pictures and enjoying the view.

After sunset, the beach path gets very busy with a lot of people hitting the various restaurants and bars until around midnight when the bars become quiet as people move from the bars to the clubs. We are old so we typically bail by about 10 after dinner and a few drinks.

Day two saw us jumping on the Island hopping tour so that we could get a good taste of vitamin SEA. The itinerary included stops to Puka Beach, Crystal Cove, Crocodile Island, Magic Island and Coral Garden. Puka Beach was just a nice beach to loll about with some rather impressive sand art and Crocodile Island, surprisingly, looked a bit like a crocodile. Coral Garden was nice but a bit busy, rough and a bit too much current for good snorkelling. This was made a little harder by a few Japanese tourists, who clearly did not swim too well and were thrashing about hitting anyone within range – not to mention scaring away all of the fish.

The thing that amused Jill the most was the Instagrammers. Almost without exception, they all hired the crystal canoes (plastic see through numbers) and spent the better part of 20 -30 minutes contorting themselves while the poor local paddling them about had to take photos of them. They were sitting, kneeling, lying, hanging over the side, just about anything to get their perfect shot. And they were doing it by the dozen as the shallow clear waters were full of these crystal canoes that had turned into photo studios.

Crystal Cove was the main port of call (and a 300 peso per person extra). This is a small island surrounded by very nice turquoise waters, with a couple of caves. On top of the coves, various huts and platforms have been built that overlook the water and waves hitting the rocks of the cove. Underneath is a hole with stairs leading down the cave and a natural pool where you can take a dip.

On the east coast, is Bulabog Beach its strong winds make this side a hub for water sports. This also means that this is all the western tourists, that were missing from White Beach, have gone to hide. The place is chock full of expensive resorts, overpriced restaurants (and I thought the prices at White Beach were high) and expensive past times. The sky is full of kite surfers and the water full of windsurfers – invariably all western, and the street is full of touts.

We thought that we would bum around on this beach as it was less busy, however the wind meant that a lot of debris had blown up on shore and it was not that nice. With the exception of the 100 meter strips in front of the major resorts, where they employed people to rake and sweep the beach constantly.

Nearby is Mount Luho, the highest peak on the island. While only a bit over 100 metres above sea level there is an observation deck that offers panoramic views over the island.

After hitting the tourist spots we decided to have a nice beach day. We headed out to White Beach, waiting an appropriate time for all the tours to go. Even then we got there too early as there was a steady stream of tour boats setting off until almost noon. A bit over the free breakfasts (Silog) we found a cafe that did real coffee (a bit over the 3-in-1) and after ordering found out that they also had real bread (not full of sugar). So Jill had the bacon and egg burger and I had an omelette with mushroom and gruyere cheese.

In short, Boracay is truly one of the nicest beaches in the world and its place on the lists warranted. It is long, with some of the finest sand that I have encountered and generally pleasant. The island however, is much more suited to scuba divers than it is for snorkelers. The nearby reefs have been hit hard by tourists and the currents are a bit too strong for most swimmers. A few meters down, these issues tend to go away. As you can see from the map below there are many dive sites surrounding the island.

Missed piece: this bit happened in Coron but I forgot to add it and it was one of Jill’s favourite things. After the departure of Brad and Nora, Jill and I went out to dinner. We sat down and I ordered a bucket of beer (6 bottles) the waitress turned to Jill and said ‘and for the lady’. This had Jill laughing for quite a while.

Sadly, in our transit to Borocay, an event overshadowed this. So much so that Jill will almost wets herself every time she thinks of it. We were sitting in the waiting area of the airport waiting for the assured gate change. When it came, we were approached by a very meek Filipina girl to advise us of the change (a fact that we knew and were about to move). At this point she looked at me and asked ‘are you wheelchair’, in disgust I got up and headed off while Jill virtually needed the wheelchair as she was laughing so much. For the next few hours, all that I heard from my wife was ‘are you wheelchair‘ followed by her cackling.


Coron, is the main town on the island of Busuanga and is one of the top tourist places in the Philippines, best known for World War II-era wreck diving. But in addition to this, there are heaps of limestone karst landscapes (almost identical to the Chinese Stone forest), some nice beaches, crystal-clear freshwater lakes, and shallow-water coral reefs.

Error number one: We met up with good friends Brad and Nora. Now, while Nora is lovely, Brad has been variously described as a marsupial beer sponge, a Japanese game show contestant and many more and worse things. Unfortunately, Brad and I feature strongly in each other’s (acts of stupidity) stories, going back many years. Whenever something stupid occurs, invariably, Brad and I are somehow involved and there was no responsible adult there to supervise us. I am certain that Brad is to blame for all of this, however, he may have a different opinion.

But to make a point, Brads first act when we met up was to introduce us to a local cocktail known as the Weng Weng. This is, in essence, a shot of all of the bottom shelf spirits mixed with pineapple and orange juice and the name roughly translates to shitfaced. The official ingredients list is vodka, tequila, brandy, bourbon, scotch, rum, cubed ice, orange juice, pineapple juice and a dash of grenadine. And they come in 1.5 and 3 litre towers (pictured above).

The second thing he did was bring into play both towers and buckets of beer. We had been happily sipping away on the local Pale Pilsen (at 5% abv) but once Brad arrived this quickly got swapped out for the 8% Red Horse and Weng Weng (of course). On the up side it did come with some pretty amazing sunsets.

Coron Bay is a famous dive location as it has the remains of ten Japanese WWII shipwrecks that were sunk on 24 September 1944. These ships (according to wiki) were the Akitsushima, Okikawa Maru, Irako, Kogyo MaruOlympia MaruTaiei MaruKyokuzan Maru, East Tangat Gunboat and Lusong Island Gunboat.

While everything is really close, you still need to hop on a boat and head to the islands for quality snorkeling, scuba or wreck diving. The boats are a type of motorised outrigger and the cost to get to these (as part of a tour) ranges from around 1000-1500 pesos ($28-42) with the cost of hiring snorkel gear (150 pesos pp) on top. They also offer the hire of plastic canoes/kayaks for 1500 pesos).

So we hopped on our first Coron Island Tour (B), as the A tour was overly busy that day, and took off to the twin lagoons (these two lagoons are separated by a narrow cliff and you can get between them by either swimming under the cliff (on low tide) or climbing some narrow wooden stairs (on high tide).

Major disclaimer here: Before leaving Australia I was given access to a GoPro with very little knowledge, handover, idea about what I was doing, or ability to edit videos. The abundance of underwater action and a fear of damaging expensive phones, saw the GoPro make its debut. The images and videos are likely to be terrible but if you bear with me I may get better over time.

The next stop was at skeleton wreck which was a 25m long Japanese supply ship that was sunk during WWII. The highest point rests at 5m with the remainder as deep as 22m. This means that s surface snorkel will get you a good view, and those able to free dive can get down and close to the wreck.

Being a wreck it has turned into a mini-reef with tons of fish life around to see and photograph. Reef garden was next and as you may have guessed, it is a reef where you can snorkel.

The next stop was at a beach (which particular beach varies every time, depending upon how many boats are around and how busy each beach is) for lunch.

Closely followed by a trip to Barracuda lake. The lake contains both salt and freshwater and these create large temperature differences (particularly for divers). This is known as thermocline and halocline, however the guides claimed the temperature difference on the surface was more likely due to urine.

The climb to get in is hellish, on possibly the dodgiest set of stairs ever made. The stairs were steep, narrow, wet, mouldy and with cut up car tyre strips for grip. The water for snorkelers is cloudy and the depth makes it hard to see much, but it was a nice place to float along in the water. And then, all of a sudden, BAM, out of nowhere, a one meter barracuda swims underneath you. I thought that barracuda lake was just a name, until it swam past, Jill reckons she saw two of them.

After such a big day on the water, we were relatively well shattered. A quiet night was followed by a day off the next day, with the exception of a late afternoon trip to the Macquinit hot springs. These are about 30 mins out of town and is one of the few saltwater hot springs in the world.

The trip is a very tough, dusty and uncomfortable ride on a tricycle (tuk tuk) so we opted for the hire of a bongo van instead. Once there, the thermal pool temperature is between 37° and 40° Celsius and is supposed to be more soothing and more therapeutic the longer you stay in there. That said, they also tell you not to stay in for more than 10 mins at a time.

The next day we were back in tourist mode hitting the Coron Island Tour (A). The first stop was at Quin Reef which was pretty much the same as the Reef Garden, but the snorkelling was nice and we saw nice coral, fish and starfish. Then on to CYC beach (Coron Youth Club) for a look and a paddle about.

The next stop was Las Isla de Coral, another good snorkelling spot followed by a beach for lunch. Lunch was identical both days, and from what we could see was identical for every boat. It was fairly simple but consisted of grilled fish, prawns and chicken coupled with seaweed, rice and veggies and capped off with fruit. After lunch, it was on to Green Lagoon, which we had driven through the day before as it was the area surrounding the twin lagoons. Needless to say, this is an area with clear green waters where you can swim and snorkel.

The last stop was Kayangan Lake which is a crystal-clear freshwater lake that has underwater rock formations, caves and islets. It’s a popular spot for photographers, for fairly obvious reasons, and is said to be the cleanest lake in all of the Philippines.

Another day off and the departure of Brad and Nora left us to take the final tour, being the reef and wrecks tour. There are in fact other tours but one is a town tour, given that the main town is a 3×2 block we figured we could explore this ourselves without having to pay 600 pesos per person. The last tour took in the East Tangat Gunboat and Lusong Island Gunboat, along with the Lusong Coral Garden and lunch and snorkelling on Pass Island.

The snorkelling was good, the wrecks were the closest to the surface so far and therefore were the easiest to access, and the beach was the best we had visited since arriving.

Bringing Coron to a close, I stopped in for a well overdue shave and a haircut. Total price 120 pesos, this is under $4 for a haircut and a straight razor shave. Those that have been reading along since the beginning may recall that I fell in love with these in India and have consistently attempted to find and have these shaves. Jill tells me that I am ‘manpering’, I am OK with this.

Leaving Coron, we did a quick hop over to Manila for an overnight before heading on to our next port of call.

Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay

After our nightmare transit to get to Cat Ba Island we wandered the streets in search of food and drink…we found a western joint that did the most credible attempt at a burger and chips that we have had since leaving home (with a couple of beers) and then found a little street stall selling 2 litre kegs of local beer for 70,000 duong ($3.50)…and it was a hot day…so we had that..closely followed by an afternoon nap.

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We organised our Ha Long Bay day trip through the hostel. For the grand price of $24 a head. We hopped the boat at the harbour at 8am where we sailed around Lan Ha Bay, checked out the seriously impressive karst (lumps) landscapes that we had been craving to see the day before. Stopped along the way to hop onto kayaks where we got to paddle through secluded lagoons, under rock arches and through limestone tunnels…basically every perfect scenario for the day.

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Having kayaked we got a seafood lunch on the boat as we travelled to the Me Cung cave (inside one of the lumps) where we spelunked. From here we sailed to a private beach where we swam and some snorkelled (supposedly looking at coral reefs). Continued cruising through Halong bay during the afternoon past the floating fishing villages and on to Monkey Island for another swim while the others took photos of the tree rats (monkeys). After this we sailed back to Cat Ba arriving at sunset…not a bad day…

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Possibly the best day we have had since leaving Australia…definitely in the top 5.

A group of us from the boat all joined up and headed out that evening to sample the local street food on offer and to tap into those baby beer kegs. Some awesome pancake, rice paper wrap things were found and life was good. The next day we were up and out, hiring motorbikes, for $5 this time, and off exploring we went. This time I went the whole day without crashing the motorbike…but then again…this time I did not try doing donuts in the mud. A little bit of skin lost, some bruises to the ego and a gob full from the wife…no real damage done. This time we just zipped around the island checking out the cool stuff on offer.

We stopped at the hospital cave…a little cave half way up one of the lumps. The 75 cent entrance fee suggested it would be a fizzer but boy were we wrong. This place was huge, three storeys high and built inside the mountain, stairs, rooms, operating theatres, even a cinema. It was used for many years as a bombproof hideaway hospital and as a safe house for VC leaders.

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When we hit the water on the other side of the island we sat staring at the sea eagles circling, swooping and scooping fish from the water. This is such a simple activity but is fascinating and an easy way to while away time. We rode back to the tourist side, found a beach and set up camp for a couple of hours. Late afternoon arrived and we were besieged by a tour group of Chinese…they had set up activities on the beach for them (similar to children’s games) and had the doof doof music and MC blasting across the beach. Tranquility ruined…we rode away.


Cat Ba island only has a couple of real touristy things to see and do and they are good. It has 3 fairly small resort beaches which are ok without being stunning. The key thing it has is as a launching point to visit and cruise through Halong Bay…and for that it is perfect. I cannot think of any way that our stay on Cat Ba could have been better. Google tells me that there are some major 5 star tourist developments planned with bungalows, casinos and expected capacities of around the 6000 mark. If that is he case…plan your visit soon…as such things will ruin the place.