Delight sounds the same in every language. Not the word, but the feeling. That was a lovely surprise discovery when I took my new-found passion for bird-watching overseas for the first time in Vietnam.
I’m a new twitcher. When I moved to the Aussie bush a couple of years ago, my passing admiration for birds grew into a proper hobby. I’m no expert, but I’ve come to love seeing what lives where, observing different species and learning their habits. My guided trip to the Thung Nham Bird Valley, two hours south of Hanoi, was the perfect option for an enthusiastic beginner like me.
I could go on forever about the cognitive benefits of awe-inspiring nature experiences or how connecting with nature makes you more aware of your impact on our planet; that’s all very true and important. But mostly, I’d like to make a case for packing binoculars and going bird-watching on your next trip.
You don’t need a lot of kit. My binoculars are fairly inexpensive, but they do the job, and it’s thrilling to be able to get an up-close look at a majestic bird in flight
It’s a shortcut to a state of childlike glee that is just so good for the soul, especially when you look around and find that you’re sharing that moment with strangers from around the world who all feel exactly the same.
Wow moments go straight to the heart and transcend language. That’s why food and culture are so great for bringing people together. Now I know that Vietnam is fantastic at all three kinds of wow – food, culture and nature.
I’d already been to Vietnam a couple of times and loved it, so I was really excited to get out of the city and away from the more famous destinations this time.
We rose early for our bus ride south toward the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tam Coc, an eco-tourism park in Ninh Binh, it’s a green landscape filled with towering limestone cliffs and shimmering waterways.
We passed small towns and farms along the way, places where water buffalo still worked the fields, and the scent of ripe rice filled the air. Tam Coc is a refuge for over 45 species of birds, including egrets, herons, storks and kingfishers, and the best way to view them is by taking a boat trip out onto the park’s lakes and wetlands.
We boarded a small traditional boat steered by a local elder with a big grin and an ageless sparkle in his eyes. He deftly guided us out onto the water, and within 30 seconds of stopping at the nesting areas, we spotted a procession of fluffy baby herons toddling along atop a flotilla of water lilies. We gasped in delight, and the sound rippled out through each of the little boats surrounding us, making us laugh – first at the funny little birds and then at each other.
Sharing that moment of pure joy with our Intrepid leader and boatman has stayed with me as much as the sight of hundreds of beautiful birds gliding overhead, landing, taking off and nesting in the trees. It was an extraordinary day, my face ached from smiling afterwards.
So pack your binoculars and go bird watching on your next trip. It’s a perfect excuse to get off the beaten track, an opportunity to see the places you visit from a new perspective and a really special way to connect with local people and share their love for their land.
Discover your own wow moments in Vietnam with one of Intrepid’s small group adventures.