Warning - Kayaking in Halong Bay
Replies: 37 - Last Post: May 17, 2013 9:29 AM Last Post By: agillmeister
Jul 31, 2007 9:53 PM
Why there is such a strong current we could not work out
Maybe this tide chart for Hai Phong will shed some light.
Any constrictions like narrow channels, tunnels, caves, etc.,
can speed up water velocity pretty dramatically during a 2 meter
tide change. As far as trusting anyone else to take care of my
safety when I'm fooling around in the salt, I wouldn't make that
assumption. Especially when it only takes a couple of nano seconds
to come up with the tide info I need myself.
Jul 31, 2007 11:24 PM
16The rate of flow of tidal current in and out of the cave will be dependent on the relationship between the width of the cave entrance and the size of the cave. Small entrance and big cave will produce a faster flow than the reverse. The tidal range will also have affect but from what I observed the range is small on Halong Bay. Some caves will therefore have a faster flow (particularly on the top of high water) than others. Those companies who run kayaking tours should have the local knowledge of which caves are potentially dangerous and should advise there clients accordingly. I would imagine, and this is absolute assumption, that most caves on HB are not dangerous. Perhaps all but the most experienced should avoid entering caves with narrow entrances.
According to Andie his cave had considerable depth it would be interesting to know the size of the entrance.
Aug 1, 2007 2:19 AM
17Sorry, I wasn't thinking, overnight on the boat is same as hotel, they need passport for police registration. However, my main point was the danger of booking a bargain tour with a no-name company using a desk in a hotel lobby. Not denigrating the OP's post or bad experience, just a friendly reminder that Halong Bay tours are not worth bargaining down or shopping around, go with a reputable agent.
Aug 1, 2007 3:17 AM
Aug 1, 2007 7:38 AM
19We also had a disaster at Halong Bay. We were abandoned on a junk in the middle of the bay with no food, no potable water, no softdrink, no beer, (yes, no beer) no captain, and no english speaking crew for 5 hours. The guide simply went ashore and waved goodbye with no explanation other than your boat will be here in 20 minutes. (not true) This was not the junk that we were supposed to be staying on, but another junk.
This was the culmination of a series of stuffups and broken promises, including overbooking by up to 10 people. Two of our group were put in a hotel on Cat Ba that stank of urine and they refused to stay. Unfortunately they had not been given any documentation and had no guide to tell, as they were simply pushed off the minibus and pointed to the hotel.
We were only allowed 20 minutes swimming time and had to kayak to the beach. We were given no instruction in the use of the kayaks and they could not tell us what would happen if the kayak was swamped etc. They did not check if we could swim and did not come to the beach with us.
We had to sleep on the other junk. There was no water on this junk for showers for some hours. The cabins were so hot we slept on the deck.
We booked our tour through ET Pumpkin and ended up on a tour run by Halong Heritage Tours. It seems that it doesn't matter who you book through you can end up on one of their tours as in our group there were six different booking agents involved, and six different amounts paid. We paid $55 each and another couple paid $78 each. The only difference was they did not share their food with 6 people (but had to sit at a table by themselves) and they had working airconditioning in their cabin.
Aug 1, 2007 8:36 AM
20thankyou for this post ,,,my experience in halong bay ,,was with 7 others to swim 200 m from boat into a cave of 100 m and into a stunning bay inside an island ....one swimmer got tired and went to rock wall for rest and got lacerated ...the rest of us had an awesome 40 minutes ,,whether that was by good luck or good management ,,I do not know
Aug 1, 2007 8:41 AM
21The entire onus cant be placed on consumers. The tour companies push swimming and kayaking in the bay as a selling point.People have to be made aware of the conditions before they can make an informed assessment of the risks. The deceptive placidity of the bay adds to the illusion that these activities are innocent.Add the sheer mass of tourists and its a tragedy waiting to happen. (In fact as we heard a few weeks ago already a tragedy.)If theres enough evidence to suggest that Halong Bay has particular and potentially hazardous marine conditions surely the authorities must act to introduce industry standards of safety?If that concept isnt yet ready to de developed by government(!) perhaps companies like Handspan who already have a reputation for industry-best practice can provide a model.They've obviously begun this process by providing life vests etc but we swam off the Dragons Pearl without warning of how strong the current was and though the situation wasnt at all life-threatening we clung to the attached row boat for all we were worth and the surf life-saver among us had a particularly steely look in his eye as there was no-one else performing this function.
On the tourists part they would be wise not to skimp on quality by going with the cheapest tour they can find and to take all usual precautions one takes around the sea.
OP what about sending the story of what happened to you to the Guidebooks. I only have an old one so I'm not sure if the current Lonely Planet highlights at least in a general way that kayaking may require people with local knowledge guiding you, that if swimming you should be aware of particularly strong currentsetc?
Aug 1, 2007 10:14 AM
22My experience of Halong bay was first of all the guy at our hotel told us his family had a boat that would get us to Cat Ba with nice food and drink and and some swimming in the bay. Think we all payed about €20 for this special tour EACH. Yeah I know dont laugh.
When we got to the port and the guy got our tickets he pointed us on a boat and dissapeared. We saw the price and it was only a couple of dollars if even!
After an hour or so on the boat we asked when we would get to Cat Ba and the captain looked at us strange. He wasnt going to Cat ba that day at all. Eventually we got him to bring us then he asked for a tip!!!!
The tour we went on from cat ba wasnt very well organised at all .Nothingn happened like what the OP experienced but thinking about it there was no life Jackets I cant kayak well at all and one of the girls we where with cant swim.
We got to monkey Island jumped of the boat and the captain started to drive off without telling us! My friend jumped on to the ancor and climbed up which was a funny sight...Turns out they where just trying to get away from the Island before the tide got them stuck.....and a boat was gonna come and get us in about an hour!!!! How where we suposed to now?? we thought we where gonna be standed with the monkeys.
On the way back we saw one of the tour boats that stayed in the bay over night sunk suposedly 2 germans where killed while they slept in there cabin all in all not a very safe place to tour.
op glad you got out okay
Aug 1, 2007 12:25 PM
23Jesus, OP, that is scary. If that had happened to me, I would have been so shaken, I'd probably have paid them the money they asked for, just to get out of the situation and get myself checked out medically.
I am not at all a strong swimmer (I can barely swim, in fact) and if our kayaking hadn't been set up meticulously, I wouldn't have done it. We booked with Handspan, and before we were allowed in the kayaks, there was the standard safety speech, we had to wear lifejackets, and before we set out, the guide showed us some basics as to what to do while in water if we got into any trouble. Also, our kayaking trip was guided the whole way and our guide made sure everyone stayed within easy reach of the group.
I guess this is a good warning- if you're at all uncomfortable with how things are set up, don't ignore your instincts.
Aug 1, 2007 12:31 PM
24Lyn, I wouldn't swim in that water anyway. It was disgusting!. I saw sanitary napkins and crap floating everywhere in it. We went with handspan, they didn't stop for us to swim either which was excellent.
I did however, receive a very INTERESTING massage on the top deckone evening...it took me a few minutes to work out what was going on before I stopped it!!!. Lucky I have a good sence of humour. i call it the "love boat" now.
An elderly australian lady with a passion for adventure was on the boat too. In the morning I told her about my experience on the top deck the previous evening. She turned to her husband with a straight face and said quite seriously "right! thats it, I am definately getting a massage tonight dear" LOL
I loved my trip.
Aug 2, 2007 3:10 PM
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