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Cat Ba is the largest island in the Halong Bay and approximately half of its area is covered by a National Park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba langur. This golden-headed langur is rarely seen, as fewer than 100 specimens are thought to survive in the wild, although it is the subject of a well-organised conservation programme. The Park covers both land and marine areas and has a high biodiversity, although it is at risk from too rapid an increase in tourism. Other mammals in the Park include civet cats and oriental giant squirrels.
Although there is much beauty to explore on the island, cat ba town itself is rather crumby. Lots of massage parlours offering happy ending and drunk chinese businessmen.
Cat Ba island can be easily reached by catching one of the many tourist boats down at the water front in Halong-City or in Haiphong.
From Hanoi, Hoang Long operates a bus and boat service that departs from Luong Yen Bus Station in Hanoi at 5:20, 7:20, 11:20 and 13:20. A single trip from Hanoi to Cat Ba town takes 4,5 hours and costs 250.000 VND (US$14).
There are also a number of tourist operators offering overnight package trips from Hanoi for roughly US$80 (offpeak) per person, including the following:
Travel in a well appointed mini-van from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay.
Lunch on the mainland on arrival in Ha Long Bay.
Travel to Cat Ba island on a tourist boat via a number of the more spectacular caves that are dotted on the many islands in the bay.
Overnight (twin share) accommodation in a comfortable, well appointed, hotel with dinner and breakfast included.
Return travel to the mainland via tourist boat.
Lunch in Ha Long Bay.
Return travel via mini-van to Hanoi.
You can easily rent a motorbike from any hotel for $5 (standard) per day, but a quick walk along the main high street will offer perfectly serviceable automatic bikes for $3. There is tons to explore including Cat Ba National Park with gorgeous hikes that lead to isolated communities. Stunning, towering, green mountains surround.
Monkey Island. Several boats run day trips to nearby monkey island either in isolation or as part of a larger tour. The island apparently has monkeys, but only a few around the accomodation were in evidence. Be aware that these animals are used to getting their food from either the guests or the bins, and therefore are not afraid of humans, so they might cause a problem. There is some accomodation on the island, which consists of eight small, but cosy, bamboo huts just behind a secluded beach. The food was nice, the drinks cheap, and the scenery was spectacular. There's some kayaking available, and a trail for walking, but that's about all. Be warned that the staff like to fire up the generator during the day to listen to their music quite loudly, so you might want to take a kayak trip at that point. Still, a good place to get away from it all. approx US$40 per night.