Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Vietnam + Cambodia

Tra Su bird sanctuary / flooded forest

I had booked a car to take me to the Tra Su bird sanctuary earlier in the day, at the Hoa Sen bookshop. At 500,000 dong this seemed expensive, but was cheaper than the US$58 per person the Victoria Hotel wanted for a guided tour, even though I ended up going by myself because Richard was tired.

My driver turned up at 3.20pm with an almost brand new small van, perhaps explaining the price. He drove safely and I felt no worries as we headed south out of Chau Doc, on a road along an embankment, with paddy fields on either side and walkways leading to stilt houses.

It took nearly fifty minutes to get to Tra Su. I walked the last 300 metres along an embankment, where trucks were doing some kind of maintenance, but found a bridge was down and had to wait for a boat shuttle across to the reserve itself.

approaching Tra Su
the flooded forest

There weren't that many tourists there, but things were fairly well set up for them. There seemed to be one place managing boats, with a price list offering different options. I didn't have that much time, so I paid 150,000 to hire a boat, with a driver, for an hour and a half.

Using the outboard motor we sped along the edge of flooded forest. There were lots of birds. As well as a distant view of the storks and herons in the tree tops, there were also waterhen, kingfishers, etc. lower down.

can someone id this bird for me?
speeding through the forest
Our goal was an observation tower on the other side of forest. 23 metres high, this offers great views over the reserve, but also of the surrounding countryside. There were three other tourists at the top, with a guide who spoke some English. Most of the birds were already in their roosts, having come in early because it was overcast. But we did see some coming in, and also some flocks of other birds (starlings?). And we could see — and hear — the roosts clearly. I stayed almost to sunset.
the observation tower
roosting storks and herons

A little way from the tower we switched to a wider canoe, acquired an extra rower, and rowed into the middle of the roost and back. The birds were directly overhead and I could smell the guano. There were some dead birds in the water and one fell in just as we were passing — perhaps a youngster who didn't make it.

The Tra Su bird sanctuary is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and I found out about it from Reid on Travel's online guidebook (currently suffering database problems). The forest was some kind of plantation — the trees are all in neat rows — that was turned into a sanctuary in 1983.

I could happily have spent more time there, and I think if I were going back I'd turn up after lunch, hire a boat for four hours, and paddle myself around.

Then it was back to the motorised boat and we hooned back around the edge of the forest to the settlement. I had to wait for the ferry and it was dark when I got back to the road; I used my torch on the walk back to the car, where I had to holler for the driver, who had found somewhere comfortable to wait for me. We did a slow 30km/hour in traffic in the dark on the way back to Chau Doc; the driver's wife kept ringing him on his mobile.

Richard and I went by cyclo to the main square, where I had some kind of fish-cake meal with rice. We followed up with drinks from a juice stall which had music and looked like a place for the young and trendy to hang out. Then it was back to our hotel: laundry, shower, photos, etc. and to bed at 10pm.

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