20 years on, mangrove forest repays farmer

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Famous for its beaches, the resort town of Nha Trang offers nature-lovers a special, "strange" experience in the heart of a private mangrove forest


Nguyen Van Hung stands on one of the wooden pathways that he has built to explore his mangrove forest resort

Beautiful islands, sandy beaches, great diving spots - Nha Trang Bay is famous for these attractions.

But you can also take the less travelled path here.

Just three kilometers from the town's center stands a mangrove forest that was cultivated and tended to for two decades by Nguyen Van Hung.

Hung, now in his fifties, has opened the forest to visitors, but is insistent that the tourism business does not harm it in anyway. He was moved to cultivate the forest after seeing hectares of mangrove forests destroyed by shrimp farming.

The mangrove forest, covering some 25,000 square meters, is unfortunately a rare phenomenon in the bay area which has seen a dramatic decrease in the brackish water species over the past 30 years. Mangrove forests have dwindled from 500 hectares to just 11 hectares at present

HOW TO GET THERE


One of the cottages in the mangrove forest that visitors can relax in

By motorbike or by car: go along Le Hong Phong Street, then take turn at Phong Chau Street. After about 800 meters, turn left where you can see the Nha Trang Export Shrimp Farm. The Tu Rung Duoc Resort is some 700 meters away from the farm.

Fees and charges

* Free admission and parking

* Huts on the bank: VND50,000 per day; "in the forest" VND100,000 per day

* Fishing rod: VND10,000 per day

* The catch is free

Hung, who calls the forest the Tu Rung Duoc Resort, said, "I want to do business in tourism without doing harm to the forest."

True to his word, he allows no motorboats in the forest as they may harm underwater creatures and scare storks with their engine noise. Hung's afforestation work has been so effective that blue storks have chosen the forest to build their nests and stay the night.

Trees and shrubs are allowed to grow in their natural habitat, and Hung raises fish and other species in his forest.

Hung has set up ten huts with thatched roofs, five of which are in the center of the forest and can be reached only on a raft. Five others are built under the shade of big trees on the banks of the Tac River.

If you rent one of the huts, you will find a mat to sit on and a few bowls to have a meal of shrimps, fish and crabs that you catch, or you can have Hung do it for you.

Food can be grilled on coals, but no littering is allowed, Hung says.

When the tide is low, tourists can also find lots of ba khia and nha small crabs unique to the Mekong Delta - at the root of the mangrove trees.

A stay in this resort is going to be a strange, but rewarding experience.

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