Okay, I know there is a lot of info on the site in regards to this topic, but I haven't found answers to these specific questions. I appologize in advance if this has already been asked.
Travelling in a group of 2, we're looking to spend about 7 days at Cat Ba Island. We want to bypass the Ha Long tours all together by taking the ferry to/from Hai Phong.
I have read the Travelfish stories, which recommend bargaining your way onto a tour boat to get from Ha Long City to Cat Ba, then exploring on your own from there. Still, we would prefer to just skip the tour boat, take the ferry, and hire a boat from Cat Ba to explore Ha Long Bay on our own (or with just a few other travellers).
I see that Slo Pony - and probably other operators on the island - offer kayaking tours, boat chartering and all kinds of personalized ways to explore the area, but I'm unclear on how much of Ha Long Bay they actually explore with you...I guess my questions are this:
1) Has anyone used Slo Pony or any other operator on Cat Ba to explore Ha Long Bay in a small group (let's say under 25 people)? Share your experience? Recommendations?
2) Do you really get to explore Ha Long Bay extensively if you hire/charter a boat from Cat Ba? Or will we be missing out by not taking the tour boat from Ha Long City?
3) Any idea what it might cost to charter a boat from Cat Ba for a day?
Any advice you have on exploring the bay independently is much appreciated! Again, sorry if these are repeat questions.
#1 kpop has been a member since 26/5/2009. Posts: 8
Wow! It's been a really long time since I've been on this forum!
My wife and I spent 10 days on Cat Ba Island back in March and we went from Hanoi through Haiphong to Cat Ba Island. We took Hoang Long bus company from Hanoi and there are 3 transfer points. It only took about 4 hours in total to arrive in Cat Ba town.
As we were there to climb, SloPony was definitely the shop we went to for info. Their primary expertise is in climbing but they do organize many other tours and they know their stuff. The company is run by two American's who have a staff of both foreigners and locals and they have a solid network of people they deal with on the island.
We took a boat trip out to go climbing on one of the islands and it was about $30-$40 USD/person and there were about 8 people on the boat and that was for the day. The islands we went to were not all of the way in Ha Long Bay but those located just off of Cat Ba Island. They do offer tours up to Ha Long Bay but I'm not sure of the cost. Obviously, the more people who go, the cheaper the cost per person.
We stayed at the Bayview hotel right on the main road and would definitely recommend it. Staff and owners were very friendly and the food was quite good.
I would recommend SloPony for your excursions for sure. And if there is something you want to do and they don't offer it, they'll hook you up with the right people. Highly recommend doing some deep water soloing if the weather and tide are right!! (google it if you don't know what it is!) ;)
#2 crimptacular has been a member since 17/2/2009. Posts: 16
Thank you crimptacular! I think we'll bypass the tours and rely on SloPony - hopefully find some folks to share the boat!
Really appreciate the advice...DWS looks amazing.
#3 kpop has been a member since 26/5/2009. Posts: 8
I'd try not to worry too much about it and then go in and talk to Slo or Pony when you get to Cat Ba about what you want to do in the bay. They'll have some ideas, in light of the tides and weather, and know who else is doing what on the island. They're really honest guys, so you'll get pretty unbiased info from them about what's going on. And if you can hook up with a larger group, it will probably be more fun than going on your own (nevermind much cheaper to boot!).
#4 amazon_blonde has been a member since 20/12/2008. Posts: 116