Diving & mountain biking in Vietnam

Departure information

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Diving & mountain biking in Vietnam

We have built strong links with local communities, craftspeople and artisans. We offer visitors an opportunity to meet them, thereby valuing their activities and thus helping towards their survival. For example, by spending the night in a Dao ethnic minority hamlet, you'll be supporting one of our local partner communities in Sapa.

Wherever possible, we contract local indigenous suppliers and assist them to improve the quality of their services. By booking this tour, you'll be helping us to support Vietnamese service providers, artists and performers, small businesses, boat owners and other poor people in communities throughout Vietnam.

We use local freelance guides with wide experience and knowledge of cultural traditions and an ability to interpret the cultural heritage of the people in the places visited. For this tour, you'll have two or three different guides from various provinces of Vietnam.

Reviews of Diving & mountain biking in Vietnam

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 26 Apr 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


We tried to decide this as a family and it was all so good it was hard so here is a selection:- The food - absolutely delicious everywhere we went, even the meal cooked by our guide in a Tay minority homestead where we ate with the family and drank rice wine welcome shots. Phu Quoc Mango Bay resort - peaceful, eco-friendly, lots of options. The scenery - highlights, Mount Fan Xi Pan from Sapa and Halong Bay.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Go for as long as you possibly can - we saw a lot in 2 weeks both North and South but there was much more we didn't have time to do. The planning was great and everything was so well organised and timed that we came back feeling really relaxed.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I am not sure about minimal impact on the environment (hard when you fly places) but I do feel/hope there was some benefit for local people. Our guides were all really excellent and we learnt a lot about the country from them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


One of the best vacations we have had (rated THE best by our accompanying sons - aged 16 and 19).

Reviewed on 19 Sep 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Halong Bay, mountain biking in Sapa and crossing the road in Hanoi.!!!! We loved spending our last days in Nha Trang and relaxing at Whale Island Resort.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


We enjoyed the combination of activity and culture.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


We had a fantastic time and would recommend this operator to anyone traveling to Vietnam. The management of the tour was excellent. We loved Vietnam, from the food to the people to the places. There is much to see and do and we felt that our tour covered many of the beautiful areas in Vietnam.

Reviewed on 17 Dec 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Surviving the throng of motorbikes in the streets of Hanoi.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Vietnam appears to be a place where tourism is highly controlled by the government. I was very disappointed by my experience. I felt 'herded', directed to particular places, where ALL tourists go. There was no feeling of this being 'off the beaten track' or any kind of 'responsible' vacation. So if you are used to being an independent traveler, don't book a guided trip in Vietnam!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


No. There was no aspect of this vacation that was particularly responsible. It became clear to me that the local operator I used, recommended by Responsible Travel, offered exactly the same options as every other operator. I was near Hanoi, and everyone is taken to Halong Bay and herded onto junks that cram the bay; then onto the train up to Lao Cai and Sapa - which all tourists seem to do; and then thousands of tourists tramp around local tribes' villages - some take home stays which no doubt shares some income, but otherwise they only way that happens is if one succumbs to being badgered to buy the local handicrafts. It seems, however, that all of this is governed by the local authorities.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


A big disappointment. I had asked to do lots of activity and exercise, but this wasn't really possible. I had asked to do 1-2 days kayaking; I got 1 hour. I asked to do lots of hiking; my promised 1.5 days amounted to 3.5 hours over two days. And my request to cycle totalled one hour around some rice paddies, whereas the national park I stayed in rented bikes and had tens of kilometers of quiet roads, but I wasn't offered that. So overall, it did not deliver what I asked, and I felt like a sheep.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for providing your thoughts and opinions regarding your time in Vietnam with us. We value your feedback very highly and will use it to improve our service. As for the responsible tourism aspect of your tour, our service providers were Vietnamese, a combination of small private companies and family businesses - local hotels, guides, boat owners and so on.

Regarding guides, we use only registered freelance local guides for two main reasons - their superior knowledge and their freedom to choose their employers. As a result, we are able to recruit the best guides and the guides maximise their earnings. Mr. Quyen and Mr. Thinh are typical of the many freelance guides we employ. Both have wide experience and knowledge of Vietnam's cultural traditions and a ability to interpret the heritage of the people in the places you visited. Furthermore, by traveling with us, you and other clients not only help us provide a constant income for local guides, but also enhance the quality of visitor experience thus deepening understanding of our country.

We were unable to arrange a home stay with an ethnic minority village in the Sapa area due to your time constraint and concern that the weather would be very cold in an unheated dwelling in November. Nevertheless, feedback received during your tour indicated that you enjoyed your time in Hanoi and Sapa. We’re sorry that Ms. Nhung was unclear in her communication with you about the duration of the trip to Ha Long Bay involving cruising and kayaking. It was a 2-day trip to Ha Long Bay which included a return transfer from Hanoi, sightseeing on the bay, swimming and kayaking. The kayaking was an element in the cruise, not a 2-day long activity. Nhung didn't draw your attention to that, because it was stated in the programme. As for the cycling element in Cuc Phuong, we chose one of the best regarded cycling routes in the National Park. We have received constant good feedback from our recent clients. We’re sorry that it wasn’t long and enjoyable enough for you.

Obviously, we are very disappointed that our service did not meet your expectations. In the future, when we receive enquiries requesting our services at short notice, we must further emphasise that without more detailed communication the quality may be compromised.

Nevertheless, our good wishes go with you. We hope to see you again one day in Vietnam. If you should return, we still hope to have another chance to experience our normal high quality (and some complementary additions) if we have a longer time to prepare from the time of contacting us to the time you start your tour.

Reviewed on 31 Dec 2006 by

We did enjoy our vacation very much and it surely was one of the best trips we ever made.

The highlights were surely in the North. The trip to Sapa and the mountain bike tour was magnificent, though we underestimated how cold it can be in the mountains in December especially during the night time. Since we live in Singapore we are not really well equipped if it comes to warm clothes, but we would surely take more warm clothes with us when traveling in winter up there.

As I said we loved the North of Vietnam especially and I suppose if we would do it again, we probably would spend more time up there.

We would agree that our vacation benefited the local people, whilst the impact on the environment was minimized. The exception might be Halong Bay, where it seems are already too many boats out there, which might not necessarily be so good for the environment.

The tour was very well designed and organized and it was a first for us that an operator actually was checking several times during the vacations, if everything is OK. That was very much appreciated.

Again - it surely was one of the best trips we ever made - we had a great vacation.

Reviewed on 07 Jan 2006 by

I've had a wonderful vacation and would highly recommend this operator to everyone I know to organise a vacation/travel in Vietnam. The most interesting part whas the hiking in Sapa and the 2 days I spent biking which gave a completely different feel to the country. Halong Bay was a disappointment due to the very dirty water and the number of boats that are traveling together (the local police regulates where the boats can go). To some extent I feel that this trip benefited local people however not as much as I expected. I certainly did not feel that my trip minimized the impact on the environment. Could also be due to the fact that I spent my nights in 5* hotels and not in private homes. I'd give my trip ****. The operator followed up throughout our vacation and had thought of almost everything in terms of our comfort.

Reviewed on 22 Sep 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Sapa and cycling between ethnic minorities.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


We miss a bit the visit of Hue and Hoi An..so try to include them, and reduce the days in Hanoi and unless you want to spend the days on the sea skip Nha Trang and whale islands, to not take more than 1-2 day for Saigon. Anyway skip the cruise on the river in Nha Trang and the thermal mud (and avoid the guide we got)! If you want to dive just for the fan to dive and do not have much expectation , it is much cheaper in Nha Trang than in whale islands..and if coral is not as good anyway are not Maldives. We where expecting Whale Island like a paradise completely far away from the world ..like Whitsunday’s in Australia or similar places..we where a bit disappointed at the beginning to find the islands so closed to the land....

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I guess so & kids of villages around Sapa where so happy to see white people

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I would say between 3 and 4 stars..as I've been traveling already in many places I might be less impressive of places, people you met as it would be at your first vacations in a country completely different form yours.

Reviewed on 29 Apr 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


There were many highlights in my itinerary. I most enjoyed my time in Hanoi (a total of four days) during which I not only saw many of the most interesting sites, but also spent a good deal of time wondering the streets of the Old Quarter. I could have easily spent another three or four days as I was just getting to find the markets and best shops, cafes and restaurants. I also very much enjoyed the overnight stay onboard a small sampan and the kayaking at Ha Long Bay and would recommend it, even in spite of the crowds and what would appear to be rapidly increasing pollution.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


This question can not be answered fairly because my itinerary was tailored-made and reflected my interests and desired activity level. Based on the places I did visit however, I would suggest that – unless one is interested in a young beach scene – to bypass Nha Trang. Hoi An and environments are much more interesting and worthy of more time.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


My visit benefited local people in so much as I bought a good many handicrafts and ate at local eateries. I would recommend that responsible travel agencies research and recommend and/or include visits to legitimate, bone fide fair trade (non profit) shops.

4. Any other comments?


I am certainly recommending a visit to Viet Nam to my friends (many have expressed interest) and I personally would not hesitate to visit again. I heartily recommend this operator as the in-county specialist to design and organize individual and small group tours.

Read the operator's response here:

'Thank you very much for your kind words about our services and your concerns about responsible tourism in Vietnam. We've been working on a database of Vietnamese companies, no-profit organisations, shops, restaurants, and other outlets and service providers that conform to ethical and responsible criteria for our own use. Your suggestion has prompted us to compile a list of appropriate responsible organisations for our website. The purpose would be to raise awareness of the importance of responsible tourism and also encourage our guests to use such organisations and, where relevant, to contribute directly to worthy causes such as orphanages, environmental protection initiatives, social community projects and so on. To follow on from this, we're considering a 'travel kit', which would include all the above, to be printed around October. We'll add this travel kit to the welcome packages that we provide for our clients when they arrive in Vietnam.

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