At the end of the long stretch of white sand from Hoi An to Da Nang, there is an imposing mountain rising from the sea. The visitors that come here look out at it from their spot on the sand. Some call it Monkey Mountain, many admire the “Lady Buddha” that is perched on its side, a few may even venture to its beaches, but most visitors do not know the real treasure that is Son Tra.
The peninsula of Son Tra is currently a nature reserve that is home to the red-shanked douc langur, an endangered species of monkey found only in three locations in Vietnam. Although this is a relatively well-known fact, few would know that in addition to this famous resident Son Tra is the habitat of 1,000 species of plants and nearly 400 species of animals. This makes it an area surprisingly rich in biodiversity that is a fantastic site for locals to study and experience nature.
A densely forested area, Son Tra makes the green lungs of Da Nang. It produces enough oxygen for four million people to breathe each day. It has its own microclimate that cools the surrounding area, regulates rainfall and protects against powerful ocean storms.
On a sunny day at the beach you can look over at Son Tra and see it covered in a blanket of cloud, drive up to its peak and you’ll get a refreshing break from the suns heat. So why is this important part of Da Nang overlooked?
GreenViet is an NGO that hopes Son Tra can be put in the spotlight to highlight its importance. Made up of 14 full time staff and over 200 volunteers, they are working hard to reach their goals. They were established in 2012 and are working to find solutions for Da Nang to adopt a sustainable development policy and create an environmentally friendly lifestyle for its citizens. Their vision is to become a prestigious center for research and education in central Vietnam and the Central Highlands.
Researchers come from many other countries and stay to gather data on the species that live here. Top of the list of creatures of interest is the red shanked douc langur that GreenViet wants to promote as an ambassador of Son Tra and a symbol of Da Nang.
Experts from GreenViet offer guided educational tours to observe the langurs and understand more about them. Several groups of students taken on tours by GreenViet are amazed that there is such a depth of nature at their doorstep that they were unaware of. It is a common problem of the modern world that humans are becoming less connected to nature and so we don’t understand the value of it.
The forests of Vietnam used to be one of the densest places for biodiversity in the world, but in line with the current rate of extinction globally Vietnam is also losing its forest-dwelling inhabitants. GreenViet hopes that if young people can be educated on the importance of biodiversity then they will fight to hold on to it.
There is also a permanent education center with many interactive displays to educate and highlight the importance of the area to visitors.
GreenViet has also played a crucial role in stopping development projects to continue on the peninsula. Imagine when we sun ourselves on the beach, we can only look out at a mountain of hotels instead of this mysterious green beauty.
Hotels are great to stay in, but they aren’t always so nice to look at. A beach holiday should be for people to lie down and look up at a blue sky while feeling wrapped up in nature. Our planet has enough concrete already, now is the time we need to protect our natural areas.
Tourists who wish to visit Son Tra in a way that protects the natural beauty should find out what areas the animals live in, respect that those places are their home, and so stay quiet so they are not disturbed.
Quietly observing the langurs and other monkeys is respectful, but making noise and leaving rubbish behind cause them stress and affect their health. Wild animals should also never be fed by people as it can also lead to sickness.
If booking a tour of Son Tra, ask the operator what they do to minimize the impact of visitors on the animals and environment. GreenViet offers educational tours with experts through tour companies. This is usually a three-hour tour to observe the langurs and learn about the other species on Son Tra.