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TRIP OVERVIEW

7 days
Classic
4km/day
Moderate

Trip Dates

2024
06 Apr - 12 Apr
Full
13 Apr - 19 Apr
Full
20 Apr - 26 Apr
Full
05 Oct - 11 Oct
Full
12 Oct - 18 Oct
Full
19 Oct - 25 Oct
Full
2025

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Tour Highlights

  • Swim among over 300 otherworldly limestone islets and karst islands which jut up dramatically from emerald waters.

  • Discover world-renowned Vietnamese culture and cuisine as you delve deep into this fascinating part of the world.

  • Enjoy an unmissable walk up to Hospital Cave, located in the National Park, which was built as a bomb proof hideout as well as a hospital for Vietnam soldiers.

  • Relax at the end of each day at the new Cat Ba Paradise Hotel – a beautiful modern addition to this prehistoric landscape.

Discover the unspoilt natural beauty of Lan Ha Bay on this truly unique swimming holiday in one of Vietnam’s most picturesque locations. Situated adjacent to Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay is a much quieter location, which covers an area of more than 7,000 hectares – most of which is covered by emerald water and scattered with 300 towering limestone islets and karst islands.

Often referred to as ‘Ha Long Bay’s Twin,’ Lan Ha Bay is ideal for open water swimming as it has much less boat traffic. The largest island in Lan Ha Bay, and our base for the duration of our trip, is the rugged, jungle-filled Cat Ba Island. The island is famous for its history during the Vietnam War and boasts a large array of flora and fauna which is protected by its status as a National Park.

Our accommodation for the week is the stunning Cat Ba Paradise Hotel, situated on the water’s edge in the heart of Cat Ba Town. The hotel includes a spa, restaurant, rooftop plunge pool and bar, which offers panoramic views of Cat Ba Town and the ocean bay in front of us.


Who is this trip for?

This trip is designed for those who want to combine spectacular swimming among the karst islands and limestone outcrops of Lan Ha Bay with optional hikes around the area’s dramatic landscapes and a taste of Vietnamese culture. Swims include a mix of coastal exploration and point-to-point crossings. The geography of the bay means it is usually possible to find sheltered waters to avoid any choppiness.

Swimmers should have a basic understanding of open water swimming and be capable of completing the average swim distance and average daily swim distance (over the course of two swims) prior to the start of the trip.

The average swim distance is around 2.5km. The average daily swim distance is around 4km.

We have given this trip a ‘Moderate’ grading. Most swimmers comfortable in the open water will be able to take part and enjoy one of these trips.


What's included?

  • Fully guided swimming holiday (swimmers only)
  • Professional swim guides and full safety escort on all swims (swimmers only)
  • Six nights' accommodation
  • All breakfasts
  • All lunches (swimmers only)
  • Full ABTOT Financial Protection
  • Transfer from Hanoi Opera House to our accommodation on Cat Ba Island on Day 1
  • Transfer from Cat Ba Island to Hanoi Opera House on Day 7

What's not included?

  • Travel to and from the start of the trip
  • Evening meals
  • Drinks and additional activities

Sample Trip Itinerary

Please note that the below daily itineraries are an example of the swims that may take place during your trip, however, actual swim locations and distances will vary according to local weather and swim conditions. Your SwimTrek guides and local boat pilots will determine the most suitable swim locations each day and will communicate the plan with all guests as soon as possible.

Trip Schedule

Start Point: Hanoi Opera House (Front Entrance), Hanoi, Vietnam

Start Time: 10:30 on Day 1

Finish Point: Hanoi Opera House, Hanoi, Vietnam

Finish Time: 17:00 on Day 7

Day 1

Whether you are staying in Hanoi prior to your trip or arriving on Day 1, you will need to make your way to the front entrance of the Hanoi Opera House at 10:30 to meet the rest of your group. We then transfer you over land and sea to our hotel on Cat Ba Island which takes approximately five hours. Once we arrive and have had a chance to settle in, we’ll take a short ride to the local beach for our acclimatisation swim. This is an excellent chance to get familiar with the local conditions before we head back to the hotel for our welcome meeting and then first dinner of the trip in Cat Ba town.

Day 2

This morning we head straight out into Lan Ha Bay for our first swim among the limestone islets. Leaving Ben Beo port, we travel past traditional floating fishing villages, where many families still live and work today. We arrive at the Nam Cat islands where we carry out our first swim. On the way, we pass Castaway Island and Moody Beach, finishing at Turtle Island (Hòn Rùa). It is a magical place to finish our first full swim of the trip.

After taking lunch on-board the vessel prepared by our boat crew, we’ll head over to Viet Hai Port, where we will take a scenic walk through the forest to a small village. After a quick break we take an electric car back to our boat and then continue on to our afternoon swim. We move further into Lan Ha Bay, cutting into a series of small bays, before finishing our swim at Temple Beach.

Day 3

We set out in the morning to continue island-hopping in the bay, dropping into some of Lan Ha Bay’s deserted beaches as we go. In the morning, we swim across six idyllic yellow sand beaches, before completing a crossing over to Ba Trai Dao – or Three Peaches Island – where we explore some of Lan Ha bay’s stunning arch formations.

After lunch on the boat, we head off from Ba Trai Dao, exploring some of the bay’s hidden caves and lakes! We finish the swim off on one of Ba Trai Dao’s many sandy beaches.

Day 4

This morning we head out to Cat Dua Island (also known as Monkey Island), where we will undertake a circumnavigation of the island. Take the time to look out for black kites, hawks, hornbills, and cuckoos which can be present above the water. We’ll then relax and have lunch on the boat after our morning swim is complete.

After getting back on board we return back to our hotel, where the afternoon is yours to do what you wish. You may wish to explore Cat Ba Town, visit the national park, undertake the spectacular cliff-side walkway, or just relax at the rooftop pool at our accommodation.

Day 5

Today we start travelling further afield and make our way out to the bay’s eastern flank and Dau Be Island – the most remote part of Lan Ha Bay. There are some wonderful swim throughs along these coastlines, as well as sea stacks and high cliff walls. There are hundreds of swimming options and we will pick the best one based on local conditions.

After lunch on our boat, we will head off to complete a swim along the cliffs of Hang Trai. These dramatic cliff walls are home to caves, hidden inland lakes, beaches and limestone outcrops.

Day 6

On our last full swimming day, we head off towards Hang Sang, the most Northerly part of Lan Ha Bay. From here, we will work our way down the coastline, exploring bays as well as entering an inland lake. Keep your eyes peeled for monkeys! We finish the swim at Hòn Bút (otherwise known as Candle Island), one of the thinnest limestone stacks in the whole bay.

After lunch, we head back closer to home, to Bai Lut (flooded beach). This tiny beach joins together two limestone islands and completely disappears at high tide. After stopping on the beach to enjoy the stunning views out over the bay, we swim along a series of bays to finish at an abandoned beach resort.

Day 7

On our final morning, there is a chance for a pre-breakfast swim before we take a walk up to Hospital Cave, located in the National Park, which was built as a bomb-proof hideout as well as a hospital for Vietnam Soldiers.

This is a fantastic final activity on an amazing SwimTrek adventure before we transfer everybody back to Hanoi Opera House in central Hanoi. You can then extend your Vietnamese experience on the mainland, or make your own way to the airport for onward travel.

Accommodation

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Cat Ba Paradise Hotel

Our accommodation throughout the duration of our trip is at the Cat Ba Paradise Hotel, which is located in the heart of Cat Ba Town.

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Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort

Your NEW Vietnam base for the 2024 season. From here we will venture out to swim among over 300 otherworldly limestone islets and karst islands which jut up from the emerald waters of Lan Ha Bay. Nestled on the stunning white-sand beach of Cat Ba, the Flamingo Cat Ba Beach Resort exists in symphony with its jungle surrounds and the pristine ocean too, filled with world-class entertainment and flawless services - all to bring you maximum post-swim relaxation and serenity.

Location Summaries

Vietnam is an increasingly popular tourist destination, famous for its history, culture, food, and dramatic landscapes. The country enjoys a very long coastline on the South China Sea, teasing many different swimming adventures, especially with its balmy climate and warm waters.

Our adventure is set in the north Vietnam, starting in the capital, Hanoi, before heading east to the coast and our base on Cat Ba Island.

Hanoi

Our trip starts at the Hanoi Opera House, in central Hanoi, just south of the city’s Old Quarter. Hanoi is a city with a long and interesting history, and we recommend staying for an extra day or two before or after your trip to explore this city. Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, sample the fantastic street food and excellent coffee on offer, and enjoy the sights and sounds of this bustling city.

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba is the largest of the 367 dramatic and rugged islands that make up the Cat Ba archipelago on the south-eastern edge of Ha Long Bay in Northern Vietnam. Approximately half of the island is covered by a National Park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba langur. The wide variety of natural ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial, have led to incredibly high rates of biodiversity. Types of natural habitats found on Cat Ba archipelago include limestone karsts, tropical limestone forests, coral reefs, mangrove and seagrass beds, lagoons, beaches, caves, and willow swamp forests.

Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay

No trip to Vietnam is complete without a visit to the Ha Long Bay region. This region is actually made up of three provinces - Ha Long, Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha. Each province boasts the same scenic beauty, with hundreds of scattered, limestone-infused islands scattered through the stunning emerald waters. Around 200 species of fish, 400 species of arthropod and numerous hard and soft coral live in the waters here, while larger marine animals include seals and three species of dolphin.

Trip Grading

We have given this trip a ‘Moderate’ grading. Most swimmers comfortable in the open water will be able to take part and enjoy one of these trips.

Swimming Distances

Swim Distance Swim Distance
Nam Cat - Hòn Rùa 2.5km Viet Hai - Temple Beach 1.5km
Temple Beach - Ba Trai Dao 3km Ba Trai Dao Circumnavigation 2km
Monkey Island Circumnavigation 3km Dau Be 2.5km
Hang Trai 2km Hang Sang - Candle Island 2.5km
Bai Lut - Abandoned Hotel 2km

*Please note that these swims are an example of what may take place during your trip and should be used as a guide only. Actual swim locations and distances will vary according to local weather and swim conditions.

Swimming Conditions

Swimming in the open water is a fantastic experience, however you should be aware that certain marine life such as jellyfish, plankton, sea lice, sea urchins and coral could be present during the swims and may cause some discomfort. In all cases we will work on reducing your contact with these creatures and that any interactions are managed safely. If you suffer from anaphylaxis, please consult the office prior to booking.

Due to the runoff from the lush, green islands which make up this beautiful corner of the world, water clarity is sometimes lower than in other open ocean locations, however, it is still suitable for swimming.

Temperatures

Month Water Temperature* Air Temperature*
April 22-26˚C / 72-79˚F 25-28˚C / 77-82˚F
October 25-29˚C / 77-84˚F 26-29˚C / 79-84˚F

*Please note that these temperatures are indicative and should be used as a guide only.

Weather Caveat

For safety reasons, we rely on decent weather conditions when carrying out our swims. As a consequence, open water swimming holidays require a certain degree of on-trip flexibility which can result in changes to the planned itinerary. These changes often add a touch of uniqueness to your trip and will be communicated to you by your SwimTrek guides as quickly as possible.

Trip Information

Group Size

This trip has a maximum group size of 16. The group will be split into a maximum of three groups, based on speed, with each group being accompanied by their own safety vessel/escort. 

Boat Support

Boat support on this trip includes a main boat, three support watercrafts and three kayaks crewed by local pilots and your SwimTrek guides. Please note that this boat support is subject to change without notice and cannot be guaranteed.

Extra Activities

This trip starts and finishes in Hanoi, where there is the option to extend your Vietnamese adventure with a tour or extension, through our partners Vietnam Insider Travel. This could include a walking tour through Hanoi’s Old Quarter to witness the city’s French architecture, soaking up the city’s rich history with a visit to Huu Tiep Lake (‘B-52 lake’) where US B-5 bomber wreckage can be seen, discovering temples including Hanoi’s Temple of Literature or even sampling the local Vietnamese cuisine. To enquire about adding a tour or extensions, please contact: info@vietnaminsidertravel.com.

Equipment Checklist

For your basic, essential packing list, please visit our Packing List page on the website. For additional, location specific items, please see the information below.

SwimTrek will provide water and electrolytes at every location and refill your bottles.

Item Item
Rash Vest Waterproof Sun Cream and SPF lip balm (Factor 50 or higher or zinc)

We advise you bring a rash vest along with you for protection from sun and marine life.

Getting There

Vietnam has two main international airports, Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai Airport (HAN) in Hanoi, which are both serviced by a large selection of domestic and international flights.

The easiest way to get to the start of your trip is to fly into Hanoi and then catch a taxi or public transport to the city centre to meet your group at the Hanoi Opera House on Day 1.

As SwimTrekkers come from all over the world, and join our swimming holidays in numerous destinations, we don't currently offer flights as part of our SwimTrek packages. We do however want to do as much as we can to ensure that our guests get the best deals when travelling to one of our trips so check out SwimTrek's tips to help you get the best deals for your flights page on the website.

Transport from Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi Opera House

TThe easiest option, a journey from Noi Bar Airport to Hanoi Opera House in the city centre by taxi will take approximately 30 minutes and will cost approximately 400,000 VND. Make sure you go to the official taxi rank located outside and take a metered taxi. An additional 10,000-15,000 VND will be added to your fare, but that is normal and the best way to travel by taxi. Do not accept offered of a taxi or car from elsewhere. Alternatively, airport minibus shuttles operate from the airport bus ranks into the city centre, as well as public buses.

For more information, please visit: www.hanoiairportonline.com/hanoi-airport-transportation

SwimTrek Transfer from Hanoi Opera House to Cat Ba Paradise Hotel

A designated SwimTrek transfer departs Hanoi Opera House at 10:30 on Day 1 of your trip. From the Opera House, it is a two-hour drive to Hai Phong, where we catch a boat across to Cat Ba Island and then a bus to the hotel. The total journey time from the Opera House to our accommodation is approximately five hours. Please note that this transfer is included in the price of your trip.

Return Transfer to Hanoi Opera House

At the end of your trip, you will be transferred back to Hanoi Opera House, where your trip ends. Please note that this transfer is included in the cost of your trip and is expected to arrive in Hanoi at approximately 17:00.

Public Transport from Hanoi Airport to Cat Ba Paradise Hotel

If your flight arrival or departure times don’t coincide with the SwimTrek transfer, it’s also possible to reach Cat Ba Paradise Hotel from Hanoi via public transport, however, please be aware that this often includes significantly longer travel time.

Accommodation

The accommodation throughout the duration of our trip, until the 19th of April, is at the Cat Ba Paradise Hotel, which is located in the heart of Cat Ba Town. The hotel features a spa, restaurant, bar, and rooftop pool, all of which offer panoramic views of Cat Ba Town and the ocean bay in front of us. The hotel is also located close to local cafes and restaurants and sits directly opposite the Harbour with views out to Lan Ha Bay and beyond.

This accommodation is based on double and twin-share rooms with en suite facilities. There are a limited number of rooms available for single occupancy which can be reserved during the booking process, subject to availability.

For the last four departures in 2024, we are happy to introduce a new (to us) accommodation.

Nestled in its own private bay on the secluded South Eastern tip of Cat Ba, Flamingo Cát Bà Beach Resort is a haven of tranquillity. The hotel makes the most of it's secluded location and includes a Spa, private beach, Endless Pools, 3 restaurants, a sky bar, and 2 pool bars, there's even a sky walk that goes between the different buildings of the resort.

In the resort, you'll find everything you could want and only a short journey into the centre of Cat Ba Town, where you will find local cafes and restaurants if you like to soak in the Vietnamese culture.

There are two room types on offer, you can take in a view of the sprawling nature, or opt to take in a breath-taking view of the ocean which you will be exploring over the week, both of which can be enjoyed with a fellow SwimTrekker or if you prefer your privacy as a single occupancy room.

Pre / Post Trip Accommodation and Trip Extension Options

If you would like to extend your stay on Cat Ba Island and need to book additional nights’ accommodation or extend your Vietnam stay with an optional extension tour before or after your trip, please contact our local representatives Vietnam Insider Travel via email: info@vietnaminsidertravel.com.

Please mention that you are travelling with SwimTrek so that they can match this up with your main SwimTrek booking.

Food and Drink

Breakfasts are included in your trip price at the hotel, but they are very basic. Some guests enjoy trying alternative eateries to ensure they are fully catered for and ready for a full day of swimming ahead. This will be at your own expense.

Lunches are included in your trip price.

Evening meals are at your own expense, which gives you a fantastic opportunity to explore and experience the local street food, cafes, and restaurants of your choice over the course of your trip. There is a restaurant in the hotel or there is a range of local restaurants and street food vendors in nearby Cat Ba Town. The average cost for a meal in Cat Ba is around 100,000 – 300,000 VND per portion.

Please note, they are not always able to cater for those with allergens/ If you have a severe food allergy, you must inform customer team via info@swimtrek.com and have any relevant medication on you or close by at all times.

For more information, please visit our food and drink page on the website.

Travel Advice

For more information on any of the following sections please visit the Travel Advice page of our website.

Money, Extra Expenses & Tipping

The local currency in Vietnam is Vietnam Dong (VND). While USD is widely accepted, the conversion rate that is offered is usually poor, which makes it cheaper to pay in VND in most locations. While there is one ATM in Cat Ba town, please note that debit and credit cards are not widely accepted in Vietnam and it is suggested that carry enough cash with you for your daily expenses.

You should bring extra money with you to cover items such as meals not already included in your package, drinks, entertainment, souvenirs, etc.

In some countries, tipping (gratuities) is not part of the culture - in others it has become an expected norm. We believe that tipping is done entirely at your own discretion. If you have been provided with excellent service it may be something you wish to do. Your SwimTrek Guides can advise on local norms for service providers like boat crew, waiters or taxis. Nothing is expected for your SwimTrek Guides but many groups like to present something to the Guides at the end of the trip.

Responsible Travel

SwimTrek is conscious of the importance of protecting the world’s natural wonders. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to not only take care of the natural environments which we are lucky enough to explore, but also to educate our guests about the importance of conservation efforts and responsible tourism. It’s for this reason that we have worked so closely with our partners to ensure that our trips are conducted in the most responsible and sustainable way possible, working tirelessly to minimise the impact of our presence on local marine life and the natural habitat.

For more information, please visit our Responsible Travel page on the website.

Passports and Visas

Non-residents of Vietnam require a full passport to enter the country, which should be valid for six months beyond the expected length of stay.

Visitors from a number of countries may enter visa-free, and stay for a certain number of days, including British Citizen passport holders and guests from 21 other countries. For information on your visa requirements, visit https://vietnam.travel/plan-your-trip/visa-requirements. If you do require a visa, you can apply for one online here. The visa is valid for 30 days and costs USD25. Please note there is a 3 day processing time and you will receive a code by email to print your visa.

For citizens not included in the visa free allocation or for those who want to either enter Vietnam multiple times during their visa period or extend their stay beyond the 30-day e-visa limit, please contact your nearest Vietnamese embassy for further information.

Please note that visa regulations are subject to change and it is important that you check your own visa requirements prior to travel.

Travel Insurance

We consider comprehensive travel insurance to be essential, and we strongly recommend that you purchase insurance which includes, but is not limited to, cover for illness, accident, emergency repatriation, ambulance, air ambulance, helicopter rescue services, cancellation, lost luggage and delays. Your travel insurance should also cover you for open water swimming and any other activity listed in your trip itinerary (including races and competitions, where applicable). Please read your policy details carefully and remember to take them with you on your trip for your own reference.

For further information, please visit our Travel Insurance page on the website.

Here at SwimTrek, we pride ourselves on our focus on safety and the well-being of all our guests. As we operate in some beautiful and remote locations medical facilities are not always easily accessible. SwimTrek Guides, and many staff working for our local partners, are first aid trained. However, we ask that you read our Travel Health page to ensure that you are informed about general Travel and Swim Health precautions.

Travel Plugs & Electricity

There is complimentary Wi-Fi internet access in the hotel and bedrooms.

For a useful source of information on the different electrical outlets, electrical plugs, and electric sockets, please visit www.worldstandards.eu.


Related Trips

  • Once again, SwimTrek have delivered a really well-designed and professionally-led swimming tour. Already looking forward to my next one.

    Charles G, UK - 2023
  • Fantastic SwimTrek number 2….. number 3 is already booked!!!!!

    Michelle M, Australia - 2023
  • An absolutely most enjoyable experience of a lifetime

    Maureen M, South Africa - 2023
  • This was my ninth Swimtrek and another winner! Wonderful swims in a stunning and exotic location with great company, excellent guides and delicious food. Thank you, Swimtrek, I'm certainly up for a tenth trip with you!

    Sally T, UK - 2022
  • Swimtrek Vietnam was the most amazing once in a lifetime experience. The guides and boat were top notch, as were the locations and lunches. It could not have been any better!

    Abi M, UK - 2022
  • Can't say enough about this fantastic adventure/active vacation! We just completed the Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam, SwimTrek as a private group and had a phenomenal time. Highlights include: swimming amongst the stunning and surreal limestone pillars or karsts; the warm water (78F/26C); the delicious fresh lunches onboard; the boat itself - so spacious with a covered inside and partially covered upper deck; and above all, the guides and boat crew who were so kind and witty, careful and patient with all of us. The best part was that the local boat crew shared their beautiful culture with us through stories of folklore, stories of war, and stories of life in a fishing culture/community. If you are a swimmer up for a very unique adventure, this trip is for you!

    Kelly O, USA - 2022

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