Jungle booked: wild forest treks teaching life-skills

November 13, 2022 - 07:39
A series of treks in Đà Nẵng jungles are helping children and adults develop new skills and a better understanding of the stunning natural environment.

By Công Thành

A group of children walk in the jungle section of a wild trek tour in Hòa Ninh Commune of Đà Nẵng. The tour offers life experience and skills for children and adults. Photo courtesy of Ngô Khải Hoàng

Situated in the heart of the Bà Nà Mountains valley, 30km northwest of Đà Nẵng City, the primary forest in Hòa Ninh Commune is an ideal spot for people to explore the jungle and experience living in the wild. And a series of treks here are helping children and adults develop new skills and a better understanding of the stunning natural environment.

Local Ngô Khải Hoàng, 42, has used his experience growing up in the jungle to design wild trek tours allowing people to live closer to nature since 2018.

"The commune is close to Bà Nà Núi Chúa Nature Reserve and Bạch Mã National Park in Thừa Thiên Huế Province, and its terrain is not a challenge for family and child group tours for a week or a weekend trek, or jungle stay," Hoàng says.

"I joined jungle trips with local farmers from a very early young age, so I was educated in the skills and experienced how to survive in the jungle alone. It helped me set up a tour and give natural education to others."

Hoàng says he quit the local administration office to build up his personal concept of the forest tour.

"Most people living in urban areas do not know anything about forests, and the tour will help them get closer to the beauty of the primary jungle that they have only learned of in textbooks at school," he says.

The wild trek tour organiser says the adult trek route is much tougher with climbing sections and stream crossings.

"Only experienced local jungle men and women are employed to accompany adventurers on the jungle tour. One guide is assigned to caring for three tourists, and only participants with a qualified health check are allowed," Hoàng says.

Kids learn how to cross streams safely in the forest. The wild trek tour educates school students on environment and life skills. Photo courtesy of Wild Trek Tour

He says a group of seven is nice and easy for a two-day and one-night option, but tourists can follow for one week or even a 10-day trek living in the jungle.

"A six or seven-hour trek will be the first challenge for most tourists before setting out on a night stay by a lake or stream," Nguyễn Quốc Việt, a tour guide says.

"Trek tourists are guided to forage for edible herbs or go fishing for outdoor cooking. Most tourists live in urban areas, so their living experience in the wild is almost zero. They also learn how to avoid snakes and poisonous insects."

Kids' adventure

The tour also includes jungle trips for children aged 8-10 and 10-14 on a smoother route, but it still offers challenges for children testing their skills and bravery.

During the tour, the children are trained to find their direction to avoid getting lost in the jungle or facing other dangers.

"Kids need time to learn life skills they rarely practise at school. They will soon know plenty of interesting things about the forest. They will learn how to care for nature and gently respond to flora and fauna," says Ngô Thị Quỳnh Như.

Như, 24, is assigned to take care of women tourists.

"Kids find harmony with nature when they trek in the day. They are eager to cook and have skills in how to cross streams. But nighttime is tough for some kids as they get homesick and scared," Như says.

The guides had to help them ease into the moment at night after a day of trekking and training their skills for search and rescue.

Kids write and paint everything they see in the jungle during the wild trek tour in the forest. It's a positive experience for students. Photo courtesy of Wild Trek Tour

"We urge them on self-sufficiency in every action. They have to prepare themselves meals, do washing, set up personal logistics and plan for the next day's trip," the guide says.

Minh Khang, a 12-year-old boy, says he had an exciting trip in the forest in Hòa Ninh.

"The routes were mostly fair for us, but the streams challenged us a little. I needed support from the guides at the first crossing, but I quickly passed the next streams easily," Khang says.

"We learnt how to catch frogs and fish and make a fire for cooking. It's the first really dirty jobs that I have experienced, but the most fun too."

The city boy says most of his friends found the tour difficult, but things gradually improved through the guides' practical and educational sessions. For the next summer holiday, he hopes to go on a full 10-day tour.

Kim Oanh, the mother of a child tour member, says that she was nervous as her son left home without the care of his parents.

Children join a painting section in the jungle after passing a morning trekking in the forest of Hòa Ninh Commune. Photo courtesy of Ngô Khải Hoàng

"My son has had several vacation trips, but this was the first jungle trip. I was so surprised with my 'dirty' boy when I took him back after the tour. His face and clothes were covered in mud, but he was excited by all the fun and curious discoveries he had made," Oanh says.

"It's a good experience and natural education course for kids. They know how to express love for the nature around them, the skills of teamwork and group trips, as well as cooking and homework."

Tour operator Hoàng says that children are active and have the ideal energy to join these jungle trips, but very few have the chance to get these real experiences.

He says it's the first jungle tour in Đà Nẵng for children, and the service has been expanding its connections with travel agencies.

"We have hosted families from Hà Nội, HCM City and other provinces, and we hope the tour will host more kids and families at the weekends and in summer vacation. It's not only a tour trip, but a worthy natural educational option for parents and children," Hoàng says.

Three girls take a break in the afternoon in the jungle. Houses on stilts in the jungle help children experience a night's stay in the forest. Photo courtesy of Ngô Khải Hoàng

"Kids become brave and someday can survive natural disasters or dangers. It's like a school in the jungle." VNS