The journey here was 2.5 hours by minibus and I was surprised to find that the village was situated 900m above sea level, nestled in hills shrouded in mist. Tam Dao is named after three peaks which are 1400m high. The country side along the road was lined with beautiful tall pine trees, planted by the french, and lush forest and when we stopped to give the engine a rest as the road was so steep, I was delighted to see several butterflies beside the road.
We arrived at the hotel around 4pm and settled in to our rooms, which had an amazing view of the valley below. I also had my first experience with wildlife when I found a huge insect in my room. Luckily I was partnered with Monique, a swiss born american who has been on 25 Earthwatch Expeditions in the last 10 years, a fearless traveller with many years of experience who didn't hesitate in taking out her walking stick determined to find out what it was. It turned out to be a mantis who had taken a liking to our room and the mosquitoes in it so we ended up happy with that arrangement.
The next morning we had a crash course in identifying butterflies and learning about the national park. That afternoon we put these skills into practice and walked along a transect of 1.5 km in which we saw 77 individual butterflies and over 23 species. Lien, the Principal Investigator said that this was less than expected and that this could have been due to poorer weather earlier in the season. Nevertheless, was surprised at the huge variety of butterflies and moths that we saw as well as some interesting looking beetles and stick insects.
We finished the day at 5pm and the team got together for an obligatory beer or three and then had dinner. The food is wonderful, home style, Vietnamese cooking with specialities such as fried frog legs, banana and snail curry and chai otte, a vegetable which seemed like a cross between cucumber and potato. All washed down with several Bia Hanois and an interesting tasting honey wine. Delicious!