At the heart of Haivenu’s development as a successful tour operator, is the determination to ensure the benefits derived from tourism directly support the local communities who share their world and culture with our visitors. An intrinsically significant dimension of this cultural support is also to do everything possible to minimise our impact as a tour operator and to do what we can to help preserve the delicate ecology within which these precious and endangered cultures survive. 

To this end we are currently involved in supporting a number of social and environmental initiatives. At the present time our efforts are largely focused on our home country of Vietnam, which we further hope to develop through our cordial business relations with our neighbours. 

Unlike many other tour companies, we have a genuine cognisance of our responsibility towards protection of the culture and environment of the countries in which we work, and a true interest in influencing the development of responsible tourism. Consequently, we do our best to minimise the amount of money that leaves the country via international hotel chains and similar such routes by using high quality local hotels and service providers wherever practical, and earnestly strive with our Tourism Association, NGO’s and local communities to support initiatives to use tourism as a means of improving the income of local people.


This policy has been developed by the entire staff of Haivenu during a series of team meetings and workshops.

Aim: To be recognised as the leader in developing responsible tourism in Vietnam while providing all our visitors with an experience that significantly exceeds their expectations

Principles: We believe that:

income derived from tourism activities in host countries should remain there,

visitors should be treated with respect and friendship, and should behave similarly towards the local people they encounter during their visit,

the economic benefits of tourism should be shared equitably, and that

one of the best ways of preventing damage to the natural and cultural environment is to promote activities to relieve poverty among communities who live in sensitive areas

Responsibilities: We are responsible for:

equipping visitors with advance information about the culture and environment of the countries that they will be visiting

striving to ensure that, wherever possible, the impact of our activities is beneficial to the environment and culture of the countries in which we operate

providing our staff with a good working environment and a salary based on profit sharing
operating a continuous staff training programme

promoting responsible tourism practice, and

complying with all pertinent laws and regulations

General Commitments: We will:

design attractive programmes in accordance with customers’ requirements

supply factual, honest information and interpretation - any opinions we offer will be in good faith

work as a staff team in accordance with the highest professional standards

conduct all aspects of our activities openly, ethically and responsibly

apply a standard retail profit margin that does not exceed 20% of costs

deal with complaints fairly, and will compensate if we are in error, and

make this policy available to our visitors, staff members, destination suppliers and sub-contractors, affiliates, and the Vietnam National Authority for Tourism

Environmental Commitments: We will:

travel only in very small groups accompanied by experienced licensed local guides, and only enter environmentally sensitive areas with the permission of the local conservation authority

provide a code of conduct relating to environmental issues to all visitors prior to travelling and reinforce it upon arrival with detailed guidelines about environmentally conscious behaviour

work closely with relevant environmental agencies and organisations to promote good tourism practice as a means of poverty alleviation

provide support to worthwhile, but poorly funded, conservation initiatives

work closely with destination suppliers to encourage their development of policies relating to environmental protection, particularly regarding recycling, energy use, waste and effluent, and water conservation

refuse to take visitors to shops, restaurants, zoos or attractions that deal in wildlife products or abuse wildlife

identify good examples of destinations and local initiatives that are beneficial to the environment and include them in itineraries by default wherever appropriate, and

require all guides, and permanent and temporary members of staff, to be role models of correct environmental behaviour and to report any instance of bad practice among sub-contractors

Examples of contribution to environmental conservation

We are working closely with a small project in Vietnam trying save a critically endangered species of large primate, now reduced to less than sixty individuals world-wide. The project is described on our web site seeking financial assistance to supplement the meagre resources currently available to the project director while we help her to develop her own site. We are also collaborating with an international Non-governmental Organisation in setting up an ecology based village homestay in the same area to widen awareness of the urgency of the situation amongst visitors.

We have also been heavily involved in a large project to establish an ecomuseum in a natural World Heritage Area in Vietnam. This is now being developed.

Social Commitments: We will:

respect the culture and lifestyle of the communities we visit, and expect visitors to follow our example

employ guides from ethnic minority communities where appropriate

make visitors aware of the risk of acculturation in little visited communities

help visitors to understand the issues associated with begging and suggests appropriate alternatives to giving money to people in need

notify visitors about regulations and risks associated with prostitution and drugs, refuse to book tours for anyone indicating an intention to involve themselves in these and any similar illegal activities, and terminate the tour of any client indulging in such practices.

request restaurants to provide authentic local food and to explain it to visitors

avoid artificial activities created to attract visitors in favour of opportunities for visitors to meet local communities and visit out-of-the-way authentic destinations

discourage the purchase of old artefacts or articles that may have heritage value, and

encourage visitors accept to fair prices in bartering, but not to overpay and thus contribute to distorting the local economy

Examples of our commitment to cultural conservation and social welfare

We provide a comprehensive database of information about the culture and traditions of Vietnam and the rest of Indochina

We have built strong links with local communities, craftspeople, artists, singers and musicians who are maintaining threatened traditions, and offer visitors the opportunity to meet them, thereby valuing the activities and thus helping towards their survival.

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. They are chosen carefully by recommendation and an extended interview, followed by a trial period and feedback from visitors.

Economic Commitments: We will:

employ indigenous people wherever possible

encourage visitors to buy locally produced products and souvenirs

discourage purchases of goods and souvenirs produced in poor areas but sold in city shops

encourage visitors to use small local hotels and homestays in poor areas

work only with local private and state companies wherever possible

support projects attempting to develop income-generating capacity in indigent local communities

Examples of our commitment to poverty alleviation and equitable wealth distribution

Haivenu is a wholly Vietnamese company. Apart from one foreign consultant employed on a part-time basis, all our staff members and guides are local people. We pay a good basic salary and operate a top-up profit-sharing scheme

We are directly involved in a large project aiming at building the capacity of poor farmers in remote areas in fourteen provinces in Vietnam

Wherever possible, we contract local indigenous suppliers and assist them to improve the quality of their services.

All our staff members are trained holistically according to international good practice so that they can manage the entire tour design and operating process from designing the itinerary to a follow-up feedback request after the customer has returned home. In addition to the sophisticated skills necessary to work effectively with discerning clients from upper income markets, they are equipped with a wide knowledge of business management and advanced Information Technology skills adequate to equip them to manage their own enterprise in the future.

We are currently introducing an opportunity for young entrepreneurs with relevant specialist skills to assist us on a contract basis whilst participating in our training scheme. When they are ready, we will help them to register and set up their business, and work with them as an independent partner company. 


A disappearing heritage
Vietnam has a rich natural heritage that delights and surprises. One of its most precious secrets is that Vietnam is a global ‘hotspot’ for monkeys and apes. Yet several species are in danger of slipping quietly into extinction. If something isn’t done soon, these animals will become the stuff of myth rather than substance.

Two of the world’s rarest primates
But something is being done.

Fauna & Flora International is working in two remote patches of forest in the mountains of northern Vietnam to protect populations of Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey and Cao Vit Gibbon that continue to exist in defiance of encroaching civilisation.

These are two of the world’s rarest primates and only found in Vietnam.

Working with local people
With support from FFI, local villagers now patrol these forests, sparing the primates from the thunderous death knell of the hunter.

Yet local people still depend on the forests for cooking fuel, and the homes of these primates continue to be lost.

FFI and local government partners are building a bridge between the needs of local communities and the needs of the primates to lead the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkeys and Cao Vit Gibbons away from the abyss of extinction.

Can you support FFI to save these critically endangered animals?

Conservation needs time and money. You can contribute to FFI’s Vietnam Primate Programme.

Make a donation of up to 1% of the value of your Haivenu holiday and Haivenu will match it, dollar for dollar, so your gift goes twice as far.

Make a cash donation through Haivenu or through the FFI website.

What kind of support will your donation provide?

Paying and equipping a community ranger costs USD 60 per month.

Training a community ranger team costs USD 200.

Providing boots, leggings and overalls for a community ranger costs USD 30 per year.

Fuel-efficient stoves that reduce wood collection and improve family life cost USD 20 each.

Support for essential research in the field by local scientists costs USD 10 per day.

Holding a village meeting costs USD 5

For more information:

Visit the FFI website (

Download FFI Project summaries:

The 'Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey Conservation Project' in Ha Giang

The 'Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Project'

Or contact

Fauna & Flora International’s Vietnam Primate Programme
340 Nghi Tam, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone:    +84-4-719-4117   
Fax: +84-4-719-4119

Perilous facts

Five of the world’s 25 most endangered primates are found only in Vietnam.

Only about 40 Cao Vit Gibbons are known to remain.

The numbers of Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkeys still appear to be decreasing. Recent reports suggest that only one population of about 60 individuals in Ha Giang is showing promising signs of recovery.

The closest relative of the Cao Vit Gibbon is the Hainan Gibbon. Only 13 Hainan Gibbons remain, living on Hainan Island off the southern coast of China.

Most of Vietnam’s primates are endangered or vulnerable to extinction. All are threatened by the wildlife trade. If you see primates or primate products being sold do not support it, report it!

Monkey business

The Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey was considered extinct until two groups were rediscovered in 1992 in Tuyen Quang Province.

An FFI survey team discovered a third population in Ha Giang Province in 2002 where we continue to work to protect them.

The bizarre-looking Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey is the only species of snub-nosed monkey found in Vietnam. The other three snub-nosed monkey species are equally odd looking and are found in China.

Snub-nosed monkeys are Colobines (leaf-eating monkeys). They spend a lot of time sitting around eating and digesting leaves.

Funky gibbon

In 2003 an FFI survey team rediscovered the Cao Vit Gibbons in Cao Bang Province. The population of 36 individuals is believed to be the last remaining colony.

The gibbons live very close to the border with China. FFI is also working in China to protect the forest in the area to encourage the gibbon’s to return.

Gibbons are apes, like chimps, gorillas, orangutans and humans. They do not have tails, live in small family groups, and often sing in the morning.

'Cao Vit' is a local name for this gibbon. It's also known as the Eastern Black Crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus nasutus). 


Cat Ba is a large forested limestone island in Ha Long Bay, about 20km by boat from Haiphong. It has a population of about 15,000, mostly living in Cat Ba town. It is also home to one of the most beautiful primates in the world, the Cat Ba Langur. However, the langurs are also set to become known internationally for another reason - unless a miracle occurs soon, they will be the first large primate species to become extinct in 300 years!

Why is there a crisis?

A century of incessant war and hunger has resulted in the depletion of wildlife for food and left many of Vietnam's rare species struggling for survival, some of which are dangerously close to disappearing forever. Among the most endangered, Vietnam's few surviving Ca Ba Langurs are the last of their kind in the world, apart from two orphans in a rescue centre elsewhere. Only fifty-nine individuals remain deep in the forest, with only six breeding males. Although the densely wooded area is a protected National Park, an acute lack of resources leaves the langurs vulnerable to poachers, hunters and encroachment on their habitat by development on the island.

What is being done?

At present, there is little standing between the langurs and oblivion. However, the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations, and the Cat Ba Langur Project led by Rosi Stenke, a 45 year old field biologist from Munich in Germany, are making strenuous efforts to reverse their downward slide. Rosi came to Cat Ba in 2000 and has committed herself to saving the langurs. Undaunted by the lack of resources and difficult circumstances at that time, and working almost single-handed, she has been remarkable successful. In the nine months before her arrival, 30 langurs were killed by poachers. Since then, only three have fallen prey to the hunters' guns.

Thanks to a $60,000 donation by the US, some of the island's problems are being addressed. Effective waste disposal measures are being put into place, a fresh water supply pipeline is under construction, and initiatives to improve the living conditions of impoverished farmers and make them less reliant on forest products are being implemented. These long-term activities are vital to secure the island's remarkable bio-diversity.

Nevertheless, in the short term the langurs' grip on their lifeline is perilously frail. The population has been stabilised, but at a precariously low level - poachers could easily tip the balance at any time. Rosi has recruited a group of farmers from among the local population and trained them to become Forest Rangers. They are committed to protecting the six communities of langurs scattered across the forest and small offshore islands and are successfully keeping the poachers at bay.

What help is needed?

Unfortunately, there are not enough funds to undertake a desperately needed breeding programme to strengthen the survival prospects of the six small groups of langurs. Breeding programmes usually involve capturing animals, breeding offspring and releasing them into the wild. In Cat Ba, the situation requires a different approach.

The small langur colonies are divided by agricultural activities and shrimp farming lagoons leaving the groups isolated and unable to move freely. To enable the separate langur groups to reconnect, 'migration corridors' free of human activity must be created by returning the land to its natural state. Because the farms and shrimp pools are the source of income of many poor farmers, land purchase and compensation is necessary. Where breeding males are trapped on islands, they must be captured and released in colonies comprising only females. This requires expensive expertise and equipment. 


Pu Luong Nature Reserve is a largely unspoilt limestone area about 140km south of Hanoi, consisting of two parallel ridges bisected by a valley. It’s richly forested, with panoramic views, magnificent rice terracing and stunning scenery. It is also one of the few places in the world where a critically endangered species can be seen in the wild.

The Reserve stretches from the White Thai ethnic minority village of Mai Chau southeast to join up with Cuc Phuong National Park. It’s an important centre for plant diversity, and many unique species inhabit the forest, including the endangered ‘clouded leopard’, ‘Owsten’s civet’ and the critically imperilled ‘Delacour’s langur’. Fauna in the area is threatened by hunting and collecting rare species for the illegal wildlife market. The forests are also at risk from illegal logging and fire.

The hills and valleys of Pu Luong are home to several Thai and Muong ethnic minority communities. The Vietnam office of Flora and Fauna International (FFI) has been working with several villages to set up an extensive trekking route and local homestay facilities. Haivenu is collaborating with FFI in this venture.

The people living in the area are very poor. By capitalising upon the potential income from carefully managed tourism and directing it towards the local people, we hope to diminish the threats to the environment by providing a sustainable and legal source of income.

The village of Mai Chau is a rare example of communal initiative that began several years ago. The villagers set up their own homestay arrangement and the village has greatly prospered since. However, lacking guidance, the village has been the victim of its success and the once pristine village is now commercialised. The current project has focused upon careful development that conserves the environment and local culture.

For tourists, it’s first-class. The trekking and cycling routes range from gentle to seriously strenuous. Those who prefer a gentler experience can travel most of the journey by vehicle. The nearby Ma River offers travel by raft or longboats. The homestay are well organised, and the local rice wine flows freely – after the first glass, it becomes increasingly delicious!

At the far south of Pu Luong is La Ha Market, and beyond that, the remarkable fish stream near Cam Thuy. Large fish are permanently crammed into a pool fed by an outlet of a river running through a limestone peak. The local people believe they have magic properties and leave them alone.

Oh, yes! The endangered species you can see is a colony of Delacour’s langurs that have settled down on an isolated peak with vertiginous sides. The only way to get near it is to travel past on a gentle river in a small boat. From there, an average pair of binoculars will usually provide you with a clear view of these beautiful primates swinging languidly across the rock face, comfortable in the knowledge that they’re safe in their lofty dwelling-place.


Both these establishments are in Hanoi, and both are charitable foundations training young disadvantaged young people to learn catering skills. Both are also good places to eat well-prepared interesting food, enjoy enthusiastic (and sometimes eccentric) service at a reasonable price whilst helping young boys and girls towards a better future.

Both restaurants operate in a similar way, recruiting what have become known as ‘street kids’, unemployed youngsters who, for a variety of reasons, have found themselves having to make a living on their own and are consequently highly vulnerable to drug abuse, prostitution and/or crime.

Hoa Sua is a French organisation and has been in operation for about ten years. It has around 350 youngsters undergoing training at any one time, and runs a large ‘catering school’ facility near the city. The curriculum covers all aspects of the catering trade as well as teaching French and English. Once a student has reached the required level of competence, he or she will then work in the restaurants or one of the other outlets.

The enterprise has expanded over the years and, apart from the main restaurant, now includes an upmarket boulangerie, a coffee and light meals café, a handicraft and clothing outlet, and a mini-hotel in Sapa. The latter is a special project designed to help children and young people from poor families in an area of limited educational and career opportunities. Read more about the Hoa Sua Hotel and/or the Sapa project

The Hoa Sua restaurant is sited in a restored villa in the centre of Hanoi, and offers both French and Vietnamese cuisine. It has a commendable wine list and an imaginative a la carte menu as well as daily specials, and offers excellent value. The standard of waiting at table can be idiosyncratic at times when new trainees are settling in, but normally the quality of service puts even some of the city's top restaurants and hotels to shame.

Koto (an anagram for ‘Know One, Teach One’) is run by a Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) called Jimmy Pham. It’s on a smaller scale than the Hoa Sua, training about a dozen students at a time. At present, it is based in a restaurant across the road from the Van Mieu Temple of Literature.

It’s a popular place for lunch and offers an interesting selection of light meals, and there are plans to extend its capacity.

The success criteria is simple – employment! Graduates from both organisations are very much in demand by hotels and restaurants in Hanoi and elsewhere, and many young people now have good careers and excellent prospects.

We recommend both the Hoa Sua and Koto to all our customers, and encourage them to support a worthwhile initiative that make a real difference to young people’s lives – and you’ll enjoy the food!