In central Vietnam, a couple has lived by themselves in the Ru Cha mangrove forest for the past 38 years with no electricity.
Ru Cha is a primeval mangrove forest in the Tam Giang – Cau Hai Lagoon in Thua Thien–Hue Province.
Nguyen Ngoc Dap, 77, and his wife Tran Thi Hong, 75, have been living in a 20-square-meter house as the only human residents of the mangrove forest for nearly four decades.
“38 years ago, my wife and I left the Thuan Hoa B village to live here and sent our kids to live with relatives. At that time, Ru Cha was really rich with fish and other seafood,” Dap said.
Hong shows a photo of her and her husband in their Ru Cha house.
An early challenge for the isolated life they had chosen was the lack of freshwater. Dap had to go to the village to get freshwater every day.
Early morning, Dap sets off in his small boat to catch fish and shrimp.
The couple then take the catch to the Thuan Hoa B village to sell or trade for food. The village is just one km away from the mangrove.
The couple places a lot of buckets and barrels around their home to collect rainwater. They have also bought a tank to store freshwater in. To save freshwater, Hong uses brackish water for rinsing fresh food and washing clothes. She rinses them later with freshwater.
Nguyen Dai Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Thua Thien Hue Province, said Dap and his wife have been living in Ru Cha for a long time before it was designated a special-use forest. Their living there doesn’t affect the natural environment of this area, he said. In fact, under their watch, the Ru Cha mangrove forest has been well protected for decades and not overexploited like other areas.
The couple has rice with braised fish for lunch.
They have lived quite a simple life for nearly four decades. They follow a simple routine that ends with dinner, tea and conversation about how the day went.
In addition to fishing, the couple also breeds chickens and ducks. It is Dap’s habit to watch his wife feeding the poultry every day.
After dinner, the couple usually sits at their front door to talk and look at the birds that fly to and from the forest.
“This month, many storks are visiting. It’s really interesting to watch hundreds of storks flying here after feeding,” Hong said.
These days, their house has become brighter thanks to a solar flashlight. The couple feels that in the coming years, many types of birds will settle down in the area as the Ru Cha forest is expanded.