Cuc Phuong, Nam Cat Tien and U Minh are the ideal eco-tourist destinations for families or groups of young people on the weekends.
Cuc Phuong National Park
Located 120 kilometers south of Hanoi, Cuc Phuong national park was established in 1962 and is the oldest national park in Vietnam. Consisting of more than 200 square kilometers of tropical forest and many grottoes, the reserve is rich in wildlife and natural beauty and also possesses historical significance, as prehistoric tools and ancient tombs have been discovered in some of the caves.
The best way to explore the park is by a combination of motorbike or bicycle and foot.
You’ll see some sights en route to the centre: Mac Lake is less than two kilometers from reception and so reachable on foot. The lake itself is pretty enough and there is accommodation and a restaurant along its banks. Around five kilometers further on is the cave of prehistoric man, now apparently a refuge for bats.
The park centre itself houses a restaurant, a cafe, a shop and more accommodation, and is the starting point for a six kilometer walk to the thousand year old tree. You can also take a short detour to visit the Palace Cave. The tree itself is impressive but not worth more than a few minutes, although there’s space to sit and rest ready for the return journey.
For those seeking a longer walk, it is 16 kilometers from the park centre to a Hmong village. This needs to be visited through an organised trip – Cuc Phuong runs a number of tours including overnights in the village. Other walks, such as the fossil and ancient tree loop trail, also require a guide.
As well as the natural environment, Cuc Phuong is home to the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre. This houses around 150 primates from endangered species in large enclosures. The aim of the centre is to release the animals back into the wild, but it is often difficult to rehabilitate them and they have only released a small number since the centre opened in 1995.
Over the road from the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre is the Turtle Conservation Centre, a rescue facility for turtles confiscated from the wildlife trade. The entry hall has some well presented displays detailing the problem and up to 19 species can be seen inside.
April and May are ideal months for a visit as the park is alive with butterflies and the weather is likely to be hot but dry. Other than that, any time is good as long as you are prepared for the weather: remember it gets chilly December through February.
Ba Be National Park, Bac Kan Province
Located 250 km away from Hanoi, Ba Be National Park belongs to Ba Be district in Bac Kan province.
Designated as Vietnam’s eighth national park in 1992 and covering an area of about one hundred square kilometers, Ba Be is a region of astounding beauty, from the lush vegetation mirrored in the lake’s still waters to towering limestone pinnacles that reach over 1500m.
The main attractions for visitors are boat trips to visit caves, waterfalls and minority villages, with the added bonus of seeing at least a few of the 220 animal, 417 plant and 49 fish species recorded here.
Bears, tigers and one of Vietnam’s rarest and most endangered primates, the Tonkin snub-nosed langur (Rhinopithecus avunculus), live in a few isolated communities on the fringes of the park, but nearer the lake there’s a good chance of spotting the more common macaque monkeys, herons and garrulous, colourful flocks of parrots.
Vietnam’s largest natural lake, Ho Ba Be forms the core of the delightful Ba Be National Park, a feast of limestone and tropical forest. Enclosed by steep, densely wooded slopes breaking out here and there into white limestone cliffs, the lake is 7km long, up to 30m deep and a kilometer wide in parts. A few islands decorate the surface.
Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park
Covering an area of more than 343,000 hectares, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is situated in Quang Ninh, Bo Trach and Minh Hoa districts of the central province of Quang Binh.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleologist's heaven on earth.
Serious exploration only began in the 1990s, led by the British Cave Research Association and Hanoi University. Cavers first penetrated deep into Phong Nha Cave, one of the world’s longest systems. In 2005 Paradise Cave was discovered, and in 2009 a team found the world’s largest caveSon Doong. In 2015 public access to two more cave systems was approved.
Above the ground, most of the mountainous 885 sq km of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is near-pristine tropical evergreen jungle, more than 90% of which is primary forest. It borders the biodiverse Hin Namno reserve in Laos to form an impressive, continuous slab of protected habitat. More than 100 types of mammals (including 10 species of primate, tigers, elephants, and the saola, a rare Asian antelope), 81 types of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 300 varieties of bird have been logged in Phong Nha.
Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma national Park is about 40km to the south of Hue city and 65km to the North of Da Nang. With the beauty of semi- tropical rain forest and cool climate, Bach Ma National Park is famous as an ideal resort for tourists to relax and explore the wild beauty of nature.
It has a diversity of flora and fauna and is the home to many rare animals. Coming to Bach Ma, visitors can walk, look at a panoramic view of mountains, rivers, lagoons and villages, hear birds singing, step in the cool streams and see many kinds of animals and plants.
As the bio geographical border between northern and southern Vietnam and having a wide variety of habitats, the park is well-known for its biodiversity. Some people consider Bach Ma “The centre of flora diversity in Vietnam”, as it represents around one-fifth of the entire flora of the country.
The forest also possesses a precious source of over 500 species which serve as medicinal plants. Besides, this is where people can luckily see “Sao la” (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), a type of antelope that exists only in Vietnam, first discovered in 1992. It may be one of the rarest mammals on the planet.
Nature lovers, especially those who are eager for bird-watching would find Bach Ma a real paradise on the ground. The 358 species of birds in the park account for more than one-third of the bird species of Vietnam, including the fabulous crested argus pheasant and the tenacious Edwards’ pheasant (the symbol of Bach Ma National Park) – unseen and thought to be extinct for 50 years.
Numerous bird species like pigeons, bulbuls, malkohas, crow pheasant, herons and egrets and sights of parakeets, kingfishers or jungle fowl are worth adding to tourists’ bird-watching.
Tourists are advised to visit Bach Ma National Park in February, when famous red Rhododendron simsii blossom along small streams and in particular at the bottom of the Rhododendron waterfall. During that period of time, the weather is ideally dry with favorable temperatures. In addition, summer is tourism season as people want to escape the heat, from June to August.
Yok Don National Park
Yok Don National Park, the largest of Vietnam’s nature reserves, encompasses 115,000 hectares of mainly dry deciduous forest. The park runs all the way up to the border with Cambodia, with the beautiful Serepok River flowing through it.
Yok Don is home to 89 mammal species including wild elephants, tigers, leopards and rare red wolves. However, these exotica are very rare (and virtually never encountered by visitors). More common wildlife includes muntjac deer, monkeys and snakes. Numerous bird species live in the park, including storks and two types of hornbills.
Within the park’s boundaries are four minority villages, predominantly M’nong but also with Ede and Lao people. Three villages are accessible (one by boat from the park office) while the fourth is deep inside the park and out of bounds.
The delicate balance between ecological conservation and the preservation of local cultures is a challenge, considering the poverty of the region’s people and their traditional means of survival, such as hunting.
Buon Don district in Dak Lak province is famous as a centre for elephant riding which is considered as a long tradition of several ethnic groups in the Central Highlands. Elephant riding is now growing in popularity as a tourist attraction, bringing increasing numbers of visitors and revenue to the area. Visiting to Yok Don, you will be able to take elephant rides into the national park.
Cat Tien National Park
Cat Tien comprises an amazingly biodiverse area of lowland tropical rainforest. The 72,000-hectare park is one of the outstanding natural treasures in Vietnam, and the hiking, mountain biking and bird-watching here are the best in the south of the country.
A haven for lovers of nature and outdoor activities, Cat Tien National Park is one of six biosphere reserves recognized by UNESCO in Vietnam. The park protects one of the largest areas of lowland tropical rainforests in Vietnam and is home to many rare fauna and flora, as well as animals including Asian elephants, sun bears, gaur and a variety of smaller mammals.
Fauna in the park includes 100 types of mammal including the bison-like guar, 79 types of reptile, 41 amphibian species, plus an incredible array of insects, including 400 or so butterfly species. Of the 350-plus birds, rare species include the orange-necked partridge and Siamese fireback.
Tra Su forest
The 845-hectare Tra Su cajuput forest, 25 km southwest of Chau Doc town, An Giang Province is home to more than 70 species of birds, including storks, egrets, and herons.
The best time to visit is when the cajeput (paperbark) forest is flooded, from July to November.
A one-hour exploration by boat includes a motorboat ride and then a peaceful cruise by rowboat through the brilliant green duckweed, lotus flowers, and water lilies. The tour usually includes a stop at a bird-observation tower that is 23 meters high. For most of the year, the sanctuary's narrow 12-km track can also be explored by bicycle, with rentals available at the boat station.
U Minh Ha National Park
U Minh Ha National Park is located in the two districts of U Minh and Tran Van Thoi of Ca Mau Province, including more than 8,000 hectares of indigo blues and 25,000 hectares of buffer zone as well as rich fauna and flora.
Tourists can visit the observatory which is 24 meters high. Standing on the forest observation deck, visitors are surprised at endless forests and vast waterways.
U Minh Ha is one of three core zones of the Mui Ca Mau (Ca Mau Cape) World Biosphere Reserve.
In U Minh Ha, visitors can rent a boat to go along interlacing canals or walk through the forest. The national park is also home to various wildlife species, including deer, wild boars, monkeys, weasels, snakes, turtles and pangolins, many of which were listed in the Red Book.
There are also around 60 kinds of freshwater and brackish water fish. Visitors can fish by themselves or ask local people to help spread the net to catch fish. After the forest travel, visitors together process and enjoy delicious and delicious rustic dishes such as grilled freshwater fish, fried field mouse, grilled snake with water lily and premature lotus leaves.
The forest is a source of life for local people on this land, producing an abundant and rich resource of produce. The forest not only protects but also helps them create revenues to feed their families.
Travelling and discovering mangrove forests in daytime, along with catching voles are expected to be a memorable experience for visitors to the southern forest land.
However, visitors will be limited during the peak seasons in March and April due to the work of forest fire prevention and control.