Cat Tien National Park: Discover The Pristine Nature Of Southern Vietnam
Step into a world of wonder and adventure at Cat Tien National Park (or Nam Cat Tien), where nature reigns supreme. With its incredible biodiversity and stunning landscapes, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a must-visit destination for any nature enthusiast. Despite the damage it suffered during the Vietnam War, the park has been restored to its former glory thanks to the tireless efforts of organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Come and experience the magic of Cat Tien National Park for yourself – you won’t be disappointed!
First, here is the basic info about Cat Tien National Park:
- Opening times: 7:00 AM – 6:30 PM
- Location: Nam Cat Tien, Tan Phu District, Dong Nai
- Entrance fee: 60,000 VND
Cat Tien National Park is one of Vietnam’s most significant natural reserves, encompassing a massive 719 square kilometers spanning three provinces – Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc.
The national park is about 150km from Ho Chi Minh City, and you may get there on a bus, ride a car/motorcycle (for 4 hours), or join a tour so they’ll take you there.
There are several stories about Cat Tien National Park, and the most popular one explains the meaning of its name. There is a beautiful river sandbank in the park that offers a stunning view. Fairies from heaven are drawn to this spot to swim in the river near the southern end of the national park, attracted by the natural beauty of the surrounding forest and river. Hunters passing through the area have spotted the fairies swimming, and as a result, the park has been named “Nam Cat Tien,” which means “South Fairy National Park.”
Best Time To Visit Nam Cat Tien National Park
For the best experience, we recommend traveling to Nam Cat Tien forest between December and May of the following year.
During this time, the forest experiences little rain and a dry atmosphere, making it perfect for enjoying the natural beauty. The key is to check the weather forecast before visiting during the rest of the year, as Nam Cat Tien is located in a transition zone between mountains and plains, which can cause sudden severe rain. The forest is home to rivers and waterfalls, contributing to its tropical climate and the overall appearance of southern Vietnam’s wooded areas.
Highlight Activities In Nam Cat Tien National Park
1. Visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center and Bear Rescue Center
Take a quick boat ride to Fairy Island (Dao Tien) and visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center and the Bear Rescue Center. These centers are dedicated to saving endangered animals, such as bears, from southern Vietnam that have been taken by the illegal wildlife trade. The creatures are provided with comfortable living spaces and natural surroundings for their recovery, socialization, and, when possible, preparation for release back into the wild.
2. Embark on a Gibbon trekking tour
Experience a gibbon trekking tour in the forest every morning at 5:00 a.m. It’s the perfect opportunity to witness these rare monkeys at their most active. You may even hear their distant singing and catch a glimpse of them swinging among the trees. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Endangered Primate Rescue Center after the tour for a closer encounter with the gibbons.
3. Hike in the park for a forest bath
Nam Cat Tien Park offers a unique experience of walking or trekking along narrow trails surrounded by both small and large trees. The park is home to remarkable trees that have been around for hundreds of years and are divided into many branches, providing excellent shade. Trekking through the forest is the best way to appreciate the natural beauty of Nam Cat Tien. While walking, you will have the opportunity to observe wildlife such as butterflies, birds, and other animals.
You can pick up maps showing different trekking routes at the main office. If you wish to explore the park deeper, schedule a guide here.
4. Admire the diverse bird species
Cat Tien National Park is a popular destination for bird watchers due to its vast variety of bird species, totaling about 350. Booking a local guide in advance is recommended to ensure a successful bird-watching experience at Nam Cat Tien, as this activity can be pretty challenging within the national park. To ensure a successful and memorable bird-watching experience. Get ready to be amazed by the beauty of Nam Cat Tien!
5. Cycle through the park’s narrow trails
You can rent bicycles from the main office or Ta Lai Longhouse to explore the park. The park has good roads, but if you’re looking for more adventure, check out the best mountain bike routes outside the park. The path to the crocodile lake is a favorite among visitors.
6. Spend a night in the forest
Experiencing animals at night is an exciting activity that many people enjoy. To ensure a unique experience, it’s essential to discover animal life at night. However, for safety reasons, you must reserve the service in advance through the Nam Cat Tien National Park administration for group tickets. The tour departs at 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm in the evening and lasts 50 minutes. Remember to refrain from opening the car door while viewing animals at night.
7. Spot the ‘residents’ of Bau Sau (Crocodile Lake)
Bau Sau, also known as crocodile lake, is a vast lake region that attracts a variety of wildlife. It is also one of the top spots in Vietnam to see birds. However, as the name implies, it is primarily renowned for its crocodiles. Lake Bau Sau is quite lovely and tranquil, except for the crocodile. You may catch fish and have them cooked right there. There are other secure areas to camp and spend the night around the lake that are guarded by rangers. Crocodiles are not dangerous if you stay your distance. However, swimming is probably not a good idea.
The crocodile lake is 15 kilometers deep in the jungle. You may get there by hiking, biking (preferred), or renting a jeep. You may drive up to 10 kilometers if you rent a jeep, but the remaining 5 kilometers must be walked. The walking paths are clearly defined, but you may hire a guide if you are unfamiliar with the area.
8. Explore Ben Cu Waterfall
One of the most famous rapids in Cat Tien is Ben Cu Rapid. It appears to be a small stream flowing through the thick forest during the dry season but transforms into a powerful waterfall with fast-moving water and numerous boulders during the rainy season. The ideal time to visit Cat Tien National Park is between December and April. Ben Cu is just a 20-minute walk from the Camping center. The waterfall is surrounded by lush green trees, making it a delightful spot to take a break.
9. Admire the giant Tung tree
The Cat Tien National Park boasts a virgin forest with about 1,600 varieties of vegetation, including massive trees like the Tung tree that can be hundreds of years old and grow as tall as 20 meters with a breadth of 10 meters. You can explore these magnificent trees through a walking tour. A map of the area is available at the park’s headquarters to guide you.
10. Meet the people of Ta Lai Ethnic village
In addition to seeing the gorgeous landscape of Cat Tien National Park, visitors may learn about the local customs of the Ma, Stieng, and Tay ethnic minorities that dwell there. This is best done in Ta Lai Ethnic Village. You may view the ethnic minorities’ local lifestyles and learn about their farming practices here. The Ta Lai memorial jail, where visitors may learn more about the Vietnam War, is also in this area.
Exploring the region by boat or bicycle is the best option. You may ride your bike across the grasslands and numerous rubber plantations. Another option is a fantastic boat tour on the river that passes through the village.
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