Vietnam has 13 national parks spread from north to south with a total area of 320,000 ha, including Cat Tien (located in three provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc and Lam Dong): 73,878 ha; Yok Don (Daklak): 58,200 ha, Tam Dao (Vinh Phuc, Tuyen Quang and Thai Nguyen): 36,883 ha, Phu Quoc (Kien Giang): 31,422 ha; Cuc Phuong (Ninh Binh): 22,200 ha; White Horse (Thua Thien-Hue): 22,031 ha; Ben En (Thanh Hoa): 16,634 ha; Bai Tu Long (Quang Ninh): 15,738 ha; Cat Ba (Hai Phong): 15,200 ha Ba (Bac Kan): 7,610 ha Tram Chim (Dong Thap): 7,588 ha ; Ba Vi (Ha Tay): 7,377 hectares of Con Dao (Ba Ria Vung Tau): 5,988 ha. Forthcoming are two additional national park Phong Nha-Ke Bang (Quang Binh): 41,000 ha and Pu-cool (Nghe An): 91,000 ha. Vietnam has two biosphere reserves have been recognized by UNESCO as Gio and Cat Tien.Ca there is still water 78 nature reserves with total area of 1.7 million hectares and 18 protected landscape areas with the more than 120,000 ha area.
Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba Island is the largest island in the Cat Ba Archipelago in Ha Long Bay. About 16 kilometers away from Cat Ba Town, there is the Cat Ba National Park. The park’s headquarter is located in Trung Trang. One-third of the park is the marine zone, and the rest is the forest. Although there are many wild animals such as wild boars, macaques, deer, white-headed langurs, bird species and reptile species and over 600 plants in the park, they are not well protected. Some local people hunt them or make traps to capture them for their high prices in the market.
Cat Bat is a great place for hiking and outdoor activities. However, if you are not an experienced hiker, trails at Cat Ba might be quite a challenge for you. In this situation, a sophisticated tour guide is highly recommended for the purpose of safety. Exploring Cat Ba, you will see one of the most beautiful landscapes in Vietnam and the copious ecosystem. Oriental pied hornbill, a very rare species in Northern Vietnam, can be seen in the park. Other attractions include limestone formations, numerous waterfalls, caves and grottoes. Human history dates 6,000 to 7,000 years back, and the entire Ha Long Bay region was listed as the World Heritage Site by United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its biological significance.
Cuc Phuong National Park
In 1962 Vietnam’s first national park was established around a narrow valley between forested limestone hills on the borders of Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh province, containing over two hundred square kilometers of tropical evergreen rainforest. Cuc Phuong is well set up for tourism and sees a teary stream of visitors, attracted principally by the excellent primate rescue centre, but also by the easy access to impressively ancient trees. With more time, you can walk into the park interior, overnight in a Muong village and experience the multi – layered forest. The most enjoyable time for walking in these hills is October to January, when mosquitoes and leeches take a break and temperatures are relatively cool – but this is also peak season. Flowers are at their best during February and March, while April to May are the months when lepidopterists can enjoy the “butterfly festival” as thousand of butterflies colors the forest.
Even now the park has not been fully surveyed but is estimated to contain approximately three hundred bird species and ninety mammal species, some of which were first discovered in Cuc Phuong, such as herd-bellied squirrels and a fish that lives in underground rivers. Several species of bat and monkey, including the critically endangered Deaconry’s langue, inhabit the park, while bears and leopards roam its uppers reaches. Hunting has taken its toll, though and you’re really only likely to see butterflies, birds and perhaps a civet cat or a tree squirrel, rather than the more exotic fauna. What you can’t miss, though, is the luxuriant vegetation including 1000 year old trees (living, as well up to 70m high), tree ferns and kilometer – long corkscrewing lianas, as well as a treasure-trove of medicinal plants.
Much is made of Cuc Phuong’s prehistoric caves, the most accessible of which is Dong Nguoi Xua, only 300m from the road, 7km from the park gate. Joss sticks burn in the cave mouth near three tombs estimated to be over 7000 years old but there’s nothing to see that justifies the sheepish climb, if you decide to go, bring a torch for the upper reaches, and watch out for some decidedly dangerous steel staircases.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park situated at the north of Truong Son range in Quang Binh, is one of the world’s two largest limestone regions. It is called “the paradise of researchers and explorers of grottoes and caves.” Over 95 percent of the park is limestone formations, grottoes and caves and forest. Vietnamese and British scientists have surveyed the 20 limestone formations in the park.
The karst formation of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has evolved since 400 million years ago, and it is also the oldest major karst area in Asia. The formations of underground rivers and caves also extend to the border of Laos. The rock formations, underground rivers, large caves, passageways and sand bank all possess world-class beauty. The many marvelous rocks in the park own charismatic names such as Lion, Fairy Caves and Royal Court. Phong Naha-ke Bang is also an archeological and historical location. The government officials recognize its value and plan to make it a major tourist destination of the nation in the near future.
Bach Ma National Park, Thua Thien Hue Province, near Hue
Bach Ma was originally a French hill-station, 1,200m above sea level, but only 20km inland from the beach at Canh Duong. A US stronghold during the war, the buildings now lay in ruins (a couple has been restored to provide accommodation). The surveyed areas of the 22,000 hectares of evergreen forest have yielded over a thousand plant species (estimated to be under a half of the total) and over three hundred bird species. In 1996, evidence of a hitherto unknown wild ox, the Sao La, was discovered in the park.
Bach Ma is among the best managed of Vietnam’s National Parks and has a reputation for good ecological practice. There are several nature trails, as well as waterfalls and pools suitable for swimming, and the views are stunning. There is accommodation in the park and camping facilities near the gate. The park is best avoided during rainy October and November, when large numbers of leeches emerge. February to September is better.
Yok Don National Park, about 40km from Buon Ma Thuot in the Central Highlands
Yok Don extends to the Serepok River, the border with Cambodia. It is mainly a dry forest ecosystem with 464 flora and 311 fauna species identified as rare and endemic in Vietnam’s ‘Red Book’ of threatened species. It is populated by 17 ethnic groups, mainly M’nong people who hunt, capture and domesticate forest elephants. A new road has made access easier: limited accommodation is available.
Tram Chim National Park, Dong Thap Province, near Cao Lanh on the Mekong Delta
Tram Chim bird sanctuary is 7,600 hectares of wetlands with a diversity of surface and semi-submerged plants, and surface and riverbed animals. However, its birds are its main feature. Over 200 resident and migratory species have been identified, a quarter of the total number in Vietnam. The most famous are the rare ‘Red-headed Cranes’ land feeding large birds that migrate between Vietnam and Cambodia depending upon the water level. Accommodation is available nearby.