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Whether you want to explore untouched forest, catch a glimpse of little-known wildlife or challenge yourself to off-the-beaten-track trekking, Cát Tiên National Park near Ho Chi Minh City is the ultimate expedition for nature-lovers.
Cát Tiên National Park is one of the largest nature reserves in Vietnam, encapsulating a tremendous 719 square-kilometres, and stretching across three different provinces. Although the park was technically established in 1992, its history goes back to the 1970s with centuries-old trees to prove it. Tourists are encouraged to visit the national park, but numbers are limited in order to protect the area, so booking in advance is a must!
Located north-east of Ho Chi Minh City, the park can be reached in 3-4 hours by car. Visitors can stay overnight, or for a number of nights, in accommodation that ranges from simple bamboo huts to luxurious lodges. Much of the accommodation is set amid the forest itself, providing ample opportunities for watching the park’s many wild inhabitants.
The park is home to a vast array of wildlife, including hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, birds and fish. Primates are particularly prevalent, especially gibbons and langurs, as are Asian elephants, clouded leopards and sun bears. However, Cát Tiên’s most impressive inhabitants are perhaps the plants, with the area boasting an incredible 1,610 botanical species.
Originally, Cát Tiên National Park was split into three separate parks, Nam Cát Tiên, Tay Cát Tiên and Cat Loc. But, when Vietnamese Javan rhinoceros were discovered in the latter, the three areas merged so as to better accommodate their breeding. Rhinoceros are not the only endangered animals to benefit from the protected area either – the park also holds an ape rehabilitation centre, a breeding area for Siamese crocodiles and a number of forest conservation projects.
With such an array of wild inhabitants, it’s easy to assume that Cát Tiên National Park is only of interest to wildlife-lovers, but this is definitely not the case. The park provides ample actives for adventure-lovers, including some of the best trekking, biking and boat trips in south Vietnam. For those who enjoy learning about foreign culture, there are also a number of local communities living within the National Park that can be visited, including the Chau Ma and Stieng people.