Cuc Phuong National park
The primary forest in this gorgeous national park is home to an amazing variety of animal and plant life, making it one of Vietnam’s most important protected areas. Wildlife found here includes 307 bird species, 133 kinds of mammal, 122 species of reptile and more than 2000 different species of plant.
The national park covers an area spanning two limestone mountain ranges, across three provinces. Its highest peak is Dinh May Bac (Silver Cloud Peak) at 656m. No less than Ho Chi Minh took time off from the American War in 1962 to declare this Vietnam’s first national park, saying: ‘Forest is gold.’
Despite his exhortations, poaching and habitat destruction continue to plague the Cuc Phuong National Park. Improved roads have led to more illegal logging, and many native species – the Asiatic black bear, Siamese crocodile, wild dog and tiger – have vanished from the area as a result of human activity.
To learn more about the park’s conservation efforts, visit the excellent Endangered Primate Rescue Center and Turtle Conservation Center on the fringes of the park. The park is also home to the minority Muong people, whom the government relocated from the park’s central valley to its western edge in the late 1980s. This was ostensibly to encourage a shift from their slash-and-burn practices to sedentary farming, but the government’s star project, the Ho Chi Minh Highway, subsequently cut across some of the former Muong parklands.
The best time of year to visit the park is in the dry months from November to February. From April to June it becomes increasingly hot, wet and muddy, and from July to October the rains arrive, bringing lots of leeches. Visitors in April and May might see some of the millions of butterflies that breed here. Weekends can be busy with Vietnamese families.
The visitor centre near the entrance has informative English-speaking staff, and guides and tours can be organised here.