Cat Tien National Park covers almost 280 square miles of primary lowland tropical forest, around 100 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City. It is one of the few places in Vietnam, where visitors can encounter many species which are rare in the rest of the country.
The bus from Ho Chi Minh City takes around four hours and depart every 30 minutes during the daytime. It is also possible to enter the park from other parts of the Central Highland, by road. Getting around the park itself is done on foot and should be done with a guide. There are several good reasons for this – firstly, the guides do these walks on a daily basis, they know they habits and hideouts of different species, and therefore you have a greater chance of seeing more wildlife if you go with a guide. The second, and most important reason is your own safety. The trais in this part of the country can be very hazardous for all kinds of reasons. Risks are posed by flooding, swamps, landslides, poisonous snakes and insects, as well as dangerous mammals and reptiles. Furthermore, the terrain can be quite tricky – ever year a number of foreign tourists die on the trails of Vietnam. Using a guide means you are much less likely to get into trouble, and that help is easier to find in case you do. By far the biggest danger faced by lone hikers is that of getting lost in the jungle. Even if you are an experienced hiker, now is a good time to swallow some pride and concede that the local guides know better.
The main trails lead to Crocodile Lake, Elephant Hills and Ta Lai. You can stay overnight at the lake. This is a good idea if you want to wake up early and have a chance to see gibbons and even Asian black bears in the forest. The national park is also home to a variety of macaque species, wild boar, leopard cats, a variety of bat species, turtles, crocodiles, kraits and cobras. If you do stay at the lake, you may have the chance to catch your own fish to be prepared for supper.
If you’re planning on coming to Cat Tien, ensure you wear long pants and long sleeves to protect yourself from mosquitoes and leeches.
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