This oldest nature park of Vietnam was established in 1962. The beautiful park is a biodiversity heaven and harbors hundreds of animals and more than 2200 species of plants! The park also houses the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) and the Asian Turtle Conservation Program. We stayed here for a night and did some hiking and motorbiking around the park.
The park sums up what you might see if you’re lucky enough; “The ancient forest harbours over 2234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 135 species mammals, including the Clouded Leopard, Delacour’s Langur, Owston’s Civet and Asian Black Bear. There are also an incredible 336 documented bird species. Visitors in April and May should be blessed with the chance to see literally thousands of vibrant butterflies.” Maybe because we drove around the big park by motorbike (although this is a thing they recommend) and planned not enough time for this park, we didn’t see that many animals. I recommend doing some hikes and drift off the main road (where allowed) and maybe even get a guide if you like! I think they know where and when to look for some wildlife and natural highlights.
The park houses the ‘Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC)‘ and the ‘Asian Turtle Conservation Program’, both located minutes away from the park’s entrance. Both are pretty small and a bit outdated but they got plenty of (sometimes critically endangered) animals. Especially the primate center is filled with beautiful creatures, unfortunately 95% is caged but the EPRC aims to release some more back into the (semi)wild. The center started in 1993 when two langurs were confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade.
Although it was amazing to see and hear these wonderful creatures, seeing them caged and reading stuff similar to what zoo’s trying to sell the public, made me a bit skeptical. Lines as “..houses 15 species and sub-species in which 6 species nowhere else in captivity.” and “Nine species have been successfully bred in captivity” doesn’t really sound nice to me. But I must say I can’t really judge without knowing all the facts and figures so let’s hope they still rescue animals instead of solely breeding them to ’conserve’ their species.
The Turtle Program is even smaller than the EPRC but here you can see how they breed turtles and let them swim around. The turtles got small enclosures and the facility is outdated but same story as with the primates; they try to keep species away from the hungry and hunting locals, rescue some and breed to conserve. A moral issue yet hard to wrap my head around. Please share your thoughts on this if you like! :)
Apparently the park also housed the ‘Carnivore & Pangolins Conservation’ but I haven’t seen anything of these guys. The program grew into a NGO called ‘Save Vietnam’s Wildlife’ which you can check out on Facebook.
If you’d like you can sleep in the park! They offer multiple spots around the park and are even able to arrange home stay with a local tribe. We stayed within the park and slept at the serene ’Mac Lake’, a 2km drive from Headquarters. We got a bungalow with fan, en-suite bathroom and warm water for $16 a night. Since the accommodation is in the middle of a jungle, you could get some unexpected visitors! We had the privilege to receive Mr. (huge) Spider, which we had to escort back into the wild.
Around the lake there was a small restaurant to provide you with a basic dinner. Although they offered a simple menu I was able to get me some fried rice and noodles with veggies and tofu. If you decide to sleep there, maybe tell them up front you’re a vegan so they might stock up some veggies and tofu!
Although we, maybe regrettably, saw the park mostly from our motorbike, the park offers multiple great hikes you can do. The jungle is beautiful but unfortunately many (local) visitors dropped their trash all over the place. The effort the park puts into clear signs and tree-trunk-trashbins are not really working. Next to some amazing humongous trees we also saw a cave that was pretty cool (and chilly!), do bring a headlight if you wish to enter.
Next to hiking you can go for wildlife night-spotting, bird watching and much more. I wish I could tell you all about them but the activities-page on their website will be more useful to you in this case!
Same goes for Cuc Phuong as it goes for Bai Dinh, it’s not really along the way when your taking the popular tourist-tracks through Vietnam. But both have their qualities, so see for yourself if you would like to drive around or take different transport to get to these spots. The park has a Getting Here page with some ways to get there. We got here by motorbike from Tam Coc and visited the Bai Dinh Temple along the way. Beautiful drive along rice fields and through remote villages. Read more about Bai Dinh in this post. See our route-screenshot down below.
‘Cuclusion‘; I liked the luscious park but don’t know if it was a real highlight, but this could be due to our short time there and the lack of research done before visiting.
For more info: www.cucphuongtourism.com