Vietnam - Asian Endemics in a Pristine World

Vietnam is a land of amazing beauty and biodiversity with lush mountains blanketed in evergreen and bamboo forests, dramatically picturesque valleys, and expansive deltas formed where effusive rivers meet the sea: Vietnam is a land of stunning diversity. Cuc Phuong National Park is perhaps the most bio diverse park in Vietnam, where you will walk amongst the verdant karst mountains as the profusion of avian specimens reverberate in waves of sound and color. Trek through the last remaining tract of Vietnam’s lowland rainforest in Nam Cat Tien National Park. Journey deep into Tram Chim National Park to view the endangered Sarus Crane. Experience the unique cultures and traditions of modern cities and tiny fishing villages. You will be awed and inspired at every turn.

Degree of Difficulty - Three Paws

Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.

Weather Reports - When To Go

Vietnam enjoys a diverse climate, but it is generally agreed that high season is November to March, and July & August. Vietnam lies in two monsoon zones – the winter monsoon from October to March when it can be damp and chilly in the north and dry and warm in the south, and from April to October when the summer monsoon brings hot, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains. Given these variables, best months to visit are April, May and October.

Days 1/2/3 USA/HANOI

Fly to Hanoi, crossing the international date line and losing one calendar day. Arrive in the morning and meet your guide for a trip briefing and orientation, then visit the 11th century Temple of Literature dedicated to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius, and enjoy a one-hour rickshaw tour of the capital, the old quarter, and Ngoc Son Temple located on the Hoan Kiem Lake. This evening, enjoy a traditional Vietnamese dinner. LEGEND METROPOLE. (Meals Aloft; D)

Day 4 HANOI/CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK

Tour the former home and Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, recognized as the founding father of Vietnam. Continue to the Museum of Ethnology with its striking exhibition of the Vietnamese ethnic plurality. This afternoon, drive south to Van Long Nature Reserve and Cuc Phuong National Park for a chance sighting of Delacour’s Langur, a critically endangered primate. CUC PHUONG RESORT. (B,L,D)

Days 5/6 CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK

Wake up early and enter the limestone forests of Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam’s first protected area where you will spend two days. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded including notable South East Asian endemics like the Red-vented Barbet and the Wren Babbler. Other exciting birds are Pied Falconet, Blue-rumped Pitta, Eared Pitta, Silver-breasted Broadbill, and Fujian Niltava. Look for the white face, black crown, and a broad black stripe of the Pied Falconet, which feeds primarily on dragonflies and other flying insects. CUC PHUONG RESORT. (B,L,D Daily)

Days 7/8 TAM DAO NATIONAL PARK

Head to Tam Dao and the iconic limestone peaks of Tam Dao, literally the “three islands.” Enjoy two days in this biologically diverse area which lies at the crossroads of three eco zones of Southeast Asian tropical forest, Chinese temperate forest, and alpine forests of the eastern Himalaya. The result: amazing biodiversity spread within different altitudinal zones which vary between sea level and 5,000 feet and include evergreen and bamboo forests. Search for endemic bird species including Chestnut Bulbul, Grey Laughing-thrush, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Streakbreasted Scimitar Babbler and Short-tailed Parrotbill. ME LA TAM DAO HOTEL. (B,L,D Daily)

Days 9/10 DALAT HILL

Transfer to Noi Bai airport then fly to Dalat Hill Station in the Central Highlands. Search the manmade lake at Ho Tuyen Lamto for the Grey-crowned Crocias, recently rediscovered after a 60 year absence. Look for the Red-vented Barbet, Spotted Forktail, Cutia, Black-hooded, White-cheeked and Collared Laughing-thrush. Next day, visit the town’s bustling central market, Bao Dai’s Summer Palace – the last emperor of Vietnam, Railway Station and Dalat Cathedral, while continuing to look for various avian species. DALAT PALACE. (B,L,D daily)

Day 11 MOUNT LANG BIANG/NAM CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK

Arise early and venture to Mount Lang Biang where the evergreen forests shelter Silver Pheasant, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Rufous-capped Babbler, Yellow-billed Nuthatch and Mugi-maki Flycatcher, as well as two of Vietnam’s endemics, the Collared Laughing Thrush and the Vietnamese Greenfinch. Lunch is in town, then drive to Nam Cat Tien National Park, the largest contiguous lowland tropical forest in Southern Vietnam. FOREST FLOOR LODGE. (B,L,D)

Day 12 NAM CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK

Nam Cat Tien is a premier birding destination where numerous endangered species can be found such as Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, Orange-necked Partridge, Bar-bellied Pitta and Red-vented Barbet. Hike three miles to Crocodile Lake to find Blue-rumped Pitta, Red and Black Broadbill, Banded Broadbill and Orange-breasted Trogon. Augment your bird list as you travel by jeep into remote areas for possible sightings of Silver Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Blyth’s Frogmouth, Black Baza, Laced Woodpecker, Wreathed Hornbill, Banded Kingfisher, Golden-crested Myna and Vinous-breasted Starling. Fortune may afford an observation of the Green Pea-fowl as they call from the canopy of the forest. FOREST FLOOR LODGE. (B,L,D Daily)

Days 13/14 HO CHI MINH CITY

The last chance to add to your list of bird sightings is before lunch after which you drive to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Next day, tour the city including the former Presidential Palace. Now a museum, this was the building that on April 30, 1975, was stormed by tanks resulting in the fall of South Vietnam. The building has been preserved in its original state and the tanks are on display near the entrance gates. Also see the water puppetry show on the grounds of the museum. Enjoy shopping time at Dong Khai and Le Thanh Ton streets, and drive a hard bargain for jewelry, amber, ceramics, silk and apparel. INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON. (B,L,D)

Day 15 CAO LANH (TRAM CHIM NATIONAL PARK)

Head to Tram Chim National Park, an eco-tourist destination known as a “green island‟ in the delta region of Dong Thap Muoi. The park is home to many botanical species and nearly 200 species of water birds which account for about a quarter of the birds in Vietnam, including the endangered Sarus Crane, the tallest flying bird in the world. TRAM CHIM HEADQUARTERS. (B,L,D)

Day 16 CAO LANH/CHAU SOC (TRA SU BIRD SANCTUARY)

Drive this morning to Chau Doc. In the afternoon, head to Tra Su Bird Sanctuary, board a sampan, and cruise through a cajuput forest to witness the birds in their natural habitat. Climb a 23-meter high watch-tower to view breathtaking scenery before returning to town. VICTORIA CHAU DOC. (B,L,D)

Days 17/18 HO CHI MINH CITY/USA

Navigate through a fascinating floating village and stop at a Cham village on the way back to Ho Chi Minh City to meet with the Muslim community. This evening enjoy a farewell dinner at INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA. Next day, you will be transferred to the airport for your flights home, taking with you a very impressive bird checklist and wonderful memories.

OPTIONAL POST EXTENSION TO CAMBODIA

Explore the mysteries of the ancient temples and monuments of Siem Reap, including the largest temple in the world – Angkor Wat. Unlike other Khmer temples, it faces west and is inspired by 12th century Hinduism. Other ancient wonders include Angkor Thom with its stunning Bayon temple, Ta Prohm, known as the ‘Kingdom of Trees,’ and Banteay Srei, the citadel of women. Go boating on the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap Lake, among floating homes and small fish farms.

YOUR JOURNEY INCLUDES:

  • Superior and best available accommodations throughout, or similar.
  • Breakfast daily, and other meals as indicated in the itinerary.
  • Sightseeing via private air-conditioned motor coach with English-speaking guide.
  • Complimentary bottled water in touring vehicles and during meals.
  • Professional birding guide with a minimum of 10 travelers.
  • All applicable hotel/lodge taxes and gratuities for baggage handling.
  • All entrance fees.
  • Complimentary baggage tags and passport wallet.
Prices vary by season and package. Please inquire by phone at (800) 627-1244 or email info@classicescapes.com for more information and a pricing estimate.