If you live in HCMC and want an outing to enjoy the Reunification Day and Labor Day holidays without jostling crowds, there are some options within easy reach.
Bu Gia Map National Park
Around 200 kilometers from HCMC, Bu Gia Map National Park in the southern province of Binh Phuoc is an eco-tourism site that is gaining popularity, but does not get overcrowded.
Travel companies offer trekking tours in the national park that covers an area of 26,032 hectares and is home to 105 mammal species, 246 bird species, and over 70 reptile species, including rare and endangered animals like red-faced macaque monkey.
Trekkers set up tents by Dak Ca Stream inside Bu Gia Map National Park in Binh Phuoc Province. Photo by Kieu Dinh Thap
A two-day-one-night journey would allow a visit to an animal shelter area, a walk through primeval forests and an overnight camp by the Dak Ca Stream.
Visitors can also enjoy special dishes particular to the S’Tieng ethnic minority, including bamboo-tube rice, and roasted duck with macadamia leaves, banana wine and even their version of grilled chicken.
Tours to this ecotourism site cost VND2.2 million ($95.55) per person. Contact the Bu Gia Map Journey travel agency to book the tour, which departs on April 30.
Ma Da Forest adventures
Another two-day-one-night tour that departs May 2 takes tourists on a cycle ride through the Ma Da Forest and try out stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on Tri An Lake.
The forest is one of the top camping destinations in Dong Nai Province, around 90 kilometers from HCMC.
A bus will carry tourists from HCMC to Bien Hoa Town. From here, the journey begins by cycling 15 to 30 kilometers depending on one’s stamina. The route goes through some primeval forest areas before stopping at Tri An Lake.
Tourists cycle through Ma Da Forest in Dong Nai Province. Photo by Cao Cao Adventures
Visitors will then rest at a farm-stay facility by the lake and practice SUP on the lake. Watching the sunset before enjoying a BBQ dinner is another treat on this tour.
This package tour, run by Cao Cao Adventures, costs VND2.5 million per person for groups of 10 or more. Guests with personal bicycles can bring their own and will receive a discount on the tour price.
Thac Mai Adventures
This two-day tour departing May 1 takes tourists to the Thac Mai trekking area in Dinh Quan District, Dong Nai Province. The area also boasts a primeval forest that is home to a wide range of rare species such as deer, elk, wild boar and iguana.
A family cycle through a primeval forest inside Thac Mai trekking area in Dong Nai Province. Photo by Thac Mai Adventures
After cycling for 35 to 45 kilometers through primeval forests, narrow roads and streams, a somewhat challenging ride for those not used to strenuous outdoor activities, things can get even more adventurous with mountain climbing. Overnight camping includes a BBQ dinner with wine. Waking up to a dazzling sunset and a bowl of hot chicken porridge rounds of this adventure tour.
The tour price is VND2.45 million per person, including transportation. Contact Thac Mai Adventures Jungle Trekking & Camping and Biking to book the tour.
Cat Tien National Park
Yet another easy getaway for the long weekend is a two days one night trip to the Cat Tien National Park, recognized as a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The 80,000 hectares plus park, spanning the three provinces of Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc, is home to about 1,500 species of animals, including Asian elephants, sun bears, gaurs and a variety of smaller mammals.
A boatman carries tourists around Bau Sau biosphere reserve inside Cat Tien National Park. Photo by Andy Nguyen
After arriving at the park, tourists can cycle through primeval forests, marvelling at the diverse ecosystem of ancient trees before going on an excursion to explore the nightlife of wildlife.
This one-hour trip has visitors to sit on an open-top truck and use spotlights to observe animals come out to feed at night.
The tour also includes a visit to the Ta Lai Community tourist house and an opportunity to observe the culture uniqueness of ethnic minorities like the Chau Ma, S’tieng and Tay.
Another enjoyable activity is kayaking around the Bau Sau biosphere reserve inside the Cat Tien Park to view Siamese crocodiles, which weigh 100-150 kilograms and live in shallow waters to avoid cold temperatures and high water pressure. Guides generally advise a distancing of four to five meters from the reptiles.
The tour run by Cat Tien National Park Adventures costs VND2.55 million per person.
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