Nam Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Nam Cat Tien is one of the beautiful national parks in Vietnam. It has attractive landscapes with diversity, including the hill, the riverside, the vast flat grasslands, and streams. In the rainy season, the gentle streams become waterfalls pouring water on the big stones. Many waterfalls create wide golden sandbanks which are suitable for swimming.

Cat Tien National Park
Butterflies in Nam Cat Tien National Park – photo by Vinh Pham

The location of Nam Cat Tien

  • Nam Cat Tien National Park is 160 km from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and it takes us about 4 hours to drive.
  • Cat Tien National Park is located on the Dong Nai River, in the territory of the three provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc, and Lam Dong.
  • Cat Tien National Park Vietnam has a total area of 70.548ha, in which a part of the area of Dong Nai: 39.108 ha, the province of Lam Dong: 26.969ha, and the province of Binh Phuoc: 4.469ha.
  • Headquarters control Cat Tien National Park located in Tan Phu district, Dong Nai province.
Beautiful butterflies in Nam Cat Tien National Park – Photo: @mytientruong97

Stories telling about Cat Tien National Park

Many legendaries talk about Nam Cat Tien National Park. Vietnamdrive collected a few nice stories to tell with you as below.

The first story is to tell about the name Nam Cat Tien. The park had a beautiful sandbank of the river which can be seen from heaven. Attracted by the beauty of the forest and river, many beautiful fairies from heaven often came from heaven to swim in the river at the south of the national park. And, the hunters went pass this area they saw the fairies swimming. It, then, is called “Nam Cat Tien” that means “South Fairy National Park”.

The second legendary is to mention the creation of the waterfalls and lakes in the park. In the past, while hunting in the forest, the Chau Ma hunter found a colorful deer gassing near the waterfall, which looked very beautiful.

He used a sword to shoot that deer. Suddenly, water rushed vigorously and quickly to chase him. The man ran, and the stream still followed him over the hills and trees, this created many waterfalls in the forest. When he was tired to stop to rest, water covered around him, this created the lakes in the park.

Now, when visiting Nam Cat Tien National Parks, we can find many waterfalls, rivers, and small lakes.

The third story is to talk about the orchid which can see in the national park when discovering this place.

K’Du was a local person living alone without relatives near the forest. And, the fairy Ka Mai from heaven came to travel in the woods and to swim at the waterfalls. She often saw K’Du worked here. And,  day by day, she fell in love with him and became the husband and wife living together.

They had lived happily for a while, but because of breaking the law of heaven, the Ka Mai fairy was captured to heaven. The husband K’Du missed his wife to die and became the trees living in the forest. In heaven, Ka Mai wished to incarnate to become the orchid living on the trees to live together with her husband in the mountains.

Through many challenges, their love was finally rewarded, though not in human form. K’Du and Ka Mai fairy turned still lived together as the orchid and trees in the forest, which you can see them in the Nam Cat Tien National park.

Cat-Tien-National-Park-Vietnam-2
Cat Tien National Park Vietnam – photo by Amy

Best time to visit Nam Cat Tien

If you want to travel to Nam Cat Tien National Park, but do not know when is the best time to visit it.

Vietnamdrive recommends you the appropriate time to travel there from December to May of the next year. During this time, Nam Cat Tien forest has little rain and dry environment, so it is convenient to explore its nature.

You should check the weather forecast before traveling to this for the rest of the year. And, Nam Cat Tien is located in the area of climate that transits from mountains and plains, making Cat Tien have a unique environment, and it can get heavy rain at any time. The rivers and waterfalls in the forest create the general style of tropical climate forests in the south of Vietnam.

Transportation to and from Nam Cat Tien from Ho Chi Minh

You can choose different kinds of transportation to move to Nam Cat Tien from Ho Chi Minh, including motorbike, local buses, or a private car. Travel by motorbike is an adventurous way, and a local bus is not convenient for most of the foreigner tourists because of the language barrier and conditions of the coaches. A private car is the better choice, it is a much higher price.

Motorbike

Follow National Highway 1A to the Dau Giay Post Office (this road is 67km long).

After that, turn left to go along National Highway 20 (the road forward to Dalat) about 58km to Ta Lai, also known as KM 125 (kilometer 125 is the old name, actually is kilometer 58).

From this site, you continue to turn left and continue for another 24km to Cat Tien National Park (on this distance, there are direction signs showing to Nam Cat Tien.)

Note: when traveling to this park, you should clearly mention the location of Nam Cat Tien National Park. It is because, in Lam Dong province, there is also a site named Cat Tien, which is easily confused.

Buses

Kim Hoan Bus is currently operating a bus route from Mien Dong Bus Station to Nam Cat Tien bus station.

+ Route: Saigon (Ben Xe Mien Dong) – Ta Lai – Nam Cat Tien
+ Operation hours: 
from Mien Dong Bus Station: 6:50am, 7:00am, 9:00am, 12:00pm, 13:45pm, 14:45pm, 4:00pm;
from Nam Cat Tien: 6:00am, 7:00am, 8:30am, 12:00pm, 13:00pm, 14:00pm.+ Contact phone: 061 379 1133 – 061 3605233

Also, you can go to gate number 5 of Mien Dong Bus Station to buy tickets for Kim Hoan to Nam Cat Tien.
+ Address of Mien Dong Bus Station: 292 Dinh Bo Linh, Ward 26, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City
+ Phone: (08) 3899 4056; (08) 3898 4441; (08) 3898 4442; (08) 3898 4893
+ Website: www.benxemiendong.com.vn

In addition, you can also contact the buses to run from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat to buy only tickets to Nam Cat Tien. However, you need to note that you have to check with them if you stop at Ta Lai Intersection. It is because you have stopped at Ta Lai intersection to continue going to Nam Cat Tien. You can keep using motorbike or taxi to the rest distance.

A private car

Always, this is the best convenient transportation for the route from Saigon to Nam Cat Tien. But you have to pay more than other kinds of transport.

To book a private car, you can contact us to reserve your car with a friendly driver to get door-to-door service and start any time if you want.

Diversity of this national park

The variety of plant species includes:

  • 50% of the area is a green forest
  • 40% of the area is a bamboo forest
  • 10% of the area is a farm

The diversity of animal species, including many species in the Red Book of World including 1 -horn rhinoceros, Asian elephants, Gaur, Dog bear, Horse bear, Buffalo, Tiger, Leopard, Clouded leopard, Deer, Black Eagle, White-winged ducks …

Flora of Cat Tien National Park is also diversity with more than 1,362 flora species of vascular plants, more than 440 species of precious wood, hundreds of medicinal plants and 133 species of orchids.

About types of animals, there are 62 animal species and 350 species of birds with some rare birds such as pheasants, green ibis, rhinos, and elephants.

Cat Tien National Park, mainly Nam Cat Tien (South Cat Tien) is a good eco-tourism. Coming to Nam Cat Tien National Park Vietnam, tourists can choose many activities, including hiking, bird watching, camping, boating, and adventure travel.

What to see and activities in Nam Cat Tien National Park

When coming here, you can choose the eco-tourism tour, rent a bicycle to ride on the old road, or can walk to view much more nature there. Many streets near the edge of the forest are easy to bike or walk to visit the streams.

Now check more what to see, and some suggested activities to do in the national park.

1. Walking or trekking to see nature with rich vegetation

Trekking in Nam Cat Tien National park
Trekking in Nam Cat Tien – Photo: @nn_vy

In Nam Cat Tien Park, the first experience is that you can walk or trek on narrow trails, surrounded by small and big trees. Here have the special trees with hundreds of years old, divided into many branches with pleasant shade.

Trekking in the forest is the best way to enjoy the true beauty of Nam Cat Tien. While trekking, you may see butterflies, birds, and other animals.

If you’re really a fan of trekking, you can get a long distance to Bau Sau (from 5 to 14 km, depending on the way).

You may like Ho Chi Minh to Nam Cat Tien 2 days.

2. Visit Bau Sau

Bau Sau – Crocodile Lake – is far from the center of the forest, so you should choose a bicycle or car to go there to visit. You should prepare water to ride a bike through the woods.

Bau Sau is a large lake with many kinds of bird and crocodiles living. Sometimes, you will enjoy the dance of peacocks and lovely scenery; you will see attractive eyes from crocodile somewhere.

Usually, you can ride a bike or motorbike with a long way from outside of the forest, then you need to trek around 5 km to Bau Sau (crocodile lake). This is a little hard to visit, so we just recommend for tourists who have strong health to trek for long distance.

3. Biking through the narrow roads

Biking in Nam Cat Tien
Biking in Nam Cat Tien – Photo: @anhtho_pham

Many narrow roads in Nam Cat Tien are interesting for biking. You can use a bicycle to ride in the early morning through streets in the forest. This activity helps you enjoy fresh air, nature of the morning and see trees with fruits.

4. Watching birds

With different kinds of birds in Cat Tien National Park, watching birds attracts a lot of tourists. With over 350 species of birds, Cat Tien is famous as the kingdom of birds.

To watch the bird in Nam Cat Tien, you have to book a local guide in advance to guide you to see the birds. It is because this is a difficult activity in the national park.

Come to Cat Tien with the camera and binoculars, travel with the local guide, you will have priceless memories. It is the color of nature showing on colorful birds.

5. Visit Dao Tien – Bear Rescue Station

Many people think that Dao Tien (Fairy Island) is an island located in the middle of the river. But in fact, this area is just a forest surrounded by protective barriers. With an area of 57 hectares, Fairy Island is a good place to preserve unique animals. You can find a system of lush primeval forests waiting for you to explore.

And, at the bear rescue station, visitors can see bears. Most of them are in distress or injury and brought here to take care and treatment. Because of proper care, the bears in the rescue station are quite dynamic and friendly. But, when you visit this place, you should notice that be careful with bears and keep your children far away from the bears is a good choice.

6. Visit Ta Lai ethnic village

Nam Cat Tien is the home of the ethnic groups Mạ and S’tiêng. Visiting Long House of Ta Lai at Ta Lai Village is a favorite activity when traveling to Cat Tien. This cultural tourist destination in Cat Tien National Park creates more colorful journeys of your holidays here. Besides, you can choose to go kayaking on the river at Ta Lai Village.

7. Watch animals at night

Watching animals at night is one of the exciting activities chosen by many visitors. You discover the life of the animals at night to find a different experience.

To participate in this activity, you need to book the service in advance (you cannot do by yourselves because of safety). Contact the management of Nam Cat Tien National Park to buy tickets to join with a group. Please note that you should not open the car door to ensure safety when watching animals at night.

If you want a private group, you can give them or tell Vienamdrive team to range it for you.

Local food to taste in Nam Cat Tien

When traveling in Nam Cat Tien National Park, you should bring snacks and water to feed you up when you feel hungry and thirsty.

Not many restaurants enough conditions to serve tourists at this area. But, in the tourist center of Nam Cat Tien, there are two big restaurants to check. Both restaurants can serve up to 300 customers at the same time, with a variety of dishes of South style.

Here are three local dishes of Nam Cat Tien to taste:

  • Canh Luc Binh (Hyacinth soup): Luc Binh (hyacinth) is also called Beo Nuoc (water hyacinth). The local people use both its flowers and body to cook soup with a different flavor of the forest.
  • A hot pot of Nam Cat Tien: This hot pot is cooked from the vegetable of the forest, and the fishes from the rivers and waterfalls. Taste this hot pot to know about the style of local eating.
  • Perch and snake-head fishes: These kinds of fishes from the fresh water. Local restaurants here can serve you. But, you should be careful to taste the fishes, because they have a lot of bones, more bones with perch fishes.

Where to stay in Nam Cat Tien

Different kinds of accommodations are available in Nam Cat Tien. Depend on your budget; you can check some of homestays, hotels, and resorts as below:

  • Cat Tien Jungle Lodge, 3 stars, price from 35USD/room, check it
  • Orchard Home Nam Cat Tien Resort, 3 stars, price from 52USD/room, but sometimes it gives a discount
  • Green Hope Lodge, 2 stars, price from 7USD/room see it
  • Cat Tien National Park, price from 3USD/bed (shared room), 8.5USD/room
  • Bird Song Lodge, 2 stars, price from 12USD/room, check this
  • Thuy Tien Eco Lodge, price from 10USD/room
  • Gibbon Singing Home Stay, price from 10USD/room
Bau Sau in Nam Cat Tien
Photo: @dylan_viaje

Notes while exploring the national park

  • Cat Tien National Park is a biosphere reservation, so it is strictly forbidden to capture and exploit flora and fauna, so just leave footprints, and don’t take anything but photos.
  • The forest has many leeches and other reptiles (snakes, centipedes …), you should prepare all necessary protective equipment such as specialized climbing shoes, leggings, gloves, and medicine (Dep medicine is popular in Vietnam to avoid leeches).
  • Absolutely comply with the instructions of the park staff, avoid going to areas with many dangerous big animals such as bears, bulls, rhinos …
Visit Nam Cat Tien National Park
Visit Nam Cat Tien National Park – Photo: @helly.95

Basic skills to survive when lost in the forest

These are the basic skills to survive when lost in any forests or in Nam Cat Tien National Park, which we collected from internet and newspapers, to support tourists to get necessary rules to rescue themselves first. Please note that these skills are basic, and just for reference. If you can join a class to learn about these skills, that’s great for you.

Before traveling into the forest, you should prepare food more than you need, and water as much as possible. However, the more food and water you carry, the heavier your luggage is. And you should bring a knife, lighter, watch, whistle and flashlight.

Now check the skills.

Special notes to remember STOP word:

  • S – Sit down
  • T – Think
  • O – Observe your surroundings
  • P – Prepare for survival by gathering materials

And, remember 3 s of STOP rule (which I collect from US forest service ): As soon as you realize you may be lost: stop, stay calm, and stay put. Panic is your greatest enemy.

1. Telling someone where you will go

You should tell someone who can trust before you go to any places. In case they can get quick information about you in case you lost.

When you travel out of the hotels, homestay, and resorts, you should keep the address and phone number with you. Notably, many areas of the forest do not have mobile services, so you should find some areas, often space, not covered by trees, to see your phone can work.

2. Calm down

Panic psychology or depression will come to anyone after being lost. However, keep calm; this is the first important factor to help you survive. Because if you panic, you will be disoriented and will get further lost. After calm down, find a way to get out of the danger zone as quickly as possible.

3. Try to locate

Pay attention to the villages, houses, camps, or any signs of human activity. You will find ways to move there.

To find that, you have to climb to the highest point that can reach the top of the tree, the top of the hill to observe, find features such as houses, fields, smoke if at night you can find the fire, electric light … You also should pay attention to loud noises like ships, cars, trains, and engines from somewhere.

If no sound could be heard, it would be best to locate a river and stream from above. Then just go in the direction of the flow of water, the rate of exit from the dangerous area will be very high.

4. Highlight the path

You should mark the route on the trees, or cliffs following the sun, mountain, or wind direction is to help you avoid returning at the original place lost.

5. Leave a message where you got lost

If you get lost from a group of people, the first thing is to calmly identify the surrounding terrain, research the source of water and food and stay there to wait for the rescue. Avoid moving much because it will reduce your energy, and be attacked by wild animals.

If you want to look or move to elsewhere, in a place where you get lost, you should leave a message or a sign so that if your friends come back to find you, they can determine your next direction or location.

Always pay attention to the distance between 2 people when traveling with a group of people, to avoid getting lost in the forest.

6. Find water, food and create signs for other people to find easily

Find a source of water (a stream, river…) is very important to rescue yourselves when lost in the forest. Then, you find the food to eat. Without food for a few days, you can still live, but water is needed in most of the time.

You should only eat forest trees or leaves that you know are not poisonous; otherwise, it’s best to rescue you with only water. Remember to avoid colorful mushrooms in the forest, they are often poisonous mushrooms.

You must find a way to make the sign, example burning fire to create smoke (be careful with the light to avoid burning all the forest), make flag sign with color clothes, create sounds…

While doing that, you should also listen to the sound in the woods, if you hear a gunshot or a call; you should navigate and move nearby.

7. Find a sleeping place

If it is dark and there is no sign of finding out, you must find a way to choose the shelter safely. You should burn a big fire, which will help you avoid the cold of the night, keep the heat, and scare animals. Then, find a way to get a hammock on a tree or sleep on the stones. You can also take leaves to give yourself a shelter.

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