HANOI: CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK – HALONG: CAT BA NATIONAL PARK – HUE: BACH MA NATIONAL PARK – HO CHI MINH CITY: CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN HANOI
Welcome to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city of tree-lined streets and centuries-old temples. Pick up and transfer to a hotel. Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 2. HANOI – CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK
The morning sightseeing tour features both cultural and historical highlights, comprising the Temple of Literature, the Ethnology Museum, the old quarters and a pedicab ride (1 hour). In the afternoon, transfer to Cuc Phuong (120km) across fascinating countryside of the Red River Delta. Cuc Phuong National Park is home to 2,000 species of flora, 1,800 species of insects, 320 species of birds, 70 species of mammals, etc. Overnight in Cuc Phuong.
DAY 3. CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK
Escorted by a park guide, depart for a full-day trek to see giant trees of 50m (164 feet) high. Transfer by car to the park centre (20km), stop by a prehistoric cave and the Vu Huong tree (Cinamomum balansae) en route. Take a trek (6km) to the 1,000-year-old tree (Terminalia myriocarapa) on a scenic trail. Have a picnic lunch at the park centre. In the afternoon, continue to trek (8km) to the Dang tree (Tetrameles nudiflora) on a steep trail through a dense jungle. Overnight in Cuc Phuong.
DAY 4. CUC PHUONG NATIONAL PARK – HANOI
In the morning, visit the park museum, the botanical garden with a collection of 252 species of rare plants and the endangered primate rescue centre, followed by a seminar on primate rescue. In the afternoon, transfer back to Hanoi. The day ends with a water puppet show, a theatrical genre reflecting the agricultural civilization of thousands of years ago. Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 5. HANOI – HAI PHONG – CAT BA
Depart for Hai Phong (100km) via a newly built road. Hai Phong serves as the primary seaport of the country. Have lunch en route. On arrival to Hai Phong, board a speed hydrofoil to Cat Ba island (1 hour). Once in Cat Ba, check in a hotel or beach resort and enjoy free time for the optional kayaking and swimming at sunset around some nearby islets. Overnight in Cat Ba Island.
DAY 6. CAT BA – HALONG
In the morning, drive to the center of the island and trek (45 minutes) to the mountains to observe the stunning views of unspoiled nature emerging form Cat Ba National Park. In the afternoon, board a junk at the marvelous Beo Jetty for cruising to the magnificent Halong Bay, a World Heritage site. Spend the time viewing the spectacular scenery of countless rock formations. Paddle kayaks to Ho Ba Ham Island (3 hours), drenched in sunshine, and snorkel in turquoise water. Enjoy the wonderful taste of freshly served seafood on board at lunch and dinner. In the evening, a kayak ride in phosphorescent water is optional. Overnight on board.
DAY 7. HALONG BAY – HANOI
The morning features an exciting exploration of Halong Bay. Relish the tranquility of nature from the upper deck and visit some magic caves. In the afternoon, transfer to Hanoi (170km). Overnight in Hanoi.
DAY 8. HANOI – HUE – BACH MA NATIONAL PARK
Transfer to the airport for a short flight to Hue. Pick up and transfer to Bach Ma (25km) at the foot of the mountain (1,444 meters). Visit the Bach Ma National Park office, followed by a seminar on ranger training. Take a 4WD car ride to the Morin Bach Ma Villas with panoramic views of lagoons, sand dunes and mountains. Bach Ma used to be a hill retreat with 139 colonial-style villas, some of which are upgraded with modern facilities. In the afternoon, accompanied by a park guide, trek (5km, 3mi) along park trails to explore the diversity of the local fauna and flora. Overnight in Bach Ma.
DAY 9. BACH MA NATIONAL PARK – HUE
Bach Ma, home to 330 species of bird, is considered a birdwatchers’ paradise. If lucky enough, trekkers can see countless birds at close range along the trails. Spend time for trekking (7km) through a dense jungle from the Five Lakes to Do Quyen Falls. A picnic lunch is served. The trip offers opportunities to swim in small natural lakes under foliage and conquer mountain cliffs along streams. Return to Hue. In the evening, a typical royal court dinner with a presentation of ancient dancing and music is arranged. Overnight in Hue.
DAY 10. HUE – HO CHI MINH CITY
The morning tour focuses on the Imperial Citadel, built in 1804, and the Dong Ba Market, famous throughout Vietnam for its conical hats. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon, the largest and busiest city in Vietnam. Meeting at Tan Son Nhat Airport and transfer to the hotel in the downtown area. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 11. HO CHI MINH CITY – CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK
Drive to Cat Tien National Park, 170km from Ho Chi Minh City. An incredible diversity of birds and mammals live in the forest and wetland habitats of Nam Cat Tien, including an estimated 230 species of birds. Endangered birds to be found here include White-winged Duck, White-shouldered Ibis, Germains Peacock-Pheasant, Green Peafowl and the very elusive Orange-necked Partridge. Mammal species found in the park include Indochinese Tiger, Asian Elephant and the last surviving Annamese Rhino, a sub species of the Javan Rhino, although you would have to be extremely lucky to catch a glimpse of any of these. Wild boar, several species of deer and the rare Duoc Langur and Crested Gibbon are sometimes seen. The afternoon is spent birding along the road from the park headquarters. Overnight in Cat Tien National Park.
DAY 12. CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK
Another early start for the 6km walk through forest to Crocodile Lake. Species that can be seen here include Green Peafowl by Crocodile Lake in the early morning or late afternoon, Bronze-winged Jacana, Lesser Adjutant and Purple Heron. In the forest look out for Red and Black and Banded Broadbill, Orange-breasted Trogon and Pale-headed Woodpecker amongst others. Overnight in Cat Tien National Park.
DAY 13. CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK – HO CHI MINH CITY
A final morning of birding along the headquarters road where green-eared, blue-eared and lineated barbet can be seen perched high up in roadside trees. Leave for Ho Chi Minh City after lunch. After arrival, take a brief sightseeing tour in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon. It features the former Presidential Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Saigon Post Office, Dong Khoi Street, Opera House, City Hall, and History Museum. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 14. AROUND HO CHI MINH CITY
Enjoy a free day on your own. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
DAY 15. DEPARTURE FROM HO CHI MINH CITY
Spend last minutes shopping downtown (ceramics, silver-carvings, silk, …) or at leisure before check-out. Transfer to the airport for departure.