Most people have heard of the more well-known destinations in Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Halong Bay. But fewer have heard of Cat Tien National Park, one of the largest national parks in Vietnam and a welcome respite from the chaos and pollution of Ho Chi Minh City.

We arrived in the usual way – dropped off at the side of the road in a random place in the middle of a torrential Vietnam-style downpour. Through a mixture of hand gestures and pointing at maps we were able to negotiate a ride with a local to Cat Tien village, our base for the next few days, and before we knew it we were on our way.

Storm in Cat Tien, Vietnam

I wasn’t lying when I said it was a torrential downpour

We stayed at Cat Tien Forest Call Lodge, a relatively new resort owned and managed by the enthusiastic Mr Thuat. The resort itself is beautifully finished with newly built, spacious bungalows, hammocks scattered around and a huge restaurant area serving delicious home-cooked Vietnamese food prepared by Mr Thuat’s sister-in-law.

Bungalow accommodation at Cat Tien Forest Call Lodge

Our beautiful bungalow at Cat Tien Forest Call Lodge

Mr Thuat is a conservationist who is very heavily involved in the protection of the surrounding rainforest. His passion and enthusiasm for it is evident in everything that he does.

He sat with us for two hours running through the various trekking options and what there was to see in the local area, in the end offering to be our own personal guide so that we were able to fully customize our trip. We would have been hard pressed to find someone more knowledgeable about the area than him and he talked us through the whole rainforest, explaining all the different plant and animal life around.

Trekking in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Annie, Anita, Mr Thuat, Sophie, Me and Kaya (the dog) getting ready to set off on our trek (leech socks at the ready)

Kaya in Cat Tien National Park

Kaya, Mr Thuat’s beautiful dog, trying to get in with the crew

Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

We trekked through dense rainforest with HUGE redwood trees, down roads filled with thousands of butterflies and took a boat trip on the aptly named Crocodile Lake (home to over 100 species of crocodile).

And whilst we didn’t encounter any crocodiles (besides feeling a huge jolt as one bumped into the boat), we didn’t leave disappointed. On the way back from the lake we saw a family of Silver Langur gibbons playing in the trees. This was momentous to me. I had spent 3 days on the Gibbon Experience in Laos without spotting a single one. And yet here we were, in Cat Tien, and we’d stumbled across a whole family of them by accident.

It was a perfect end to a great day, at the end of which we all returned to the lodge, exhausted but satisfied.

Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Redwood trees in Cat Tien National Park Vietnam

Giant Redwood trees (told you they were big!)

Ants in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Butterflies in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Those white things you can see are actually butterflies – thousands of them that fluttered all around us as we walked. Absolutely magical!

Butterflies in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

A baby turtle in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Mr Thuat moving a baby turtle from the road and out of harm’s way

View over Crocodile Lake, Cat Tien National Park

The beautiful view over Crocodile Lake

Lunch at Crocodile Lake in Cat Tien National Park

A delicious home-cooked lunch overlooking Crocodile Lake

Crocodile Lake, Cat Tien National Park

Boat ride on Crocodile Lake, Cat Tien National Park

Rangers hut at the Crocodile Lake, Cat Tien

The ranger’s hut at Crocodile Lake. It is actually possible to stay here overnight and go out on dawn crocodile-spotting boat trips

View from the boat on Crocodile Lake, Cat Tien

Crocodile Lake, Cat Tien National Park