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.
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.
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.
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.