Cat Tien National Park (Cát Tiên) in Southern Vietnam is also known as Cat Loc or Nam Cat Park.
It's only about 150KM or 93 miles away from Ho Chi Minh City and is worth every bug that might commit suicide to the visor on your motorbike helmet.
I went with a private tour in the end. It was worth the cost because everything was done for me and it was on my terms.
You can try and do it cheaper by renting a motorbike, driving there yourself and so on.
Saigon to Cát Tiên is like driving out of the belly of the beast and into the arms of Mother nature.
This park is a massive tropical forest and biosphere reserve. You'll see centuries old trees, monkeys, crocodiles and some of the most endangered birds in the world
Walking trails are cut through the thick jungle. It is a stunning place.
There are many of the world's rarest animals living in the Park and some have even gone as far as claiming it as the 'African Safari of Vietnam' because of the Asian Elephants roaming the park freely.
And so few people know about it or include it on their tours of Vietnam, that it is practically untouched by tourism and is potentially a place you'll never have a chance to return.
It just might not be there if you come back a few years down the road.
Cat Tien Park is the largest natural rainforest in Vietnam. They discovered a Javan Rhinoceros there a few years back and built a protected area for the animal.
There have been many sightings of exotic animals including Asian Elephants, Sun Bears and Water Buffalo, Tigers, Leopards and Clouded Leopards, just to name a few.
Cat Tien Park lies 150km Northeast of Ho Chi Minh city, almost halfway between HCMC and the City of Dalat.
That's about a 3 hour drive by bus. It sounds a long time but most bus companies that go there depart early morning so you will sleep on the way.
It's also located along the same road you would use to get to Dalat so a little side trip to Ha Tien may be a good plan.
I got there before I'd even realized that I had got out of bed. I thought that part was a nasty dream. But what a sight to wake to as you get dropped off at the Park Office.
Wherever you choose as your departure point, there are many bus companies that will get you to Cat Tien National Park. Scattered everywhere near your Hotel/Guesthouse will be travel agencies of every ilk. Make sure you shop around for the best price before buying the ticket, though.
All buses from any city will drop you off at the park office, which sits about 100M before the ferry that will float you over to Nam Cat Park Headquarters. You'll have to buy your tickets at the Cat Tien Park office, which include the cost of the ferry crossing.
Once you get across on the ferry, you'll be in the park. Getting to the park is much easier than it sounds, and worth the trip.
If you can afford to overnight then do it. The park is huge, filled with many things to see and do and can be an amazing place to see the night.
Cat Tien National Park is almost smack in the middle of the Ho Chi Minh city to the South and Dalat city to the North. These are the only major towns around so you'll not have the options you may want.
But there are simple wooden shacks as well as some concrete bungalows available in Cat Tien National Park. The facilities are all newly built so they are in good condition and quite comfortable.
You'll have a pool and tennis courts to play on and in so bring your trunks and your tennis racket. you might not even leave!
You can get yourself a wooden shack for about 110,000Dong ($6.50USD) a night or the bungalow at 160,000Dong a night ($9.35USD). You'll see all the accommodation right at the Park entrance.
You can also just pitch your own tent in the park campsite if you wish. That privilege will only cost you 25,000Dong ($1.4USD) but you have to bring all your own stuff so it may be impractical. I sure should have done it looking back now.
But the accommodation in Hat Tien National Park is great and well maintained (Also cheap) so plan on a night or two. Give the Park office a call before you set out and reserve a spot.
Tel. 669 228
This is the largest natural rain forest in Vietnam. Most people do the usual.
Go as you please though the park with a map and compass. I recommend taking the night night safari (160,000Dong) that the park offers.
Bikes are for rent and there are set trails that are well marked and a damn joy, especially if you run into a roaming Asian Elephant
Binolulars and funny hats are available. Not my thing but the variety of rare birds is second to none.
If you decide to go for a boat ride down the Dong Nai River, then you'll need to rent a boat and a guide from the Park Office.
Guides cost 60,000Dong per half-Day and 120,000d for a full day.
Wherever you decide to go, be sure to book a guide in advance and take plenty of insect repellent.
Cat Tien Park is made up of evergreen forest, bamboo woodland, farmland, wetlands and grassland.
Some animals you can see are the Asian Elephants, Gaur, Sun Bears, wild Water Buffalo, Tigers, Leopards, Clouded Leopards, Asiatic black bears and Yellow-cheeked Gibbons to name a few.
Actually seeing the animals is not as easy as it sounds. One of the trips offered by the park is to a water Hole used by the animals of the Park. Better luck there to see any of the rarest animals in Cat Tien National Park.
The park suffered during the Vietnam War. It was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange to kill all the vegitation on the trees. Most has grown back but there are areas that have not recovered.
Cat Tien National Park opens at 7am and closes at 10pm.
Adults must pay the admission fee of 50,000Dong while children skirt the gate for a measly 20,000Dong.