When you join our 10-day Vietnam Birding tour, you will go on a birding adventure in the Southern part of Vietnam.
Vietnam is home to diverse bird species, making it a popular destination for bird enthusiasts. Southern Vietnam, in particular, is a great place to go birding due to its unique ecosystem and tropical climate. The region is home to various unique bird species, including the endangered Edwards’s Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, and Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant.
Southern Vietnam is an excellent destination with fantastic food, friendly people and brilliant birding.
Tour starts and ends in Ho Chi Minh City
Tour duration: 10 days / 11 nights
Next group departure date: 14 April 2024
This birding tour can be booked as a private small group tour.
Itinerary – Day tot day Summary:
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, transfer to Cat Tien National Park
Welcome to Vietnam!
You will be picked up at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport and we will transfer by road to Cat Tien National Park, 150 km to the north.
We will drive through the megacity of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and marvel at its eclectic mix of old and new. It is known for its well-preserved French colonial architecture (it has the nickname of “Paris of the Orient”) and vibrant street life. Its varied cultural institutions, which include historic landmarks, walking streets, museums and galleries, attracts over 8 million international visitors each year. The most prominent structures in the city centre are the Reunification Palace, City Hall, Municipal Theatre, City Post Office, State Bank Office, City People’s Court and Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was constructed between 1863 and 1880. The city also has various museums including the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Museum of Vietnamese History, the Revolutionary Museum, the Museum of south-eastern Armed Forces, the War Remnants Museum, the Museum of Southern Women, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Nhà Rồng Memorial House, and the Bến Dược Relic of Underground Tunnels.
Vietnam is one of the oldest cultures in Southeast Asia, with a convoluted history that has been influenced by Chinese, Khmer and Indian dynasties, as well as French colonialism and of course the “American War” of the 1960s and 70s. Luckily it has risen from these strifes to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. These days the country is known for its incredible natural beauty, trademark street food, friendly people, beautiful beaches, motorbike adventures, floating markets, superb coffee, traditional festivals and so much more!
Of course we are here for the birds! And what a place to be for birds! A global biodiversity hotspot, Vietnam boasts 19 endemic species and another 39 near-endemic species, the largest number of any country in mainland South-East Asia. It also boasts distinct subspecies groups found nowhere else. Mention Vietnam to anyone who has spent time birding in the country or is perhaps planning a birding trip to Vietnam in the future and the names of two particular bird families will surely come up, pittas and laughingthrushes. Of the pittas, Vietnam’s two near-endemic forest jewels, the striking Bar-bellied Pitta and the more understated, though equally desirable, Blue-rumped Pitta, will without doubt appear near the top of any birders wish list. The laughingthrushes are the other bird family synonymous with birding in Vietnam with three striking range-restricted species, Orange-breasted, Golden-winged and Collared, endemic to the highlands of central parts of the country. An extraordinary further 25 species and subspecies of laughingthrush occur in Vietnam!
Our first destination on the trip is probably Vietnam’s most famous birding locale. Cat Tien National Park contains the largest remaining area of lowland tropical forest in southern Vietnam and an incredible diversity of birds and mammals. Endangered birds found at Cat Tien include Germain’s Peacock-pheasant, Green Peafowl and the elusive Orange-necked Partridge while the mammal list includes Leopard Cat, Lesser Mousedeer, Gaur and three beautiful primates, namely Black-shanked Douc Langur, Silvered Leaf-monkey and Red-cheeked Gibbon.
We will get together for our Nature Travel Birding welcome dinner in our accommodation’s restaurant and set out our target species for the trip, ensuring all participants a fantastic time.
We are in for a treat in terms of food on this trip! Traditionally, Vietnamese cuisine is based around five fundamental taste “elements”: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes also make extensive use of lemongrass, ginger, mint, coriander, cinnamon, chilli, lime and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil and reliance on herbs and vegetables; it is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. Vietnam also has a strong street food culture, with 40 popular dishes commonly found throughout the country. Enjoy!
After dinner we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow the birding tour starts in earnest!
Day 2,3 & 4:
Cat Tien National Park
We have three full days of birding at Cat Tien National Park!
There are excellent trails starting right at the park headquarters while areas further afield such as Crocodile Lake can be reached by park jeeps.
As mentioned before, the 720 km2 park protects one of the largest areas of lowland tropical forests left in Vietnam. The park was protected initially in 1978 as two sectors, Nam Cat Tien and Tay Cat Tien. Another sector, Cat Loc, was gazetted as a rhinoceros reserve in 1992 upon the discovery of a population of the Vietnamese Javan Rhinoceros, an occasion that brought the park into the world’s eye. The three areas were combined to form one park in 1998. Parts of the park area suffered historically during the Vietnam War when it was extensively sprayed with defoliant herbicides. However, substantial further damage was done by logging up until the 1990s. To this day these areas have extensive bamboo and grassland cover and trees have not yet grown back.
The park contains five main habitat types. These include primary evergreen forest, primary and secondary mixed or deciduous forest, secondary forest with abundant bamboo species, bamboo forest (40% of the park area) and seasonally flooded grasslands. The fauna of Cat Tien includes over 100 mammal species, 120 reptile and amphibian species and about 130 species of freshwater fish. The park supports nearly 460 species of butterflies and numerous other fascinating insects.
The park boasts a bird list of over 350 species. Spectacular avian delights to be found in Cat Tien include Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Orange-necked Partridge, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pitta, Dusky, Black-and-red and Banded Broadbill, Orange-breasted Trogon, Great, Oriental Pied and Wreathed Hornbill and many more.
Also, Cat Tien is woodpecker heaven, with 17 species on the park list, including Heart-spotted, Pale-headed, Black-and-buff, Great Slaty and White-bellied Woodpecker among many others.
Some more birds to look out for include Lesser Adjutant, Milky and Woolly-necked Stork, Oriental Darter, Great Eared and Large-tailed Nightjar, Osprey, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard, Black Baza, Collared Falconet, Brown Boobook, Asian Barred Owlet, Collared Scops Owl, Blyth’s Frogmouth, Red Junglefowl, Green-legged Partridge, Oriental Pratincole, Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, Banded Bay and Violet Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha, Banded, Stork-billed and Blue-eared Kingfisher, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Red-vented, Coppersmith, Lineated and Blue-eared Barbet, Blossom-headed and Red-breasted Parakeet, Golden-crested Myna, Vinous-breasted Starling, White-throated Rock Thrush, Indochinese Roller, Oriental Dollarbird, Grey-faced Tit-Babbler, Scaly-crowned, Abbott’s and Puff-throated Babbler, Blue-winged Leafbird, Siberian Blue Robin, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Indochinese Blue Flycatcher, Rufescent and Yellow-bellied Prinia, Crimson and Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, and many more.
Mammals to look out for while we are here include Asian Elephant, Sun Bear, Gaur, Sambar Deer, Lesser Mouse Deer, Malayan Pangolin, Malayan Porcupine, Binturong, Common Palm Civet, Javan Mongoose, Coastal Striped Squirrel, Black-shanked Douc Langur, Silvered Leaf-monkey, Red-cheeked Gibbon, Long-tailed Macaque and many others.
Overnight every night will be at Cat Tien National Park, where before we go to bed we will enjoy a fabulous dinner and update our trip lists.
Cat Tien National Park to Di Linh
This morning we will be up early for coffee and breakfast, after which we check out and jump into the vehicle.
There is time for some final early morning birding at Cat Tien National Park before heading up Highway 20 to the cooler climes of the Dalat Plateau.
The afternoon is spent birding at a forested mountain pass known locally as Deo Suoi Lanh, a short drive from the town of Di Linh. The famous pass (at least in birding terms!) is basically a montane evergreen forested area along the road from Di Linh to the seaside town of Phan Thiet. The best birding is between the 80 km and 75 km road markers.
Deo Suoi Lanh is a great place to become acquainted with some of the Dalat Plateau specialities including Black-headed Parrotbill and Orange-breasted, Black-hooded and White-cheeked Laughingthrush.
Other birds to look out for here include Green Cochoa, Vietnamese Cutia, Jerdon’s Baza, Collared Owlet, Grey Nightjar, Bar-backed Partridge, delacouri subspecies of Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, annamensis subspecies of Red-headed Trogon, Maroon Oriole, Indochinese Barbet, Spot-throated and Buff-breasted Babbler, Clicking Shrike-babbler, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Mountain and Flavescent Bulbul, Siberian Blue Robin, divinus subspecies of Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue-winged Minla, Swinhoe’s and Scarlet Minivet, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, annamensis subspecies of Black-throated Bushtit, Arctic and Yellow-browed Warbler, Blyth’s and Kloss’s Leaf Warbler, Speckled Piculet, Verditer Flycatcher, klossi subspecies of Hainan Blue Flycatcher and many others.
We will overnight at our comfortable hotel in the town of Di Linh.
Di Linh to Dalat
We will return to Deo Suoi Lanh after breakfast for a full morning of birding.
Other exciting possibilities to look out for here include Bar-backed Partridge, Blue Pitta, Indochinese Green Magpie and Spotted Forktail, among many others.
After lunch continue north along Highway 20 to the bustling old French hill resort of Dalat and start exploring some of the exciting birding sites around town.
The city (sometimes spelled Da Lat) is located 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level on the Langbian Plateau. Da Lat is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. The city’s temperate weather stands in contrast to Vietnam’s otherwise tropical climate. Mist covering the valleys almost year-round leads to its name “City of Eternal Spring”. Residents and tourists have said that Dalat has all four seasons in one day: spring in the morning, summer at noon, autumn in the afternoon and winter at night, from the sunset to the sunrise!
With its year-round cool weather, Dalat supplies huge amounts of temperate agriculture products for all over Vietnam, including cabbage, cauliflower, artichoke, tea, wine, persimmon and coffee. Dalat is known regionally for avocado ice-cream and for its large garment market, with a broad selection of cool-weather clothing.
We will overnight at Dalat at a very comfortable hotel for the duration of our stay on the plateau.
Day 7,8 &9:
Three days of birding in the montane evergreen and coniferous forests around Dalat includes visits to the three main birding areas of the plateau, namely Mount Lang Bian (the classic forest location of the plateau), the shores of Ho Tuyen Lam (a big lake about 5 kilometres south of the city) and the well-known Ta Nung Valley.
The Dalat Plateau is one of the endemic hotspots of South-East Asia (the Plateau is an endemic bird area recognised by BirdLife International, one of five in Vietnam) and is home to many unique species and subspecies including Dalat Shrike-babbler, annamensis subspecies of Long-tailed Minivet, Annam Prinia, Dalat Bush Warbler, Black-crowned Fulvetta, Orange-breasted and Collared Laughingthrush, Grey-crowned Crocias, johnsi subspecies of Black-throated Sunbird, annamensis subspecies of Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird and Vietnamese Greenfinch.
Other local specialities include lowei subspecies of Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Red-vented, Necklaced and Indochinese Barbet, Rusty-naped and Blue Pitta, margaritae subspecies of Common Green Magpie, legendrei subspecies of Green-backed Tit, remotus subspecies of Ashy Bulbul, Black-throated Bushtit, Black-headed Parrotbill, Vietnamese Cutia, Black-hooded and White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Black-headed Sibia, orientalis subspecies of Blue-winged Minla, meridionalis subspecies of Hume’s Treecreeper, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, langbianensis subspecies of Lesser Shortwing and Red Crossbill.
Other birds to look out for during our stay here include Silver Pheasant, Crested Goshawk, Grey-faced Buzzard, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Oriental Scops Owl, Yellow Bittern, White-browed Crake, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Barred Cuckoo-Dove, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Greater Yellownape, Bay Woodpecker, Indochinese Cuckooshrike Lesser Coucal, Eurasian Jay, Maroon and Slender-billed Oriole, Siberian Thrush, Burmese Shrike, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Streaked Spiderhunter, Mountain Tailorbird, Grey-bellied Tesia, Black-crowned Barwing, Pygmy Cupwing, Hill Prinia, White-throated Fantail, Large Niltava, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Mugimaki, Rufous-browed and Little Pied Flycatcher, and many others.
We will overnight at Dalat every evening, update our lists, have dinner and socialise.
Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City and Departure
We will enjoy a final morning of birding (after another superb breakfast at our hotel) around Dalat before the leisurely day drive back to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
At the airport we will say our goodbyes after our fantastic time together in fantastic Vietnam. Hope to see you again very soon!
*Optional extensions to Northern Vietnam can be arranged – you will then continue your birding tour from Dalat to the northern part of this amazing country.
Get in touch with one of our team members for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org