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Despite being one of the most naturally diverse countries in Asia, Vietnam tends to be more well known for its culinary delights, interesting history and fairytale scenery. But the range of climates and habitats here enables a diverse array of plant and wildlife. Did you know you can spot gibbons at Cát Tiên National Park? And that Vietnam is home to threatened species like tigers, Asiatic black bears, elephants, Orca whales and wild dogs?
However, Vietnam is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world which, in turn, puts pressure on this biodiversity. We’re always working to ensure that our experiences make a positive impact on you, our destinations and the animals that live there. So, we need your help to be our eyes and ears on the ground while you travel throughout Vietnam.
National Parks in Vietnam
National Parks offer some great opportunities to experience the feel of the jungle and spot some amazing wildlife up close. It’s important though that these activities don’t interfere with the animals and habitats.
Cát Tiên National Park
Located in the South of Vietnam, this UNESCO biosphere reserve is rich in wildlife and a fantastic place for bird watching. Explore by foot, bike or boat along the Dong Nai River and you also might be lucky enough to spot some Golden cheeked Gibbons which have been reintroduced to the park. Until recently, the park was well known for its small population of Javan rhinoceros, but they are now, sadly, almost certainly extinct. Cat Tien is also doing some wonderful work with rehabilitating rescued bears, Asian leopards, crocodiles, gibbons, and langur – all of which you can witness in their rehab centres.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
This UNESCO listed National park is home to hundreds of endemic species. It’s home to a recorded 154 mammals, 117 reptiles, 58 amphibians, 314 birds and 170 fish. You are required to use a licensed tour operator if you wish to hike here and witness these wonderful creatures in their natural surroundings.
Cuc Phong National Park
One of the oldest National Parks in Vietnam, Cuc Phong National Park attracts visitors from far and wide. Hidden deep in its dense forest are rare animals and plant species including Clouded leopards, bears and langurs. Bird enthusiasts will be in their element, with 336 different species documented. Head to the Endangered Primate Rescue Center and the Turtle Conservation Center, around 2km from the entrance, for guaranteed sightings of animals.
A few tips on visiting National Parks responsibly:
Keep your distance
Don’t forget that these are wild animals that you are observing in their natural habitat, so it’s best to keep a safe distance and encourage others to do so too. It can be tempting to get a bit closer for that perfect photo, but keeping a respectful distance is crucially important for the safety of you and the animals too.
Don’t feed the animals
It goes without saying that feeding wild animals can create an unnatural and dangerous association with humans. Don’t be tempted to lure wildlife closer with snacks, and always refrain from chomping on your own food while you venture through the parks.
Leave nothing behind
Sure, this is the golden rule of travelling everywhere, but it is especially important when viewing animals in the wild. As the number of visitors to parks increases, so does its impact on the environment. Never drop litter or cigarette butts and remember, you’re a visitor in someone else’s home!
Be careful with cameras & phones
Of course, you want to capture these wildlife encounters, but take care when using cameras and mobile phones. Predators can often feel the pressure of imposing photographers which can interfere with their hunting and feeding habits. Never force a photo opportunity, be sure to turn your phone to silent and never use flash photography.
Animal Welfare in Vietnam
Animal captivity can take lots of different shapes and sizes. In most cases, captivity focuses on allowing the public to either view or interact with animals; whether it’s in zoos, circuses or in street performances and entertainment. Here are some top tips to remember on your trip to Vietnam:
Don’t be tempted to swim with dolphins
As ‘happy’ as the animals look, it can actually be a very stressful situation for dolphins and other marine life. Captive environments can’t live up to the freedom of the sea and are simply unable to meet the natural needs that cetaceans require and desire.
Research your sanctuary or projects
Many zoos keep animals in poor or basic conditions, so always opt for sanctuaries or projects that have specialist breeding programmes which ultimately aim to release animals back into the wild.
Don’t pay for that selfie
Many animals kept in captive environments have been snatched from the wild and are often declawed, mistreated, or drugged to ‘behave’ around tourists.
Don’t ride wild animals
Wild animals, such as elephants, are often poached from the wild and endure cruel methods, like ‘breaking their spirit’ in order to give rides and perform for tourists. To learn more, find out why we said no to elephant riding.
Don’t support animal performances
Be aware that most animal performances rely on creatures being kept in poor conditions and trained to perform humanised behaviour or tricks, such as riding bikes or painting.
Eating & shopping responsibly
One of our favourite parts of travelling is sampling the local cuisine. However, there are some dishes on the menu that should be avoided, like shark fin soup, turtle soup or snake whiskey. We also suggest avoiding any ‘medicinal’ goods that are made from wild animal products, such as bear bile and tiger claws.
The production of palm oil is one of the biggest causes of deforestation and habitat loss for many animals across the world. We recommend avoiding buying products containing unsustainable palm oil. In products, it’s often disguised as “vegetable oil” so be sure to read labels carefully.
Protecting animals in Vietnam
If you’re ever concerned about the welfare of an animal while on your Vietnam travels, remember… never take direct action yourself and always be aware of the risks to yourself and the animals.
If you spot anything worrying during one of our organised experiences, we suggest bringing it to the attention of your guide at the time or, alternatively, let your Travel Specialist know and we’ll work with our local partner to investigate the issue.
If you spot anything worrying while travelling independently (i.e. not part of our organised experiences), we suggested contacting the appropriate local authorities, or our friends at World Animal Protection.
We hope you feel empowered by the information we’ve shared with you! Thank you for helping us make the world a better place for animals.
For even more Vietnam travel tips, head to our travel guide below.