Cat Tien National Park offers visitors an opportunity to discover nature and contemplate the beauty of mountains, glass-plots, forests of high trees, waterfalls and diversified ecosystems with rare plant and animal species. An insight by the Nhan Dan (People) online newspaper.

Cat Tien National Park, located about 150km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, is the largest and most attractive ecotourism destination in the southeast region.

It features special tourism activities such as bird-watching, camping, boating and green tourism. It covers a vast area of more than 72,000ha and belongs to three provinces: Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc. Unlike other well-known national parks such as Cuc Phuong, Bach Ma and Ngoc Linh, Cat Tien boasts a terrain of forest and mountain, along with diversified natural scenery.

The climate at the park includes two seasons, the dry from December to April and the rainy, from May to November.

The park contains mainly lowland forests and swamp, forming different habitats, such as evergreen and semi-deciduous forests, freshwater wetlands, lakes, large areas of bamboo, grassland and flooded forests. It is of international significance for its biodiversity values. To date, it has been confirmed that the park is home to 1,610 species of flora, comprising 724 branches, 162 families, and 75 groups. Among these, 34 species are listed in the Vietnamese Red Book.

The range of fauna within Cat Tien National Park includes 77 mammals, 318 birds, 58 reptiles, 26 amphibians and 130 fishes, many of which are endemic to Vietnam and Indochina. Many of the animals in the park are listed in Vietnam’s Red Book and the IUCN Red Book. Among the large mammal species whose presence has been confirmed in the park are Javan rhinoceros, gaur, Asian elephant and the lesser one-horned rhinoceros, all of which are at risk of extinction.

With these natural advantages, the park has begun offering attractive tours to allow visitors to discover the park.

Travellers to Cat Tien National Park will learn about centuries-old trees like a 700-year-old redwood (Afzelia xylocarpa) tree, a 400-year-old Tung tree (Tetrameles nudiflora) and a Crape-myrtle (Lagerstroemia) tree through the Bang Lang tour. Bird-watching tours are also popular among those who are interested in ecotourism.

There are 318 bird species in the park, typifying biological diversity as well as rare genetic types for scientists to explore and research. With those natural features, the centre for ecotourism is building tours for scientific research. For a bird-watching tour, there are teams that register as long as two years in advance to choose the optimal time of in a year to see the birds. Those tours are mainly for scientists who study the flora and fauna of the forest ecosystem.

One of the trademarks of Cat Tien National Park is a nocturnal animal tour that offers visitors an opportunity to see the wild animals in their natural habitat. In the untouched forest, sunk in darkness, the centre’s specialised vehicles transport visitors to a green pasture, wet with dew. From 8–9 pm tourists can relax while looking for wild boars chasing each other through the night or for stags and deer grazing freely around the park.

Visitors may come across crocodiles in the Bau Sau. During the rainy season, the pond's area swells to 2,000ha while in the dry season, it is only 200ha. Therefore, during the dry season it is necessary for visitors to take a 5km walk out to the wetland to see amphibians and reptiles in the wild.

In addition to ecotourism tours, visitors can opt for cultural tours which discover Oc Eo cultural relics and visit Ma and S'tieng ethnic villages in Ta Lai Commune.

On November 10, 2011, Cat Tien National Park was recognised by UNESCO as the 411th World Biosphere Reserved Zone. On August 4, 2005, the Secretariat of Ramsar Convention recognised Bau Sau Wetlands (belong to the park) as the 1,499th Ramsar Site of the world with total area of 13,759ha (of which 5,360ha are seasonal wetlands and 8,399 are year-round wetlands).-VNA