3 day/ 2 night gibbon trek at Nam Cat Tien, Cat Tien National Park Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City and The South
This two night experience will give you a fantastic opportunity to see wildlife in Vietnam and also to understand the conservation work going on at Dao Tien gibbon centre where there is an ongoing programme of release for captive and rescued gibbons.
Travel from Saigon and journey north to Nam Cat Tien national park, one of Vietnam's last surviving protected forested areas and home to some key endangered species including pygmy slow loris, yellow-cheeked gibbons, sun bears and guar.
The journey itself takes around 5 hours from Saigon and brings you through a number of bustling dusty towns teeming with motorbikes along the way. Drive past rubber and coffee plantations, and even spot fish farms on the river. Pass through Dong Nai, a town with a large Christian population and with a large number of Catholic churches - the churches are gigantic and are built in a strange modernist style in bright colours and with huge statues. A number of Cao Dai temples can also be seen along the way as the religion is popular in south Vietnam.
Journey more and more off-the-beaten-track down winding roads until you reach the ferry to cross the river into the park area. After the brief river crossing you are taken to the Forest Floor Lodge, where you check into your accommodation for the evening.
The trek to see the yellow-cheeked gibbons begins around 4.45 the following morning and your local guide will bring you from the Lodge into the jungle while it is still dark. The yellow-cheeked gibbons are an endangered species of primate native only to Cambodia and southern Vietnam and is notoriously shy of humans. Walk through the trees until you reach a clearing where you can listen out for the gibbon song. Gibbons only sing for around 12 minutes each day and so your guide will help you to follow the gibbons and spot signs of their activity in the forest. The park is also home to a number of other species including macaques, langurs, civets and mouse deer and if these are not spotted scent markings or footprints can sometimes be found along the trails.
The park has rich plant and bird life too and the thick jungle is full of tropical plant species and palm trees which make for an atmospheric walk through the forest.
Return to the Forest Floor Lodge about 8am although this can really vary depending on how active the gibbons are on any given day. In the afternoon you can take a boat across to Dao Tien island where the Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST) carry out conservation work in rescuing captive, injured or pet gibbons and rehabilitate them for possible return to the wild. You cannot get close to the enclosures as the gibbons should not become accustomed to human presence, but can clearly view them from the pathways in the centre.
Overnight at Forest Floor Lodge. The following morning there is an opportunity to repeat the early morning trek in order to sight the gibbons again and further explore the park's flora and fauna.
Please note that this tour is only operated in the dry season (October to May). This is not a trek for the faint-hearted and takes a relatively good level of physical fitness.
The highlight of the trip for us was the Bassac cruise on the Mekong Delta, met some lovely people, ate wonderful food, had a fascinating insight into life on and around the river by the Bassac guide Anh Tou.