Vietnam has been rapidly expanding the number of national parks in the country and there are now almost 30. There is also an expanding array of nature reserves, numbering more than 30 today. There are plans to increase and improve existing parks and nature reserves, as all too many of them remain lines on maps and are not properly protected. Most of Vietnam's national parks are seldom visited by travellers, who tend to get stuck on the 'must-see' tourist trail, without the time or wanderlust to explore the parks. Access can be problematic with some parks hidden in remote areas, but others are easy to reach. For those who make the effort to seek them out, national parks reveal a whole different face to Vietnam. They also have the added appeal of being among the few places in Vietnam where tourists are unlikely to be hassled to buy anything. However, if you are wanting a bit of peace and quiet to soak up the serenity and splendour, it is better to visit parks during the week, as hordes of Vietnamese descend during the weekend. The most interesting and accessible parks are Cat Ba National Park , Bai Tu Long National Park , Ba Be National Park, Hoang Lien National Park and Cuc Phuong National Park in the north;Bach Ma National Park in the centre; and Cat Tien National Park and Yok Don National Park in the south.
All of the parks levy some sort of admission charge, but it is usually very reasonable at around 10,000d or less than US$1. Most of the parks have accommodation available, most often a mix of rooms and bungalows, and camping is sometimes possible if you have your own gear. more than 15,000 hectares of tropical evergreen forest, plenty of hidden beaches and a spot of surf. Ba Be National Park features spectacular waterfalls and is accessible by hired 4WD or motorbike from Hanoi. Hoang Lien National Park was recently created to protect the landscape and peoples around Sapa. Cuc Phuong National Park is less visited, but easily reached from Hanoi and offers great hiking, plus an amazing array of rescued primates that are being rehabilitated. Bach Ma National Park, near Hue, receives far fewer visitors than its attractions deserve, but is demonstrating good potential for responsible ecotourism. Cat Tien National Park, in the southern part of the central highlands, is relatively easy to reach from HCMC or Dalat, and very popular with birdwatchers. Also in the central highlands is Yok Don National Park, which is home to many elephants and local minority tribes. One other park in the south that is a must for any serious birder is Tram Chim Nature Reserve , east of Chau Doc in Dong Thap province. This is home to the magnificent rare eastern sarus crane and one of only two nesting sites in the world, the other at Ang Trapeng Thmor in northwest Cambodia.
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