Cuc Phuong National Park is in Ninh Binh Province of Vietnam. It is Vietnam’s largest national park and one of the most important biodiversity sites in the country. It is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna.
The park can be visited from Hanoi as a day trip or visitors can stay at the park’s lodgings for a longer stay. Visiting the park is a terrific opportunity to get a close look at Vietnam’s nature. Fees generated from tourism help protect the parks wildlife and improve the local economy. The best time of the year to visit the park is during the dry season, from Nov-Feb.
120 km southwest of Hanoi on 22,200 hectares of rainforest, Cuc Phuong National Park is the centrepiece of Vietnam’s conservation efforts and one of the most accessible parks in the country. Vietnam’s first and largest national park, Cuc Phuong's beauty and a few of its thousands of species of plants and animals can be seen with the help of a park ranger. If you’re not interested in hiking up and down the karst mountains, a good alternative is the easy but rewarding trip to the primate and turtle rehabilitation and breeding centres.
In 1960 Cuc Phuong was made into a forest reserve and in 1962 Cuc Phuong National Park was dedicated by Ho Chi Minh, who reminded the Vietnamese people that protecting the environment protects their future. But mankind's relationship with Cuc Phuong began long before Ho's visit. The remains of prehistoric humans dating 7,000-12,000 years ago have been found in the numerous caves in the park. In 1789 the Quen Voi section of the park was the site of a major battle in the civil war between Nguyen Hue and Thanh Long. More recently, conflicts have emerged between the government and 2,500 Muong ethnic minority tribesmen who live, farm, and hunt in the park. In 1987, 500 Muong were relocated outside of the park and international conservation groups have worked to eliminate poaching by employing locals in the park and selling Muong handicrafts in gift shops.
Cuc Phuong is in the foothills of the northern Annamite Mountains. The park consists of verdant karst mountains and lush valleys. Elevation varies from 150-656 m (500-2,152 ft) at the summit of May Bac Mountain, or Silver Cloud Mountain. The limestone formations produced numerous caves, many of which are accessible for exploration.
Flora and fauna
Cuc Phuong is home to a large range of flora and fauna. Inhabitants of the park include 97 species of mammals, most notable are the endangered langurs; 300 species of birds; 36 reptilian species; 17 species of amphibians; 11 species of fish; 2,000 species of vascular plants, and thousands of species of insects, most of which do not bite. A number of species in the park are listed on Vietnam Red Book of endangered species.
Primates in the park include macaques, gibbon, Francois' leaf monkey and slow loris. Other mammals including bats, porcupine, flying squirrel, small striped squirrel, belly-banded squirrel, and the rare giant black squirrel. In the past Asiatic black bears, wild dogs, and tigers have been spotted in Cuc Phuong, but over-hunting and lack of prey have jeopardized the existence of these species within the park. Leopard, clouded leopard, and jungle cat may still stalk prey in Cuc Phuong.
Bird species include bar-backed partridge; scaly-breasted partridge; silver pheasant; red jungle fowl; grey peacock-pheasant; laughing thrushes; red-vented barbet; green-eared barbet; scimitar-billed babblers; brown hawk owl; scarlet minivet; racket-tailed drongos; racket-tailed magpie; white-winged blue magpie. Migrant species include thrushes, flycatchers, tits, finches, pipits amongst others. Hornbills can also be spotted in the forest. An endemic sub-species of subterranean cave fish is also located in the park.
Mosquitoes and leeches are present in the park, but they are not as bad as you may imagine and repellent keeps at least the mosquitos away. Flora in the park includes multi-layered canopy with trees up to 70 m in height.; flowers, including orchids; ferns with amazingly tall leaves; and an abundance of lianes and cauliflory. The park also contains plants used as spices and medicines as well as edible fruits, nuts, and shoots.
The average temperature in Cuc Phuong is 21 Celsius (70 F), with a mean winter temperature of 9 C (48 F). High temperatures can reach above 30 C (85 F) and lows are just above 0 C (32 F). At the low elevations in the valley the temperature is hot and humid while at higher elevations the temperature drops and frostbite is a threat. On average it rains more than 200 days a year. The average annual rainfall is 2,100 mm (7 ft). The dry season is Nov-Feb, the driest months being Dec-Jan.
From Hanoi: Visitors can travel to Cuc Phuong National Park via Hanoi’s Giap Bat Bus Terminal, the city’s southern bus terminal. Hop on a bus going to Nho Quan, the town nearest the park. There are several buses in the morning and afternoon and tickets will cost roughly 60,000 dong. From Nho Quan you can catch a motorcycle taxi to the park headquarters for about 50,000 dong. The total travel time is 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours.
An alternative is to book a trip with one of the many travel agencies in Hanoi who can arrange convenient and comfortable, yet pricy, trips to the park. If you plan on making only a day trip to the park, then it’s best if you go through a travel agency, but if you’re going to stay for one or more nights then the public bus option is viable.
From Ninh Binh City: From Ninh Binh a motorcycle taxi to the park’s headquarters will cost approximately 100,000 dong and a hired car is 350,000-450,000 dong.