Cuc Phuong National Park
Wildlife and caves
What we say:
Cuc Phuong National Park was established in 1962 and consists of over 200km of tropical forest and many grottoes. This reserve is rich in wildlife and natural beauty although it has suffered at the hand of logging companies. It also possesses historical significance as prehistoric tools were discovered in 1974 in two of the park's grottoes, Hang Dang and Con Mong, and ancient tombs were discovered in another grottoe, Nguoi Xua. This cave is reached by a long staircase and contains many stalactites in bizarre shapes. Some of the other caves are inhabited by thousands of bats.
While there is no guarantee you will see many animals during your visit, the Park offers some stunning walks and the serenity of the places makes a welcome change from busy Vietnamese cities. You're required to hire a guide before entering the park, so you may opt to take one from Ninh Binh -- no doubt your guesthouse or hotel will able to recommend one. once there, be sure to pick up a copy of their newly issued and very informative Visitor's Guide.
If you're planning on doing the park in a day trip, drive to the Park's center (a 20km beautiful drive from the Park's entrance) and walk the 8km loop trail that leads you to the 1000 year old tree. Beware of leeches during raining season. Alternatively if you've got more time, you can spend the night in one of several areas. There are several bungalows, stilt houses and even homestays in a Muong village to choose from. There's lots of scenic trails, a Visitor's Center and an Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) with about 130 monkeys near the Park's entrance.
Accommodation in a homestay costs US$5, stilt house from US$6, camping US$2 (you'll need your own tent) and bungalows from US$15-25.
Entrance to the Park costs 40.000 Dong, the EPRC 10.000 Dong.
If you have time on the way back to Ninh Binh, you can stop at the Kenh Ga floating village or the Van Long nature reserve, both are located a few kms before Highway 1. Van Long nature reserve offers the same scenery as in Tam Coc with Cuc Phuong's animals thrown in, and the boat trips are much less touristy than in Tam Coc or Bich Dong.
It is possible to visit the park as a very long day trip from Ninh Binh but you will spend most of the day travelling. You can arrange a car from one of Ninh Binh's hotels, or better still a motorbike, and do it on your own. To get there, it is about a three hour ride. The first part of the road branching off Highway 1 has been upgraded, but some stretches are still in appalling condition. Take a good map from the Thuy Anh Hotel, since the way to the park is not very well indicated.
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