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.
The park 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 grotto, 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. There are lots of scenic trails, a Visitor's Centre and an Endangered Primate Rescue Centre (EPRC) with about 130 monkeys near the park's entrance.
If you're planning on doing the park in a day trip, drive to the park's centre (a 20km beautiful drive from the park's entrance) and walk the 8km loop trail that leads you to the 1,000 year old tree. Beware of leeches during rainy season. Alternatively if you've got more time, you can spend the night in one of several areas in the park: there are several bungalows, stilt houses and even homestays in a Muong village to choose from. Check out the website for up to date information about accommodation prices.
Entrance to the Park costs 20,000VND, the EPRC 30.000 VND -- make sure you buy your ticket at reception before going to the centre.
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 kilometres 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 Trang An.
It is possible to visit the park as a long day trip from Ninh Binh but you will spend most of the day travelling -- the 52 km drive will take a couple of hours each way. Take a good map since the way to the park is not very well indicated. Alternatively stay overnight. If you aren't visiting Ninh Binh but are travelling to Cuc Phuong directly from Hanoi you can drive via the Ho Chi Minh Highway, rather than Highway 1. It's a bit further but more attractive and not as busy.
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