Fed by the Srepock River, a major tributary of the Mekong River that flows from the Central Highlands into northeastern Cambodia, Dray Nur and Dray Sap waterfalls are worth the trip out from Buon Ma Thuot. As the bird flies, Dray Nur and Dray Sap waterfalls are almost side by side but because of a broken bridge unlikely to be repaired any time soon, you have to travel 23 kilometres nearly full circle to see both.
Dray Nur is the more impressive and beautiful of the two and if you only have time for one, opt for this one. There’s the usual parking pad with souvenir shops and concrete cafes but the falls themselves, which are quite stunning, have been left natural except for a bridge. Rocks on the left hand side get you up close for a great photo, as does the suspension bridge – just follow the path at the water’s edge. The falls are a popular place for picnics so unfortunately this means heaps of rubbish left behind. However, it was a pleasant surprise to see staff cleaning it all up at the end of the day. We were told the water remains strong flowing even in dry season and that swimming was not allowed and too dangerous, except in a less than appealing looking lagoon to the left. Even without swimming, Dray Nur and the pretty drive is worthy of the journey.
Due west of Dray Nur is Dray Sap but to get to it, you’ll have to return north to the main road QL14, head east 5.4 kilometres and take the side road back south for another 5 kilometres.
Once you get to the parking pad, walk down a series of stairs and follow a 600-metre long trail to the falls. The attractive falls are seen from a distance from the marshy, rocky water’s edge, and there’s no swimming here either. The big disappointment is the tons of rubbish from all the picnics. If you have time, then why not head to both Dray Nur and Dray Sap. If you set out early, it’s also possible to visit Ban Don and both falls in one day.
On a side note, when we visited Dray Nur in October 2015, the sun was starting to set and we were about to depart to check out Gia Long waterfall, which is only a few kilometres away. When we asked three different locals about Gia Long, all three strongly advised against going, especially at that time of day. We were told Gia Long was not being managed any more so there was no security and it had all overgrown, making it quite wild – and as they pointed out, probably had many snakes. While they didn’t cite specific examples, all three voiced concerns about possible robbery. Were there incidences? Is it paranoia? Or is it just being sensible? Perhaps all three. Paying for parking at every tourist site does wear on your nerves, but on the flipside that means your motorbike is secure. And if you’ve been in Southeast Asia long enough, you should know that leaving a motorbike unattended, even locked in the countryside, is still risky. So if you do want to check Gia Long out, we suggest you do it in the daytime with at least a few friends. And watch out for snakes.
And just when we thought things couldn’t get stranger, a local Ede man also told us a little history about the falls. The original “Dray Sap” waterfall was actually Gia Long. The original Dray Sap had become famous, then a few decades ago, someone bought the naming rights and used it for the present day falls. Of course, we couldn’t verify the authenticity of this story yet somehow we don’t doubt it.
To get to Dray Nur, from Buon Ma Thuot head southwest (in the direction of Ho Chi Minh City) on QL14 for 15 kilometres. Once in Hoa Phu district, look for a sign indicating it is 12 kilometres to Dray Nur and turn left. Continue 10 kilometres south on a pretty undulating rural road, passing through Buon Kuop village (known locally as Knuop). At the junction you’ll see an old billboard for Gia Long waterfall and Dray Nur waterfall. Turn right, and it’s an additional 1.6 kilometres to the entrance. It’s open daily from 06:00 till 17:00, admission 30,000 dong, motorbike parking 5,000 dong. The local bus can only take you as far as QL14 and you’ll have to hire a motorbike taxi to take you the remaining 12 kilometres. In Buon Ma Thuot catch it from the roundabout, on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street close to the church. The blue and white bus No 13 (look for destination “Krong No”) runs every 20 minutes from 06:00 till 16:30. It should cost no more than 30,000 dong.
To get to Dray Sap, continue further west on QL14, crossing the river into Cu Jut district, and turn south. From QL14 it’s 5.5 kilometres to the entrance (along the way you’ll pass the turnoff for small Trinh Nu waterfall). Open daily from 07:00-17:00, admission 30,000 dong, motorbike parking 5,000. By local bus, in Buon Ma Thuot catch it from the roundabout, on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street close to the church. The blue and white bus No 13 (look for destination “Krong No”) runs every 20 minutes from 06:00 till 16:30. It should cost no more than 30,000 dong. The bus will take you to within 1.5 kilometres to the entrance where you can walk or get a motorbike taxi for no more than 30,000 dong.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.