In 1962 Vietnam’s first national park was established around a narrow valley between forested limestone hills on the borders of Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh province, containing over two hundred square kilometers of tropical evergreen rainforest. Cuc Phuong is well set up for tourism and sees a teary stream of visitors, attracted principally by the excellent primate rescue centre, but also by the easy access to impressively ancient trees. With more time, you can walk into the park interior, overnight in a Muong village and experience the multi – layered forest. The most enjoyable time for walking in these hills is October to January, when mosquitoes and leeches take a break and temperatures are relatively cool – but this is also peak season. Flowers are at their best during February and March, while April to May are the months when lepidopterists can enjoy the “butterfly festival” as thousand of butterflies colors the forest.
Even now the park has not been fully surveyed but is estimated to contain approximately three hundred bird species and ninety mammal species, some of which were first discovered in Cuc Phuong, such as herd-bellied squirrels and a fish that lives in underground rivers. Several species of bat and monkey, including the critically endangered Deaconry’s langue, inhabit the park, while bears and leopards roam its uppers reaches. Hunting has taken its toll, though and you’re really only likely to see butterflies, birds and perhaps a civet cat or a tree squirrel, rather than the more exotic fauna. What you can’t miss, though, is the luxuriant vegetation including 1000 year old trees (living, as well up to 70m high), tree ferns and kilometer – long corkscrewing lianas, as well as a treasure-trove of medicinal plants.
Much is made of Cuc Phuong’s prehistoric caves, the most accessible of which is Dong Nguoi Xua, only 300m from the road, 7km from the park gate. Joss sticks burn in the cave mouth near three tombs estimated to be over 7000 years old but there’s nothing to see that justifies the sheepish climb, if you decide to go, bring a torch for the upper reaches, and watch out for some decidedly dangerous steel staircases.
What to Do ?
First place to visit at Cuc Phuong National Park is the Visitor's Center, where we can find general information about Cuc Phuong. Dozens of trails cut through the forest make different trekking type from simple to strenuous one. Then we also choose the route to the Cave of Prehistoric Man, the Botanical Garden, the Endangered Primate Rescue Center or homestay with Muong minority people. A trip to nearby Van Long is possible to combine.
When to go ?
The best time to visit the Park is in the dry months from October to March. From April to June it becomes increasingly hot and wet, from July to September, the rains arrive and bring lots of leeches.
The trails in the park can be slippery, especially after rains. Make sure to bring sturdy shoes, raincoats, torch, antiseptic and some bandages. With environment around, please dispose of trash properly, "left nothing except your foot steps". If staying at Muong village, please be aware that accommodation is in basic condition. Mattresses and mosquito nets are provided.