Bustards Banter Logo

As intrepid Bustards helping others explore the world of birds, we often have to undergo the hardship of visiting new countries. Niall Perrins has such a misfortune of having to do a recce trip to Vietnam in March 2016. We will join the guide of one of the best birding companies in the country, Vietnam Birding. This is a once of chance to join this comprehensive trip at a discounted rate of $5,000 per person sharing.

Grand Vietnam Birding Escorted Tour

24 Days: Cuc Phuong National Park ♦ Van Long Nature Reserve ♦ Tam Dao ♦ Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park ♦ Bach Ma National Park ♦ Lo Xo Mang Den ♦ Yok Don National Park ♦ Dalat Di Linh ♦ Cat Tien National Park

Bar-bellied Pitta

Bar-bellied Pitta

Fri 4 Mar: Arrive Hanoi. Hanoi to Cuc Phuong National Park

Arrive at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport and transfer directly to Cuc Phuong National Park, a three-hour drive south of Hanoi. The first national park to be established in Vietnam, Cuc Phuong is an area of limestone hills covered in primary rainforest. The best birding is in the centre of the park where there are several excellent trails including the Loop Trail and the Valley Trail. The main road through the park can also be very productive especially for over-wintering thrushes early in the morning. Overnight at Cuc Phuong National Park HQ.

Sat 5 & Sun 6 Mar: Cuc Phuong National Park

Two full days of birding at Cuc Phuong where specialities include Pied Falconet, Bar-bellied, Blue-rumped and Eared Pittas, Silver-breasted Broadbill, White-winged Magpie, White-tailed Flycatcher, Fujian Niltava and Limestone Wren-babbler. Overnight at Cuc Phuong National Park HQ.

Mon 7 Mar: Cuc Phuong National Park to Tam Dao  

Leave Cuc Phuong after breakfast for the drive back to Hanoi stopping off at Van Long Nature Reserve en route. Take a sampan through flooded rice fields to the dramatic limestone cliffs that are home to the largest population of one of Vietnam’s critically endangered primates, Delacour’s Langur. During the winter months large numbers of waterfowl can be seen here as well as a raptor or two. Continue on to Hanoi and Tam Dao, a hill resort 60 km by road from the capital. Tam Dao’s specialities include several species that are more usually associated with China and cannot be seen elsewhere in South-East Asia such as the attractive Chestnut Bulbul and Grey Laughingthrush. Overnight at Gia Le Hotel, Tam Dao.  

Tue 8 & Wed 9 Mar: Tam Dao

Two days to explore the montane evergreen, bamboo and pine forests around Tam Dao town. Resident species here include Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey Treepie, Coral-billed and Streak-breasted scimitar-babblers, Rufous-headed and Short-tailed parrotbills and Collared Babbler. Winter visitors that may turn up between November and March include White’s, Grey-backed, Japanese, Eyebrowed and Black-breasted thrushes, as well as Fujian Niltava. Overnight at Gia Le Hotel, Tam Dao.

Sooty Babbler

Sooty Babbler

Thu 10 Mar: Tam Dao to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park via Hanoi & Hue

There is time for some early morning birding at Tam Dao before transferring to Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport for the short flight to Hue, in Central Vietnam. On arrival in Hue transfer by road to Phong Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Overnight at Saigon Phong Nha Hotel, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

Fri 11 Mar: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

A full day to explore the limestone forest of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The main targets here are the Indochinese endemic Sooty Babbler, which lives on the limestone outcrops, and the recently-split Limestone Leaf-warbler. Red-collared Woodpecker and Northern Brown Hornbill are among the other specialities at Phong Nha as well as an endangered primate, the Ha Tinh Langur. Overnight at Saigon Phong Nha Hotel, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

Sat 12 Mar: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to Bach Ma National Park

Leave Phong Nha after an early breakfast for the long drive south to Bach Ma National Park. After checking in at the park HQ accommodation there should be time for some afternoon birding. Overnight at Bach Ma National Park Summit Guest House.

Sun 13 Mar: Bach Ma National Park to Kham Duc/Lo Xo

A morning birding at Bach Ma National Park where targets include the endemic Annam Partridge and near-endemic Indochinese Wren-babbler. Leave Bach Ma National Park after lunch for the four hour drive south to Kham Duc on the newly constructed Ho Chi Minh Highway. In the late afternoon bird at the nearby Lo Xo Pass where the main target is the Indochinese endemic Black-crowned Barwing, only discovered in 1996. Overnight at Be Chau Giang Hotel, Kham Duc. 

Mon 14 Mar: Kham Duc/Lo Xo to Mang Den

There is time for a return visit to the Lo Xo Pass in the morning to look for other specialities of the area such as White-winged Magpie and Red-tailed Laughingthrush before continuing south down the Ho Chi Minh Highway to Mang Den. Overnight at Hung Yen 3 Hotel, Mang Den.

Tue 15 & Wed 16 Mar: Mang Den

Two full days for birding at Mang Den where the recently-discovered and seldom-seen endemic, Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush, is the main target. Other specialities of the Mang Den area include the scarce Pale-capped Pigeon, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Black-hooded Laughingthrush and Indochinese Wren-babbler. Overnight at Hung Yen 3 Hotel, Mang Den.

Thu 17 Mar: Mang Den to Yok Don National Park

Depart Mang Den after an early breakfast for the long drive south to Yok Don National Park in Daklak Province. Arrive in time for lunch at the park canteen before setting out to explore the banks of the Srepok River and the dry deciduous forests of Yok Don. Specialities here that are not easily seen elsewhere in Vietnam include Fulvous-breasted, Rufous-bellied and Black-headed woodpeckers, Alexandrine and Blossom-headed parakeets, White-rumped pygmy-falcon, Rufous Treepie and the recently described and near endemic Mekong Wagtail. Overnight at Yok Don National Park HQ Guest House.

Fri 18 Mar: Yok Don National Park to Dalat

Early morning birding at Yok Don before the scenic drive south to to Dalat, a former French hill station at the southern extreme of the Central Highlands. Arrive at Dalat in the late afternoon in time to make the first of several visits to the Ta Nung Valley, a small but bird-filled area of remnant evergreen forest 10 km from Dalat. This is the most accessible site for two rare Vietnamese endemics, Grey-crowned Crocias and Orange-breasted Laughingthrush. In addition to these two beauties, the very distinct local subspecies of Blue-winged Siva, Black-headed Sibia and Black-throated Sunbird can found here. Overnight at Dreams Hotel, Dalat.

Sat 19, Sun 20 & Mon 21 Mar: Dalat

There are several other excellent birding sites around Dalat. At Mount Lang Bian, a 2,169 m high peak 20 minutes from Dalat, Hume’s Treecreeper, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Grey-crowned Tit, Vietnamese Cutia and Black-crowned Fulvetta are found in the remaining evergreen forest below the summit. The most sought-after species here however is the beautiful and skulking endemic Collared Laughingthrush. Ho Tuyen Lam, a man-made lake just out of town, is a great place to look for some of the local pine specialists including Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Slender-billed Oriole, Burmese Shrike, Red Crossbill and Vietnamese Greenfinch. Overnight at Dreams Hotel, Dalat.

Grey-headed Crocias

Grey-headed Crocias

Tue 22 Mar: Dalat to Di Linh

Leave Dalat after a final morning of birding and head to Di Linh, a two-hour drive from Dalat. A short drive from Di Linh town a forested mountain pass known as Deo Suoi Lanh is an excellent site to look for several Dalat Plateau specialities including Black-hooded, White-cheeked and Orange-breasted laughingthrushes and the near-endemic Black-crowned Parrotbill. After an afternoon’s birding at Deo Suoi Lanh return to Di Linh for the night. Overnight at Mai Khanh Hotel, Di Linh.

Wed 23 Mar: Di Linh to Cat Tien National Park

An early morning visit to Deo Suoi Lanh to look for other exciting possibilities that could includeBlue Pitta, Indochinese Green Magpie, Spotted Forktail and Green Cochoa, before continuing along Highway 20 towards Cat Tien National Park. Cat Tien National Park contains the largest remaining area of lowland tropical forest in southern Vietnam and an incredible diversity of birds and mammals. Endangered birds found at Cat Tien include Germain’s Peacock-pheasant, Green Peafowl and the very elusive Orange-necked Partridge while the mammal list includes Leopard Cat, Lesser Mousedeer, Sambar, Gaur and two endangered primates, Black-shanked Douc Langur and Buff-cheeked Gibbon. Overnight at Cat Tien National Park HQ Guest House.

Thu 24, Fri 25 & Sat 26 Mar: Cat Tien National Park

Three days of birding at Cat Tien National Park. There are excellent trails starting right at the park headquarters and for areas further afield such as Crocodile Lake jeeps are used. Local specialities of the park include the near-endemic Germain’s Peacock-pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied pittas, Orange-necked Partridge, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, White-bellied, Great Slaty, Pale-headed, Black-and-buff and Heart-spotted woodpeckers, three species of broadbill and the Indochinese-endemic Grey-faced Tit-Babbler. Overnight at Cat Tien National Park HQ Guest House.

Sun 27 Mar: Cat Tien National Park to Ho Chi Minh City. Depart Ho Chi Minh City

There is time for some final early morning birding at Cat Tien National Park before driving back to Ho Chi Minh City and transferring to Tan Son Nhat International Airport for departure flight.

Tour price:

A minimum of 4 Persons: 5,000 US dollars per person in a twin room

Single room supplement:

505 US dollars

Tour inclusions:

• Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle with driver

• Accommodation as mentioned in the itinerary in a twin share room including breakfast

• Services of professional Vietnam Birding birding guide/escort throughout

• All entrance fees and permits

• Boat hire at Van Long Reserve

• Jeep hire at Mount Lang Bian & Cat Tien National Park

• Compulsory park guide fees at Phong Nha & Yok Don national parks

• Complimentary mineral water throughout

• Domestic flight on Vietnam Airlines from Hanoi to Hue

Tour exclusions:

Vietnam visas. Please ensure you have a valid visa before your departure for Vietnam. Visas are available from your nearest Vietnam embassy or consulate or on arrival with prior arrangement through www.vietnamvisacenter.org

Personal travel insurance. Note it is essential to take out a travel insurance policy that includes medical evacuation for travel in Vietnam

International flights to/from Vietnam

Meals, drinks, telephone calls, laundry, tips and any other expenses not mentioned under ‘Tour inclusions’

---