Not far from the hustle and bustle of the Mekong Delta is a little-known gem of world recognized importance - Tram Chim National Park. The impressive unspoiled nature reserve will take you back in time before the effects of modern humans and agriculture shaped the land. Fill your lungs with the fresh forest air as you relax on a tranquil float down the emerald wetland landscape. Discover the flourishing gardens of protected ecosystems and endangered wildlife while on your Mekong Delta tour.
Tram Chim National Park is located 40km north of Cao Lanh, a city well known for its sweeping pastel pink lotus lakes and inviting smiling locals. The area is surprising un-touristy and offers a peaceful escape from the bustling towns in the heart of the river delta. Cao Lanh is also a great stepping stone to Xeo Quyt Relic a fascinating ecological and historical site.
Lotus field in Cao Lanh (Source: Internet)
Tram Chim national park
Established in 1985, the National Park stretches over an area of almost 7590 hectares; the vast leafy wetlands offer a relaxing sanctuary to its wildlife and visitors. Meander down the canals on a pleasant boat trip drinking in the beauty of the tropical paradise. You can also enjoy your adventure by walking the trails to see what nature you can spot!
Most guided boat tours in Tram Chim have solar-powered engines to reduce the noise admission and minimize disturbance to the inhabitants. The quiet, untouched landscape is only disturbed by the subtle splashing of fish at the surface of the calming water and the song bird's tune. The lush green water has over 150 species of freshwater fish flowing through it.
The green canals of Tram Chim National Park (Source: Internet)
Tram Chim National Park, sometimes referred to as the green world, is home to over 220 different species of birds. It holds one-quarter of Vietnam's bird population, including the extremely rare Red-headed cranes. The Red-headed crane also known as the Sarus crane is considered an extremely loyal bird, they remain faithful to one partner throughout their lives and even after death! After their partner has passed away, the other will go on a voluntary hunger strike to die alongside them.
The elegant creatures stand at an impressive 1.7m tall, making them the tallest species of flightless bird. The Red-headed cranes have a distinct ruby colored head, grey body, and a slender beak. The inconspicuous cranes can be spotted with a little bit of patience, particularly at dawn. Witness the buzz of movement of the birds in search of food and as they make their way back to their nests at the red light of sunset.
Unfortunately, it might be one of your last chances to catch a glimpse of these intriguing creatures as they are currently on the brink of extinction. Sarus cranes are classified as vulnerable and are on the red list along with many other species found in this reserve. The entire Sarus Crane population worldwide is estimated at only 15,000.
Most of the birds migrate to North West Cambodia in June and return for the winter in December. The best time to visit is between December and May.
The rare Red-headed Crane (Source: Internet)
What else is on offer?
A small village is located in the center of the park that boasts a tall observation deck that provides a bird's eye view of the surrounding canals. Engage with the locals and learn more about their fascinating culture and lifestyle from the people who know it best. The village is a great pit stop to grab some delicious local cuisine and relax in a swaying hammock.
Xeo Quyt Relic
Another attraction close by that should be on any nature lover's must-see list on the Mekong Delta tour is the Xeo Quyt Relic, 35km Southeast of Cao Lanh city. The 52-hectare forest is one of the last natural forests remaining and has profound historical significance. From 1960 to 1975 the woods were used as bases for the Viet Cong, the remains of their bunkers are still visible. Preserved in the wildness of the wood, visitors can sail down the calm waters on a traditional Sampam, a small locally made boat.
You can spot over 170 species of plants, 12 species of wild trees and a selection of reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals. Endangered animals can be located such as the thought-provokingly named mold python and box turtle, both unfortunately featured on the red list.
Enjoy the sounds of nature and the canopy of thick swooping trees surrounding the narrow canal loop, hanging like an emerald curtain, providing much-needed shade from the relentless tropical climate. The twenty-minute boat tour costs only 15,000 VND.
Xeo Quyt Forest (Source: Internet)
However, if you explore deeper by foot into the forests winding trails, you can attempt to squeeze into the tiny Z and L shaped Viet Cong bunkers. The intimate bunkers would have had around 10 Viet Cong soldiers present at a time. Explore the huge underground network made up of stores, bomb shelters and extensive tunnels, which were directly under the American noses, only 22km away from the former US military base. Xeo Quyt suffered from many attacks during the war but was able to remain intact due to the dense forest that protected the soldiers. The site was recognized as a historical relic in 1992.
Xeo Quyt Relic (Source: Internet)
On your Mekong Delta tour, you can experience local specialty dishes such as grilled snakehead fish served with young lotus leaves, vegetables, and herbs. Its Vietnamese name is Cá lóc nướnng trui cuốn lá sen non. It is made by grilling the wild snakehead fish with a blend of herbs and spices. It's cooked till tender then wrapped in locally sourced crunchy lotus leaves and served with a sweet and sour fish sauce dip. Their local favorites are grilled frog, roasted mouse, and eel with sour soup!
Traditional grilled Snakehead fish (Source: Internet)
Tram Chim National park and Xeo Quyt Relic are great ecotourism additions to your Mekong Delta tour. Their preserved beauty and unique wildlife is otherworldly!