Birding Tour Vietnam: Southern and Central Vietnam Endemics and Specialties
Birding Tour Vietnam: Central and Southern Vietnam Endemics and Specialties
This exclusive small-group (maximum six people) birdwatching tour of Central and Southern Vietnam starts and ends in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. The tour focusses on finding as many of the endemic and specialty birds of the region and provides excellent opportunities for anyone wanting to photograph Asian birds.
Bar-bellied Pitta, one of the stunning targets on this exciting tour (photo Phuc Lee)
We will visit the well-known sites of Cat Tien National Park, the Da Lat and Di Linh Plateaus, Mang Den, and Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve as well as some less-well-publicized sites for specific target birds. By being in a small group we will be able to utilize a series of bird blinds (hides), which will allow for some excellent photographic opportunities and close-up views of some of the key species outlined below. A small group will also be beneficial when birding within the forest environment, enabling everyone to stand a higher chance of gaining great views of the many birds that are possible on this very exciting tour.
Some of the key species we will look for during the tour include, but are certainly not limited to, Bar-bellied Pitta, Blue-rumped Pitta, Blue Pitta, Rusty-naped Pitta, Siamese Fireback, Silver Pheasant, Green Peafowl, Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, Orange-necked Partridge, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Indochinese Barbet, Necklaced Barbet, Green Cochoa, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush, Golden-winged Laughingthrush, Red-tailed Laughingthrush, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Indochinese Fulvetta, Dalat Shrike-Babbler, Black-crowned Barwing, Indochinese Wren-Babbler, Indochinese Green Magpie, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Vietnamese Greenfinch, Vietnamese Cutia, Grey-crowned Crocias, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, and plenty more.
The striking Indochinese Green Magpie is often seen on this tour (photo Phuc Lee).
This tour combines perfectly with our Southern Thailand: Jewels of the South tour, which runs immediately before this Vietnam birding tour. It offers some exceptional birds and compliments this tour incredibly well. Located just a short flight from Ho Chi Minh it is very easy to join these two tours together for even more incredible birds and birding experiences.
Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)
Day 1: Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
We’ll arrive at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport and transfer to our hotel, with the rest of the day at leisure. We will have a group welcome meal in the evening.
Overnight: Ho Chi Minh City
Day 2: Travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Cat Tien National Park
After breakfast we will head northeast to Cat Tien National Park, one of the best-protected lowland forest reserves in Vietnam and all of Indochina. We will arrive for our three-night stay at lunchtime, and we will have the afternoon to start our exploration of the area.
Overnight: Cat Tien National Park
Days 3 – 4: Cat Tien National Park
Cat Tien was the first national park to be established in southern Vietnam. The park has an impressive list of bird species, more than 300 species, including several globally endangered species and Indochinese endemics, such as Blue-rumped Pitta, Bar-bellied Pitta, Siamese Fireback, Green Peafowl, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Banded Kingfisher, Grey-faced Tit-Babbler, Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, and (with luck) Orange-necked Partridge.
Other species we will hope for during our stay include Orange-breasted Trogon, Banded Broadbill, Black-and-red Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Violet Cuckoo, Great Hornbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Woolly-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, White-crested Laughingthrush, Great Eared Nightjar, Large-tailed Nightjar, and Blyth’s Frogmouth. In addition to birds Cat Tien’s forests are an important refuge for Black-shanked Douc, one of the most colorful and least-known primates in Asia, and Red-cheeked Gibbon and we will look for both.
Overnight: Cat Tien National Park
Seeing Banded Kingfisher is always a highlight.
Day 5: Cat Tien National Park to Da Lat
We will have a final morning birding at Cat Tien National Park before we head north to the Da Lat Plateau during the afternoon. We will arrive in time for our evening meal.
Overnight: Da Lat
We will look for Blue-rumped Pitta during the tour (photo Phuc Lee).
Days 6 – 7: Da Lat Plateau
We have two full days to explore the excellent birding sites around Da Lat, and we will focus on Ta Nung Valley, Ho Tuyen Lam (Tuyen Lam Lake), and Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park.
Ta Nung Valley is a small remnant evergreen forest patch, where we will look for the rare and endemic Grey-crowned Crocias along with White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Blue-winged Minla (a distinct local subspecies), Rufous-backed Sibia, Black-headed Sibia, and Black-throated Sunbird, all of which can be found here.
Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park is one of the five largest national parks in Vietnam. Vietnamese endemics found here include Black-crowned Fulvetta and Collared Laughingthrush. Other target birds in this national park include Rusty-naped Pitta, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, White-spectacled Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Kloss’s Leaf Warbler, Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird, Spotted Forktail, Hume’s Treecreeper, Grey-bellied Tesia, and a very distinctive endemic subspecies of Red Crossbill.
Collared Laughingthrush is a beautiful Vietnamese endemic (photo Phuc Lee).
Ho Tuyen Lam (Tuyen Lam Lake) is a man-made lake just outside the town. Vietnamese endemics found here include Vietnamese Cutia, Grey-crowned Crocias, and Vietnamese Greenfinch. Other target birds from this area could include Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Black-headed Sibia, Black-headed Parrotbill, Burmese Shrike, Black-collared Starling, Vinous-breasted Starling, and Slender-billed Oriole, as well as many others.
Overnight: Da Lat
Day 8: Da Lat Plateau to Di Linh (Nui San Pass)
We will have a final morning of birding around the Da Lat area. Later we will drive to Nui San Pass (Deo Suoi Lanh near Di Linh town), a forested pass along the road from Di Linh to Phan Thiet. This is the most reliable site for the endemic Orange-breasted Laughingthrush and the near-endemic Black-headed Parrotbill, along with Blue Pitta, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Red-vented Barbet, and hopefully one of the most beautiful birds in the region, Indochinese Green Magpie.
Overnight: Di Linh
Day 9: Di Linh (Nui San Pass)
We will have a full day birding at Nui San Pass to look for Blue Pitta, Indochinese Green Magpie, Black-crowned Parrotbill, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Red-vented Barbet, Bar-backed Partridge, Collared Babbler, Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, Silver Pheasant, Rufous-backed Sibia, Maroon Oriole, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, and Red-headed Trogon.
Overnight: Di Linh
Blue Pitta is a stunning bird, and we hope to see it during the tour (photo Phuc Lee).
Day 10: Di Linh to Mang Den (via flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Pleiku)
We will make the most of a final morning of birding at Nui San Pass. After lunch we will drive back to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport to connect with our flight to Pleiku airport, Kon Tum Province in Central Vietnam. After arrival at Pleiku we will drive to Mang Den, our first birding stop in Central Vietnam.
Overnight: Mang Den
Day 11: Mang Den
We will spend a full day birding at Mang Den, where the recently discovered endemic Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush is the star bird and the main target. Other specialties of Mang Den, of which there are many, include Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Indochinese Wren-Babbler, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Rufous-faced Warbler, and Grey-headed Parrotbill.
Overnight: Mang Den
We will search for Black-hooded Laughingthrush while at Mang Den (photo Phuc Lee).
Day 12: Mang Den to Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve
There will be time for some early morning birding at Mang Den before we head north to Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve. This is a really special area where two species new to science (Golden-winged Laughingthrush and Black-crowned Barwing) were described as recently as the 1990s! These new species were originally found by BirdLife International expeditions to the remote Mount Ngoc Linh (2,598m), which is the highest peak of the Central Highlands.
Overnight: Tu Mo Rong
Day 13: Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve
We will have a full day of birding at Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve. The main targets here are Black-crowned Barwing, Indochinese Fulvetta, Red-tailed Laughingthrush, and the very elusive Golden-winged Laughingthrush. Other specialties are possible, including Green Shrike-babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Red-tailed Minla, Black-throated Parrotbill, Green Cochoa, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, and Rusty-capped Fulvetta.
Overnight: Tu Mo Rong
One of our targets at Ngoc Linh Nature Reserve is Black-crowned Barwing (photo Phuc Lee).
Day 14: Ngoc Linh National Park to Son Tra Peninsula
After some final birding in the Ngoc Linh area we will drive to the Son Tra Peninsula near the city of Da Nang. Here we will look for one of the most spectacular monkeys on the planet, the Red-shanked Douc. There are bound to be plenty of birds around too.
Overnight: Da Nang
Day 15: Son Tra Peninsula, flight to Ho Chi Minh City, tour concludes
The final morning of the tour will be spent bird and mammal watching at the Son Tra Peninsula. After lunch we will fly back to Ho Chi Minh City, where the tour will conclude back at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in the midafternoon.
Overnight: Not included
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Central and Southern Vietnam: Endemics and Specialties
Our Central and Southern Vietnam: Endemics and Specialties extra-small-group tour – with a maximum of just six participants, concentrates on finding the endemic and special birds of the region, with top targets including Bar-bellied Pitta, Blue-rumped Pitta, Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, Orange-necked Partridge, Golden-winged Laughingthrush, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Black-crowned Barwing, Indochinese Green Magpie, Vietnamese Cutia, and many more! We will spend time birding in forest on foot and sat in blinds (bird hides) waiting for secretive species to show, and this will provide good photo opportunities. The tour covers a range of altitudes and habitats to maximize the number of species recorded.
DAILY ACTIVITIES, PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS, AND TOUR PACE
This is a birding tour with a moderate pace. Time will be spent birding on forest trails and from blinds (hides) waiting for more secretive species to show (such as pittas, pheasants, and partridges). The heat and humidity in the south of the country is likely to be tiring for most people. There will be a fair bit of walking involved, with hikes of around 2.5 miles (four kilometers) on most days, but these are considered fairly easy on tracks, roads, and trails, with frequent birding stops made. There will be a few incline sections while we are birding in the mountains, such as for 0.6 to 1.2 miles (one to two kilometers). We will always take these slowly so that most people will be able to manage them. We will be in the lowlands for part of the tour (e.g. at Cat Tien), but we will also be birding at higher elevations, such as when we are birding at Da Lat and Ngoc Linh (e.g. up to an elevation of around 6,500 feet / 2,000 meters).
We will usually have an early and basic breakfast before birding, or we will take a boxed breakfast into the field. Our birding days will usually begin at around 05:30-06:00 hrs. Bird activity usually wanes during the middle of the day, and we will usually take a break at this time to have lunch and refresh, rest, and relax. We will then usually have an afternoon birding session prior to our group dinner. On some occasions during the tour, we are likely to go out after dinner (or push dinner a little later back) to look for owls and other nightbirds. Most walks will be optional, and should you wish to sit out any activities you will be able to rest at the accommodation.
There will be some three-to-four-hour drives and one longer drive of around seven hours during the tour as we move between birding locations. There are two domestic flights included in the tour, details of these are in the “Domestic Flights” information further down this document. The costs of these flights are included in the tour cost.
SPECIES RECORDING (BIRD LISTS AND ANIMAL LISTS)
Ahead of the tour we will email you a detailed daily itinerary complete with meeting/arrival instructions. We will provide you with a printed blank diary page within the itinerary document so that you can note down any names of birding sites that you may want to log.
On arrival in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), you will be provided with a printed version of the same itinerary. Each evening your tour leader will go through this with you to let you know any specifics to be aware of for the following day (e.g. clothes and equipment needed, breakfast time, time leaving hotel, key target birds we will be looking for, etc.).
Attached to the itinerary document will be a bird list and list of other animals possible on the tour (or a blank list to write them in). We follow the latest IOC (International Ornithological Congress taxonomy) for birds and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for all other animals recorded during the tour so all itineraries and checklists follow these taxonomies.
Each evening we will go through the daily bird and animal list, logging all the species from the day. The listing session is optional, we realize that some of our clients aren’t fussed about the listing aspect, but others are. If you do not want to take part in the nightly bird list that is perfectly fine, but it is a useful way to remember what was seen during the day, so recommended.
Birding Ecotours leaders maintain eBird checklists from all birding activities during a tour (from unexpected roadside stops to planned birding activities). Tour leaders will share these eBird lists with all participants who use eBird, if desired. Just make sure to provide your eBird user details to the tour leader at the beginning of the tour for us to be able to do this, unfortunately we can’t retrospectively go back and share past checklists after the tour.
After the tour you will be emailed a PDF copy of a trip report, this will be in the form of an illustrated daily diary and will include a complete checklist of all wildlife recorded. If the tour leader manages to get any interesting photographs these will be included in the trip report (if you get pictures and are willing to share those with others, we can sometimes include some of those photos too). Leader photos will also be added to our new Flickr page and will be added into a “trip report gallery” which you can view, download, and share.
PASSPORT AND VISA
Most visitors require a tourist visa to visit Vietnam, and these usually need to be obtained from a Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country. Visa on arrival may be possible with entry into certain airports (e.g. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City), but is not recommended for this tour. Please check specifics with your government/local Vietnamese embassy/consulate. We can provide you with a letter from a local sponsor, which is required to help your application process. We usually recommend starting the visa application process a couple of months before the tour start date.
Please make sure that you bring a photocopy of your passport with you on the tour, to be kept in a different location to your original passport, in case of loss/damage. This can be kept with other important documents such as vaccine certificate, emergency contact details, and insurance documents. Vietnamese law requires everyone to carry photo ID at all times, and the photocopy of your passport should be sufficient to satisfy this need. Your passport should be in a good (i.e. neat, clean, and tidy) condition, sometimes entry is refused or delayed if the condition of the passport is not considered appropriate by immigration officers.
Australian, United States (US), and United Kingdom/British (UK) citizens need to have at least six months’ validity remaining in their passports (one month for Canadian citizens) and all nationalities should have at least one blank page for the visa stamp. Refer to the information here for US citizens, here for UK citizens, here for Canadian citizens, and here for Australian and please check these websites for any recent changes to ensure you are suitably covered.
Citizens of other countries should check their own governments’ advice and contact their nearest embassies/consulates for up-to-date regulations and requirements.
As per our standard Terms & Conditions, we strongly recommend that you buy trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself against medical issues, accidents, illness, repatriation, loss of valuables or luggage, and travel interruptions or delays of all kinds.
HEALTH AND PESTS
Please consult your doctor/travel clinic regarding any vaccine requirements.
All travelers should be up to date with routine vaccinations and boosters, such as the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and the Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio vaccine. We also recommend that most travelers are vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, while some travelers should be vaccinated for Cholera, Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, and Tuberculosis, particularly those people with any underlying health issues. Please update yourself on the Covid-19 vaccination entry requirements ahead of the tour. No Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is currently required for Vietnam. Please check with your government that this is still the case at time of travel.
Insect repellent with a high DEET content is highly recommended for some of the areas we visit, primarily for the nuisance factor of mosquito and other insect pests. There is a low risk of Malaria in Vietnam (please consult your doctor on what action to take). However, biting insects and ticks can also result in other issues, such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Leishmaniasis, Zika, and Scrub (Bush) Typhus (a rash from Chiggers). Cream for reducing itchiness of bites is recommended.
Scratches from plants and bites from insects should be cleaned, treated, and covered quickly to avoid infection.
Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website here for further health issues to be aware of in Vietnam. The UK “Travel Health Pro” website provides important information for UK travelers going to Vietnam, here. Both the linked pages are worth studying prior to joining the tour to be better prepared.
Sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) should be carried, and a hat should be worn to protect from the powerful rays from the sun, with sunglasses to help prevent glare. A plentiful intake of water (please bring a reusable water bottle which we can fill daily with safe drinking water) is essential to maintain hydration – it is likely to be very humid when we are in the south of the country (e.g. at Cat Tien National Park).
Poor air quality is a significant public health concern in many areas of the world and the cities (particularly) in Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi can suffer from poor air quality at some times of the year. Please be aware of this if you have any underlying (particularly breathing/respiratory) health issues.
The standard of health services in Vietnam is much lower than what you will be familiar with at home. Bringing a supply of some of the following could be beneficial: hand sanitizer, antiseptic cream/wipes, plasters, antacid, diarrhea medicine (e.g. Imodium or Pepto-Bismol), antihistamine, motion sickness medicine, cough drops, cough suppression/expectorant, decongestant, medicine for pain and fever (e.g. acetaminophen, aspirin, paracetamol, or ibuprofen), mild laxative, mild sedative, and saline nose spray. Earplugs are always useful if you are a light sleeper.
The CDC website provides a full and detailed list of suggested items to pack that may help with your health and safety in Vietnam, this can be found here.
Please also be sure to check the “Dangerous Animals and Plants” section below.
Please make sure that you are covered with suitable medical insurance in case of an emergency while on the tour, because without insurance the cost for medical care is likely to be extremely high. As per our general Terms & Conditions, we require you to notify us at the time of registering for this tour of any medical conditions that we should know about (these should include, but not be limited to, walking/mobility issues, allergies, heart conditions, diabetes, epilepsy, long-term illnesses etc.).
DANGEROUS ANIMALS AND PLANTS
There are several dangerous animals to be aware of in Vietnam, these include Saltwater Crocodile, King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, White-lipped Tree Viper, Eastern Russell’s Viper, Many-banded Krait, Vietnamese Giant Centipede, Yellow Sac Spider, Weaver Ant, mosquito sp., Gaur (also known as Indian Bison), and bats (flying foxes). Care should be taken when walking in the forest, particularly where you put your hands and feet when moving through vegetation. Before putting your boots on in the morning check there is nothing hiding inside of them.
A special mention should be made for leeches. Our tour is during the dry season and therefore the chance of coming into contact with them is much reduced (though never impossible). They are an annoyance rather than being a health issue. Insect repellent sprayed on shoes and ankles usually helps to keep them at bay (as well as other annoying ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers). If you have “leech socks” they could be useful and can usually be purchased fairly easily online.
Many plants in the tropics protect themselves from being eaten by animals by growing sharp thorns, needles, and spikes, others use sharp appendages to allow them to grow and spread (e.g. some palms and creepers). Care should therefore be taken when walking through forest and not grabbing hold of any plants without first carefully checking them and watching out for clothes catching onto them.
FOOD AND WATER
Please do not drink the tap water while in Vietnam. Bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere (though please bring a refillable water bottle to try and reduce the amount of plastic waste). Ice is considered safe in high standard restaurants and hotels but should probably be avoided in rural areas or on street stalls. Beer and soft drinks are usually inexpensive and widely available. Wines and spirits (which are imported) are generally more expensive. Coffee and tea are commonly found across the country.
Vietnamese food definitely adds to the experience of a Vietnam birding trip, and is usually fresh and healthy. Vegetarian food is widely available too. Dishes are usually rice or noodle based and served with chicken, pork, beef, shrimps, or tofu. These dishes usually contain a hearty supply of fresh vegetables. Pho (a rice noodle soup) and Banh Mi (a baguette with filling) are two of the most popular foods. Western food is available in tourist areas and cities. Breakfasts are often simple and consist of bread or noodles. Following the tradition of much of Asia at lunch and dinner, a variety of dishes will be placed on our table (a mix of meat dishes and vegetarian dishes) and the group will share the meal.
Mealtimes are likely to be somewhat flexible depending on our birding/travel plans and so if you need to eat food at a specific time of day (e.g. to agree with medication you are on) you may need to bring snacks to supplement the above, such as cereal bars/protein bars, dried fruit etc. There may be the opportunity to grab some snacks from a convenience store while we are in the city at the beginning of the tour, but if you want items that are familiar then it is probably best to bring these from home.
The currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese đồng (VND/₫/đ). It is in the top three weakest global currencies circulating (as of May 2021). Frequently used bank notes come in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 200,000, and 500,000 đồng. Lower denomination notes of 50, 70, 100, and 200 đồng are rarely used. Coins are no longer minted or in active use but are still legal tender with coins of 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 đồng still occasionally floating about. At the time of writing (December 2021), one United States Dollar (USD/US$) is equivalent to approximately 23,000 đồng and one British Pound (GBP/£) equates to approximately 30,250 đồng.
Visa & Mastercard are widely accepted at restaurants, shops, and hotels in major towns and cities and can be used for drawing cash from ATMs (bank charges may apply). Check with your card supplier whether you need to notify them of your trip to Vietnam, so you don’t find your card doesn’t work.
It will be possible to exchange or draw money at the airports and in the various towns and cities we pass through during the tour. It is also possible to change money in banks, exchange bureaus, hotels, and even some shops. Cash will be useful for personal purchases for items not included in the tour costs and for any gratuities. See the full list of what is/isn’t included in the tour cost in the itinerary document here and in the green box on the left side of the tour page on the website.
Due to the location and size of Vietnam, the country has a complex climate. Our tour occurs during the dry season, which runs from December until April, though rain showers are always possible. This is considered the best time for birding in Vietnam.
In the lowlands, we can expect daytime temperatures in the region of around 86 – 95oF (30 – 35oC), with very high humidity likely. Nighttime temperatures will be lower, but still warm/hot. We will be birding at a range of elevations and therefore we are likely to experience a wide range of temperatures when at these higher elevations, such as 45 – 77oF (8 – 25oC) during the day, with cooler nighttime temperatures that may drop to as low as 40oF (5oC).
In Vietnam the power plugs and sockets are of Type A, C, and D. The standard voltage is 110 / 220 volts (V), and the standard frequency is 50 hertz (Hz). Adaptors are needed for most visitors from overseas, you may also need a voltage converter and should be careful with certain appliances that may use a different frequency. For further information, including photographs of the different plug sockets and information on whether you will require an adaptor/converter, please check here.
Cell (mobile) phone signal is likely to be available at most locations we visit on the tour (roaming charges might apply depending on your phone contract, check with your supplier that your phone will work in Vietnam). A less expensive alternative to using an international SIM card could be to purchase a local SIM card on your arrival at the airport, a local convenience store, or phone shop. Wi-Fi is usually widely available at all hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and coffee shops and might be sufficient for most people.
TRANSPORTATION AND SEAT ROTATION
We use modern, comfortable, air-conditioned vehicles during our Vietnam birding tours, such as a Ford Transit minibus or equivalent.
A seat rotation policy will be in place on this set departure tour, this will ensure everybody has equal opportunities within the vehicle throughout the tour. Motion sickness will not excuse you from our seat rotation policy and if you are prone to motion sickness you should ensure you bring the necessary medication.
We require that you are fit and flexible enough to maneuver yourself to the back of the vehicle when it is your turn to sit in that position. Tour participants should be mindful of the extra equipment they bring into the general seating area of the vehicle (rather than the luggage section) and should ensure they do not clog up general thoroughfare or extra seats with camera equipment, tripods, etc. from both a comfort and a health and safety perspective.
There are two domestic/internal flights included within the cost of the tour. The first flight will take us between Ho Chi Minh City and Pleiku, the second flight will take us from Da Nang back to Ho Chi Minh City. Please be aware that these domestic flights will likely have a weight restriction of 44 pounds (lbs) / 20 kilograms (kg) for hold luggage and 15 lbs/7 kg for hand luggage. If you exceed these limits your bag may be refused by the airline, or you might have to pay an additional fee (this fee will be the responsibility of the individual client and will need to be paid to the airline directly at check-in).
Due to restricted space in the vehicles and domestic flight baggage weight allowances (see “Domestic Flights” information above), please pack as lightly as possible for this tour. A medium, soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard sided cases) usually works best for packing in the vehicles. A daypack should be used to keep items that you wish to use daily when in the vehicle or in the field.
We will be staying in clean and comfortable accommodation throughout the tour, the rooms at Cat Tien National Park are simple. All rooms have air conditioning and/or a fan, private bathrooms with hot water, 24-hr electricity, and Wi-Fi. They are typical standard rooms used on a bird tour, not luxury rooms. Where “luxury rooms” are available we are able to upgrade to these (depending on their availability), for an additional charge. If you would like to ask about the possibility of upgrading your accommodation, please let us know. The tour is costed on a typical bird tour standard accommodation basis, deemed sufficient for most people.
WHAT TO BRING: CLOTHING
Loose, lightweight field clothing with green and brown colors works best for our birding activities and helps blend into the forest environments that we will spend most of our time in. Bright colors are to be avoided for birding attire, please (e.g. no pale colors, white, red, orange etc.). Given the potential insect issues (and fierce tropical sun) mentioned above, we recommend long pants/trousers and long-sleeved shirts (these can be rolled up should you get too hot). Shorts can be great for when you are relaxing around the accommodation but always be aware of biting insects and the strong rays of the sun.
You will also need to bring some warmer clothing, certainly a minimum of a warm fleece/jacket for early morning/evening when temperatures can be low, and when birding in the mountains. Something warm to sleep in for the nights when at higher elevation when temperatures could be cold is also advisable. Rain is always a possibility in Vietnam, so rain gear (and a small umbrella) is always useful to have on hand.
Casual and informal dress is fine in the hotels/accommodation. Swimwear can be useful as there may be opportunities to swim at some of the accommodations during the rest periods in the middle of the day. Sunglasses, sunhat, and sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) are useful.
We always recommend lightweight walking boots for when out on foot to give extra ankle support while walking and added protection against animal stings/bites. Sandals/trainers (tennis shoes) are useful for in the vehicles and for walking between your room and restaurant in the hotels and lodges.
WHAT TO BRING: OTHER ITEMS
Do not forget: Binoculars, field guide (see “Books” section below), flashlight (torch), prescription drugs (please bring the generic names for these drugs with you), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for the re-chargeable batteries, if required), converter plugs and plug adaptors if needed, alarm clock (or use your cell phone alarm setting), money pouch, suggested medical kit (as outlined in “Heath and Pests” section above), and daypacks.
Our tour leader/local guide will have a telescope for use during the tour. Most of the birding will be carried out in forest environments so we are unlikely to rely heavily on a scope during this tour, therefore it is probably not worth bringing your own scope, unless you like to “digi-scope/phone-scope”. The communal scope will be for everyone to look at the birds but not for taking photos through.
Other important items to remember to bring include: key travel documents, cash (or ATM/credit cards to draw money), passport, proof of vaccinations and your travel or health insurance cards – photocopies of all can be carried by the tour leader in case of emergency, US Dollars (US$) or British Pound Sterling (GBP/£) can be changed to Vietnamese đồng if you prefer not to simply draw from ATM’s, cash for anything of a personal nature that is not included within the tour cost.
To help with the checklist session, we recommend bringing two different colored pens and a 12-inch (30 centimeter) plastic ruler. Using different colors on alternate days makes the listing activity much easier!
You can read more on what to bring on a birding tour, on this blog post here.
Vietnam is a relatively safe country and has been ranked as one of the safest countries in the world for travelers. However, petty theft is a legitimate concern in the big cities/tourist areas, with drive-by snatchings (with items such as cameras, cell phones, and wallets/handbags being the main targets) being a frequent issue (for locals not just tourists). Please use safety/lock boxes, when provided in hotels, for storage of personal possessions like passports, money, jewelry, and any other valuable items and follow any advice given to you by the Birding Ecotours tour leader, our local guide, or the hotel staff.
If you arrive ahead of the tour or stay after the tour and would like to do some sightseeing by yourselves, please be aware of taxi scams (such as rigged meters, overcharging, confusing currency, and fixed prices). If you would like us to help organize any city sightseeing, please let us know. If needed, two trusted taxi companies appear to be Mai Linh and Vinasun and they can be found at the airport and your city hotel should also be able to help with reliable people.
Vietnamese is an Austroasiatic language that originated in Vietnam, where it is the national and official language. French is the most widely spoken foreign language in Vietnam but English has also attained popularity in the country, especially within the younger demographic. Our local guide will help translate between Vietnamese and English when needed.
There is one recently published field guide that we recommend for this tour. See our recommended field guide blog here, for further information covering the region:
Birds of Vietnam – Richard C Craik and Le Quy Minh (2018), Lynx Edicions. We suggest the Flexibound version of this book for use in the field during the tour, rather than the hardback version.
Other bird books that feature Vietnam include:
Birds of South-East Asia – Craig Robson (2018), Helm (Princeton in US).
Collins Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia – Norman Arlott (2017), William Collins (HarperCollins imprint).
Pocket Photo Guide to the Birds of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos – Peter Davidson (2016), Bloomsbury Publishing.
Other specific interest books:
Vietnam: A Natural History – Eleanor Jane Sterling et al. (2008), Yale University Press.
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali – Indraneil Das (2015), Bloomsbury Publishing.
A Photographic Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Lowland Monsoon Forests of Southern Vietnam – Anna B Vassilieva et al. (2016), Edition Chimaira.
Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia – Charles M Francis (2019), Bloomsbury Publishing. Second Edition.
A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – Chris R Shepherd and Loretta Ann Shepherd (2018), John Beaufoy Publishing.
Primates of Vietnam – Tilo Nadler and Diane K Brokman (2014), Endangered Primate Rescue Center, Vietnam.
Butterflies of Vietnam – Alexander L Monastyrskii and Alexey L Devyatkin (2016), Plan-o-rama Media Co. Ltd.
An Illustrated Guide to the Land Snails and Slugs of Vietnam – Dinazarde C Raheem et al. (2017), London Natural History Museum.
You can listen to and download many calls and songs of Vietnamese birds from the highly recommended xeno-canto website.
USEFUL APPS AND WEBSITE RESOURCES
eBird – there is a wealth of information contained on this website and the mobile app is now excellent and useful too. Photo, video, and sound galleries are available for practically every species in the world through The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library.
Merlin – an app that can help you identify birds by sight (from photos) and sound (from recordings) and is a useful tool to aid bird identification. The app is getting expanded all the time with new data and regional information so is worth keeping an eye on.
IOC World Bird List – this website contains all the latest details on the world of global bird taxonomy. You can read about newly described species, splits (creation of a new species) and lumps (deletion of a species) of existing species, and plenty of other important information.
Lonely Planet – contains a wealth of information on Vietnam. If you are interested in extending your stay in the country before or after the tour, this will help you find some must-see places.