Day 1: 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. Stop off at Van Long Nature Reserve 30 km before the entrance to Cuc Phuong in the late afternoon. Here a sampan ride through flooded rice fields leads to the dramatic limestone cliffs that are home to the largest population of one of Vietnam’s critically endangered primates, Delacour’s Langur. There are usually large numbers of waterbirds at Van Long including several species of ducks, waders, bitterns, herons and egrets as well as White-browed Crake and a raptor or two. Overnight at Cuc Phuong National Park HQ.
Days 2 & 3: Cuc Phuong National Park
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. There are two full days to search for Cuc Phuong specialities such as Pied Falconet, Bar-bellied, Blue-rumped and Eared Pitta, Silver-breasted Broadbill, White-winged Magpie, White-tailed Flycatcher, Fujian Niltava and Limestone Wren-Babbler. Overnight at Cuc Phuong National Park HQ.
Day 4: Cuc Phuong National Park to Tam Dao
A full morning of birding at Cuc Phuong before heading back to Hanoi and then on to the hill station of Tam Dao. Overnight at Tam Dao.
Days 5 & 6: Tam Dao
Two full days to explore the trails above Tam Dao town leading through nice montane evergreen and bamboo forest. Specialities at Tam Dao include Purple and Green Cochoas, Chestnut Bulbul, Grey Laughingthrush, Coral-billed and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers and Greater Rufous-headed and Short-tailed Parrotbills. Winter visitors that may turn up here between December and March include Black-breasted, Japanese, Eyebrowed and Grey-backed Thrush and Fujian Niltava. Overnight at Tam Dao.
Day 7: Tam Dao to Phong Nha National Park via Hanoi & Hue
There may be time for some early birding before transferring to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport to catch the short flight to Hue, a UNSECO World Heritage Site in Central Vietnam. On arrival, transfer by road from Hue to Phong Nha National Park. Overnight at Phong Nha.
Day 8: Phong Nha National Park
A full day to explore the limestone forest of Phong Nha National Park. The main target here is the Indochinese endemic Sooty Babbler, which lives on the limestone outcrops. Siamese Fireback, Red-collared Woodpecker and Brown Hornbill are among the other specialities of Phong Nha.. Overnight at Phong Nha.
Day 9: Phong Nha National Park to Bach Ma National Park
Leave Phong Nha after breakfast for the long drive south to Bach Ma National Park. Bach Ma, where the Annamite Mountain Range meets the sea, is home to several Vietnamese and regional endemics including Annam Partridge, Silver Pheasant, Red-vented Barbet, Blyth’s Kingfisher, White-winged Magpie and Indochinese Wren Babbler, formerly known as Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler. Overnight at Bach Ma National Park HQ.
Days 10 & 11: Bach Ma National Park
Two full days of birding at Bach Ma National Park. Overnight at Bach Ma National Park HQ.
Day 12: Bach Ma National Park to Kham Duc/Lo Xo
Leaving Bach Ma National Park after breakfast it is a drive of around four hours to Kham Duc on the newly constructed Ho Chi Minh Highway. There should be time for a first visit to the Lo Xo Pass in the afternoon. Overnight at Kham Duc.
Day 13: Kham Duc/Lo Xo
A full day birding around the nearby Lo Xo Pass in search of the Black-crowned Barwing, an Indochinese endemic that was only discovered in 1996. Other specialities of the area include Brown Hornbill, White-winged Magpie, Yellow-billed Nuthatch and Red-tailed Laughingthrush. Overnight at Kham Duc.
Day 14: Kham Duc/Lo Xo to Ho Chi Minh City via Danang
After a final morning visit to the Lo Xo Pass transfer by road to Danang Airport to take the afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. On arrival at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport transfer to a hotel for overnight. Overnight at Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 15: Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat
Transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport for the short flight to Dalat, a former French hill station in the Central Highlands. In the afternoon 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 the rare and endemic Grey-crowned Crocias. Black-hooded, White-cheeked and Orange-breasted Laughingthrush as well as the recently split Black-crowned Parrotbill may also be found here. Other possibilities here include the very distinct local sub-species of Blue-winged Minla, Rufous-backed and Black-headed Sibias and Black-throated Sunbird, Jerdon’s Baza, Blue Pitta and the beautiful yellow-breasted form of Indochinese Green Magpie. Overnight at Dalat.
Days 16, 17 & 18: Dalat
In addition to the wonderful Ta Nung Valley there are two other main birding sites around Dalat – Mount Lang Bian and Ho Tuyen Lam. Mount Lang Bian, is a 2,169 m high peak 20 minutes by road from Dalat. Wintering Mugimaki Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Grey-crowned Tit, Vietnamese Cutia, Black-crowned Fulvetta and Vietnamese Greenfinch can be found in the pine and montane evergreen forest here. The most sought-after species at Lang Bian however is the beautiful and skulking endemic Collared Laughingthrush. Ho Tuyen Lam is a man-made lake, just 3 km from the centre of town. At the far end of the lake there are tracks leading through pines to areas of remnant tropical evergreen forest. Burmese Shrike, Slender-billed Oriole, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Vietnamese Cutia, Red Crossbill and Vietnamese Greenfinch can be found in the pines while the evergreen forest is home to Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Black-hooded, White-cheeked and Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, Grey-crowned Crocias and Black-crowned Parrotbill amongst others. Overnight at Dalat.
Day 19: Dalat to Di Linh
There is time for some early morning birding around Dalat before driving to the small town of Di Linh, two hours to the south of Dalat. A good road leading to the coast branches off from Di Linh and a forested mountain pass 20 minutes along this road is home to several Dalat Plateau specialities including Black-hooded, White-cheeked Laughingthrush and Orange-breasted Laughingthrush as well as the Indochinese endemic Black-crowned Parrotbill. The afternoon is spent birding along the road returning to Di Linh for the night. Overnight at Di Linh.
Day 20: Di Linh to Cat Tien National Park
An early start to return to the mountain pass at Di Linh where other exciting possibilities include Blue and Rusty-naped Pitta, Indochinese Green Magpie, Spotted Forkail and Green Cochoa. Later in the morning continue to Cat Tien National Park, a couple of hours’ drive away. Cat Tien National Park contains the largest remaining area of lowland tropical forest in southern Vietnam and an incredible diversity of birds and mammals including over 330 bird species. Endangered birds found here include Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, Green Peafowl and the very elusive Orange-necked Partridge. Mammals that may be seen along the trails include Leopard Cat, Eurasian Wild Pig, Lesser Mousedeer, Sambar, Red Muntjac and Gaur as well as two endangered primates, Black-shanked Douc Langur and Buff-cheeked Gibbon. Overnight at Cat Tien National Park HQ.
Days 21, 22 & 23: Cat Tien National Park
A full three days of birding along the road and forest trails at Cat Tien National Park. Jeeps are used to visit areas further afield such as Crocodile Lake where Green Peafowl, Grey-headed Fish Eagle and Lesser Adjutant may be seen. The 5 km walk through the forest to Crocodile Lake is one of the best places to look for Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pitta as well as Red-and-Black and Banded Broadbill and Orange-breasted Trogon amongst others. Other specialities at Cat Tien include Scaly-breasted Partridge, Siamese Fireback, Germain’s Peacock Pheasant, White-bellied, Great Slaty, Pale-headed and Black-and-Buff Woodpecker, Red-vented Barbet, Woolly-necked Stork, and Grey-faced Tit-Babbler. Overnight at Cat Tien National Park HQ.
Day 24: Cat Tien National Park to Ho Chi Minh City. Depart Ho Chi Minh City
A final morning of birding along the forest trails or the surfaced road through Cat Tien National Park where Green-eared, Blue-eared, Lineated and Red-vented Barbet can often be seen perched high up in the roadside trees. Check out of the park guest house after lunch and drive the 150 km to Ho Chi Minh City to transfer to Tan Son Nhat International Airport.