4 options near Saigon to avoid tourist crowds

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Bu Gia Map National Park

Located about 200 kilometers from HCMC, Bu Gia Map National Park in southern Binh Phuoc Province is an ecotourism area that is gaining popularity but is not becoming overcrowded.

Tour operators offer trekking tours in the national park, which covers an area of ​​26,032 hectares and is home to 105 species of mammals, 246 species of birds and over 70 species of reptiles, including rare and endangered animals such as red-faced macaques.

Trekkers set up tents by the Dak Ca River in Bu Gia Map National Park in Binh Phuoc Province. Photo by Kieu Dinh Thap

A two-day, one-night trip would allow for a visit to an animal sanctuary, a walk through ancient forests, and an overnight camp on the Dak Ca River.

Visitors can also enjoy special S’Tieng ethnic minority dishes, including bamboo cane rice and roast duck with macadamia leaves, banana wine and even their version of grilled chicken.

Tours to this ecotourism site cost VND 2.2 million ($95.55) per person. Contact Bu Gia Map Journey travel agency to book the tour, which starts on April 30th.

Adventures in Ma Da Forest

Another two-day, one-night tour, starting May 2, takes tourists on a bike ride through Ma Da Forest and try stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on Tri An Lake.

The forest is one of the best camping destinations in Dong Nai Province, about 90 kilometers from HCMC.

A bus takes tourists from HCMC to Bien Hoa Town. From here, the journey begins with a 15 to 30 kilometer bike tour, depending on your condition. The route passes through some areas of primeval forest before stopping at Tri An Lake.

Tourists cycle through Ma Da Forest in Dong Nai Province.  Photo by Cao Cao Adventures

Tourists cycle through Ma Da Forest in Dong Nai Province. Photo by Cao Cao Adventures

Visitors then rest at a lakeside farm and practice SUP on the lake. Watching the sunset before enjoying a BBQ dinner is another treat on this tour.

This package tour, operated by Cao Cao Adventures, costs VND 2.5 million per person for groups of 10 or more people. Guests with their own bikes can bring their own and receive a discount on the tour price.

Thac May Adventures

This two-day tour, starting May 1, takes tourists to the Thac Mai trekking area in Dinh Quan district, Dong Nai province. The area also features a native forest that is home to a variety of rare species such as deer, elk, wild boar and iguanas.

A family bikes through a primeval forest in the Thac Mai trekking area in Dong Nai province.  Photo by Thac Mai Adventures

A family bikes through a primeval forest in the Thac Mai trekking area in Dong Nai province. Photo by Thac Mai Adventures

After 35 to 45 kilometers of cycling through jungles, narrow roads and streams, a somewhat challenging ride for those not used to strenuous outdoor activities, mountaineering can be even more adventurous. Overnight camping includes a BBQ dinner with wine. Waking up to a brilliant sunset and a bowl of hot porridge complete this adventure tour.

The tour price is VND 2.45 million per person including transportation. Contact Thac Mai Adventures Jungle Trekking & Camping and Biking to book the tour.

Cat Tien National Park

Another easy trip for the long weekend is a two-day, one-night trip to Cat Tien National Park, recognized by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve.

The more than 80,000-hectare park, which spans the three provinces of Dong Nai, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc, is home to around 1,500 species of animals, including Asian elephants, sun bears, gaur and a variety of smaller mammals.

A boatswain transports tourists through the Bau Sau Biosphere Reserve in Cat Tien National Park.  Photo by Andy Nguyen

A boatswain transports tourists through the Bau Sau Biosphere Reserve in Cat Tien National Park. Photo by Andy Nguyen

Upon arrival at the park, tourists can bike through native forests and marvel at the diverse ecosystem of ancient trees before taking a trip to explore the wildlife nightlife.

On this hour-long ride, visitors can sit on an open-top truck and use headlights to spot animals coming out to feed at night.

The tour also includes a visit to the Ta Lai Community Tourist House and the opportunity to observe the cultural uniqueness of ethnic minorities such as the Chau Ma, S’tieng and Tay.

Another enjoyable activity is kayaking around the Bau Sau Biosphere Reserve in Cat Tien Park to see Siamese crocodiles, which weigh 100 to 150 kilograms and live in shallow waters to escape cold temperatures and high water pressure. Guides generally advise a distance of four to five meters from the reptiles.

The tour, operated by Cat Tien National Park Adventures, costs VND 2.55 million per person.

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