U Minh Thuong (Upper U Minh) in the Mekong Delta’s Kien Giang Province is a vast wetlands area rich in fish and waterbird life that was declared a National Park in September 2000.
To get there by road, from Tac Cau in the province travel 30 kilometers then turn towards Vinh Thuan District for 30 kilometers. This will bring you to the border of U Minh Thuong. The path lies under a dense green canopy. The forest which spans An Bien, Vinh Thuan and An Minh districts of Kien Giang Province is about halfway between Can Tho and Ca Mau.
U Minh Thuong covers 21,100 hectares. The core 8,000 hectares are strictly protected, while locals live in the remaining 13,000ha growing rice and fruit and vegetables and exploiting government owned cajuput forests.
The national park is one of only a few protected tropical mangrove forests left in the world. It contains 252 species of flora, 202 different insect species, 24 animal species and 185 kinds of birds, many of which are rare, some have been listed in the red book.
There is also a 44-hectare bird sanctuary with more than 70,000 birds.
The forest that has been through two revolutions as a military base is now being developed for research, to improve conservation efforts of endangered species as well as for eco-tourism and traditional tours.
Roads to U Minh are much better than before. Boat tours of Hoa Mai Lake in the center of the area, cost VND20,000 per person during the rainy season. In the dry season, travelers can hike around the park.
The U Minh Restaurant serves local specialties that include a range of fish dishes and honey dishes such as honey sweet soup, honey salads, and honey sashimi.
The sunsets there are fantastic as thousands of birds return from feeding grounds to their nests. The forest is full of wildlife and the sounds of monkeys and wild pigs can often be heard.
Guests can stay overnight at the forest but should be careful so that monkeys or pigs don’t steal your food. By Dang Hoang Tham in Kien Giang
Wetland cajuput forests in U Minh Thuong Forest in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang. Boat tours can take you through the huge park in the wet season – Photo: Dang Hoang Tham