Viet Nam

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park boasts a peak of 1,450 meters at Bach Ma Mountain, just 18km from the coast. The cooler climate attracted the French, who began building holiday villas here in 1930. By 1937, the number of villas had reached 139, transforming the area into the "Dalat of central Vietnam." Most visitors were high-ranking French officials. Unsurprisingly, the Viet Minh attempted to disrupt this vacation spot - the area witnessed intense fighting in the early 1950s. After gaining independence from France, Bach Ma was quickly forgotten, and the villas were abandoned; today, they lie in ruins, with only a few stone walls remaining.

Bach Ma offers breathtaking views of the coastline near Hai Van Pass. The Americans took advantage of this during the war, turning the area into a fortified bunker. The Viet Cong (VC) did their best to harass the Americans but couldn’t dislodge them. Amidst these eerie remnants and memories of the Vietnam War, locals share spooky stories, believing the park to be a realm of ghosts.

In 1991, a nature reserve spanning 22,031 hectares was established and designated as Bach Ma National Park. Efforts are now underway to restore patches of forest destroyed by clear-cutting and defoliation during the Vietnam War.

Forty-three species of mammals have been definitively recorded within the park's boundaries, with an additional 76 species, including tigers and leopards, potentially present. A recent conservation victory was the discovery in 1992 of evidence of the “sao la”, a previously unknown antelope-like creature. Footprints and horns were found, shedding light on its existence. Two other species were discovered in the late 1990s: the Truong Son muntjac and the giant muntjac. With increased protection against poachers, there is hope that wild elephants, currently restricted to the Laotian side of the border, will return to seek sanctuary in Bach Ma.

Given that most of the park's resident mammals are nocturnal, sightings require significant effort and patience. Bird-watching is fantastic here, but you must rise early to catch the best views. Of the 800-odd bird species known to inhabit Vietnam, around 330 reside in the national park, including the spectacular crested argus pheasant and the elusive Edwards’ pheasant - unseen and thought to be extinct for 50 years until its recent rediscovery in the park's buffer zone.

More than 1400 plant species have been found here, accounting for one-fifth of Vietnam's total flora. Among them, at least 430 species are medicinal plants, 33 species produce essential oils, 26 species are used for weaving, and 22 species bear edible fruit.

It wasn't until March 1998 that Bach Ma National Park began receiving visitors. Despite its young age, the efforts of the park's staff are commendable. They are working hard to protect the area, develop the local community with ethnic minorities, and promote sustainable ecotourism. Some young rangers here speak English well, and there is an interesting display at the Visitor Center located at the park entrance. Alongside plenty of natural history information, there's a large crate containing confiscated hunting tools, weaponry, and the remains of a crashed helicopter. From here, you can book village and bird-watching tours, hire English- or French-speaking guides, cars, or 16-seater vans to take you to the summit. Motorcycles and bikes are strictly prohibited.

Bach Ma is the wettest place in Vietnam, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in October and November. Along with the wet weather come plenty of leeches. However, even during these months, visiting is still possible. The best time to visit Bach Ma is from February to September, particularly between March and June, for the most favorable weather conditions.

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