Vietnam - Mekong Delta - Cambodia

Combination of birding & cultural tours
Ho Chi Minh city - Cat Tien - Tram Chim - Phu My - Chau Doc - Phnom Penh - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat - Prek Toal - Ang Trapeang Thmor
16 days
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Vietnam is one of the most beautiful, friendly and fascinating countries in Asia and an early season visit there finds the country at its best: the winter birds still present and the resident birds gearing up for breeding. Vietnam hosts, according to your splitting beliefs, no less than fourteen true endemic species, and this number continues to increase as further work is done and new discoveries made. A further seven or so are restricted to Indochina as well as a number of very interesting and distinct “subspecies” several of which are destined to be future splits. A large range of Southeast Asian species of wider distribution and a host of birds wintering from further north add to the richness of this destination.
Besides the high biodiversity, the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam displays a variety of physical landscapes, but is dominated by flat flood plains in the south, with a few hills in the north and west. This diversity of terrain was largely the product of tectonic uplift and folding brought about by the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates about 50 million years ago. The soil of the lower Delta consists mainly of sediment from the Mekong and its tributaries, deposited over thousands of years as the river changed its course due to the flatness of the low-lying terrain.

Cambodia on the other hand is covered more by deciduous dipterocarp forests that once spread across much of Indochina, which was formerly home to the greatest aggregation of large mammals and water birds that have existed beyond the savannas of Africa. These forests have largely disappeared from Thailand and Vietnam, currently, the Northern and Eastern Plains of Cambodia form the largest remaining contiguous block of this unique and critically important habitat.

Our unique and comprehensive itinerary has a combination of birding and cultural touring that covers the best sites in the south of Vietnam seeking out bird species such as Green Peafowl, Siamese Fireback, Great Hornbill in Cat Tien National Park, and Sarus Crane and Broze-winged Jacana in Tram Chim National Park. Visiting several sites in Cambodia, we have many chances to see both of the rarest ibises (White-shouldered and Giant), as well as Bengal Florican and Greater Adjutant around Tonle Sap, and many woodpecker species in Ang Trapaeng Thmor. The Angkor Temples are must see around Siam Reap. We shall experience these countries in a way that very few Westerners ever have.
Transport by late-model minibus, accommodation in luxury/good standard hotels and park bungalows, and memorable Vietnamese/Khmer food throughout.

Day by day itinerary

Day 1. Arrive Ho Chi Minh City

Participants will arrive Ho Chi Minh City by independent flight arrangements today.  A private car transfer from the airport to the hotel is available. 

Majestic Hotel

Day 2. Ho Chi Minh City/Cat Tien

Enjoy breakfast on the hotel roof overlooking the Sai Gon River followed by a tour of the city. After lunch, travel to Cat Tien National Park (4-hour drive), the premier National Park in South Vietnam.  Cat Tien is located in Cochinchina in the Da Lat foothills and boasts an impressive mosaic of forest and seasonal wetlands, which largely escaped the defoliants used in the Vietnam War.  Bird by jeep track and forest trails to seek out the endemic Germain’s Peackock-Pheasant, other spectacular birds such as Siamese Fireback, Green Peafowl and Scaly-breasted Partridge, endemic Pittas, the endemic Grey-faced Tit-Babbler and a host of other species also known from Malaysia and Thailand.  Start exploring the park with some late afternoon birding around HQ to see Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Oriental Pied Hornbill, many bulbuls and drongos.  Night safari after dinner as well as owling for those who are serious. 

Forest Floor Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 3. Cat Tien national park

Our first full day birding in Cat Tien National Park, we will trek 5 km to Crocodile Lake, a Ramsar site located in the middle of the jungle.  Along the trail we might have a chance to see an elusive Siamese Fireback, an endemic Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, or the most sought Bar-bellied Pitta.  Picnic lunch at the lake while we stay to watch several waterbirds such as Woolly-necked and Lesser Adjutant Storks, Bronze-winged Jacana, bitterns, herons, etc. 

Forest Floor Lodge (B, L, D)

Day 4. Cat Tien/Tram Chim

After early morning birding and breakfast, we will make a longish drive to Tram Chim National Park, Dong Thap Province (6-7 hour drive). Stop en route for sightseeing and lunch.  Mid afternoon, we will take a boat trip to Zone A4 in Tram Chim National Park.  Birdwatching today is for our main target, the Sarus, but we will also see many other species including Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill and passerines e.g. Grassbird, Asian Golden Weaver. 

Hoang Gia Hotel (in Tam Nong Town) (B, L, D)

Day 5. Tram Chim

We will have a full day to explore Tram Chim National Park.  In the morning, we will take another boat trip to Zone A2 to study the conservation situation and do some birding. Return to the town for lunch.  In the afternoon, we will take a walk along the dyke boundary to see local cultures, landscape and birding. 

Hoang Gia Hotel (in tam Nong Town) (B, L, D)

Day 6. Tram Chim/Ha Tien

Leave Tram Chim in the morning and travel to Ha Tien Town, Kien Giang Province (4-hour drive).  On the way we will have a chance to see day-to-day living in the Mekong delta region.  Lunch in Ha Tien and check-in our hotel by noon.  Later afternoon we take a city tour around Ha Tien Town and visit several cultural sites.  Dinner at Nui Den Restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. 

Green Island Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 7. Ha Tien/Chau Doc

After breakfast at hotel, we visit Phu My project to learn about community-based wetland conservation. Lunch at Phu My project office.  Depart for Chau Doc in the afternoon.  We will enjoy our five-star hotel at the bank of the Bassac River. 

Victoria Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 8. Chau Doc/Phnom Penh

We spend our early morning taking a look at the river and seeing local people at their daily activities.  Later we will travel to Phnom Penh by boat up the Mekong River arriving by noon for check-in at our hotel.  The afternoon is free time for a city tour, visit to a market, or to Golden and Silver pagodas.  Dine at the Foreign Correspondent Club. 

Hotel TBA (B, L, D)

Day 9. Phnom Penh/Siem Reap

This morning, we will take an early morning flight to Siem Reap, transfer to hotel.  There will be free time to visit Angkor Wat or Siem Reap city in the afternoon. 

Apsara Holiday Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 10. Siem Reap

A full day visit to Prek Toal Wildlife Sanctuary on the Tonle Sap Lake.  Birding here is good for seeing Greater and Lesser Adjuncts, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Milky Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more species. Return to Siem Reap later afternoon. 

Apsara Holiday Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 11. Siem Reap

Leave Siem Reap after breakfast for a full day trip to Ang Trapeang Thmor, a nature reserve based around a reservoir dating from the Khmer Rouge era. The reserve now harbors a unique wetland set amongst grasslands, dipterocarp forest and rice fields. Ang Trapeang Thmor is an important wintering site for the endangered Eastern Sarus Crane between February and March. Other highlights of Ang Trapeang Thmor are the breeding colonies of Spot-billed Pelican and Painted Stork and often large numbers of waterfowl including Spot-billed Duck, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Garganey, Black-backed Swamphen, Pheasant-tailed and Bronze-winged Jacanas.   

Apsara Holiday Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 12. Siem Reap/Ho Chi Minh City

We will have final morning free time in Siem Reap to pursue other interests around the town before flying to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon. 

Majestic Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 13. Ho Chi Minh City

Visit Can Gio mangrove biosphere reserve; learn about mangrove ecology and restoration. Serious birders will have chance to see lot of waders, including White-faced Plover, Nordmann’s Greenshank and a remote chance for Spoon-billed Sandpiper.  An alternative option is to visit Cu Chi Tunnel, a renowned Vietnam War historical site some 50km from Ho Chi Minh city center. Here is but part of the huge and complex underground tunnel system used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. 

Majestic Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 14. Ho Chi Minh City

Free time in the afternoon for shopping and farewell dinner this evening. 

Majestic Hotel (B, L, D)

Day 15. Departure

Transfer to the Ho Chi Minh City international airport for flight check-in and departure.  (B)

Code:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Itinerary subject to change.