Zenon contacted me quite late, less than a month before the cruise. He came to Vietnam on business and took advantage of the free time to have a bird-watching schedule in Vietnam.
He has many years of bird watching experience in Asia, he spent several months in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and even Indonesia. It made him excited to go to Vietnam, where there were endemic birds that he had never seen before. But, the story after the 3-day journey with me. Zenon shared a feeling “it is true that I thought bird watching in Vietnam was as easy as in Singapore or Malaysia, but actually the story in Vietnam is a completely different story”. I understand his feelings, in a place where small birds are trapped to the end so that they can be sold to bird shops, and temples (for release rituals), larger birds are hunting to turn into food for alcoholics… then the rare story of birds is obvious. Extant birds will also be very shy. They are always shy and wary of humans, try to be far away, and are not very accessible.
Overcoming all those difficulties, we had a wonderful journey. Half a day in Ho Chi Minh City for beautiful photos of wild birds around the city. More than 2 days in Cat Tien National Park for native birds, beautiful and attractive. The goals were accomplished beyond Zenon’s expectations. He happily told me that “a great bird photography trip” isn’t just because it’s part of the rainy season. (not buying bird watching tour) , but also because the quality of service he was served was very good: Really nice place by the river, not bothered by high humidity with full facilities Air conditioning, hot shower. The meals served made Zenon very excited, he always had to worry about eating too much because he felt it was so delicious.
Zenon stayed at a hotel in the bustling downtown area of Ho Chi Minh City. He has a tight schedule after 2 pm. But there was still time left early that morning. Such a beautiful day without going out, coming to the parks or green grasslands and mangrove trees growing along the banks of the Mekong River is a waste of time visit this City. And he called me “Andy, can we go birdwatching, take pictures now?” a call came in at 7 am. I thought for a moment and then said, okay, today is a beautiful day, in an hour I will pick you up at your hotel. We will go by motorbike.
Bee-eater birds in the open fields and lawns along the Saigon River. 2 species of Prinia: yellow-bellied Prinia and Plain Prinia, 3 species of Munia: Scaly-breasted munia, chestnut munia, and white-headed munia, in addition to being easily seen: Greater coucal, Baya Weaver, 3 species of Bulbuls, Plaintive Cuckoo, Spotted Dove and Zebra dove.
Zenon and I spent some time with the Cinnamon Bittern, which is a difficult bird to observe due to its stealthy nature. After lunch, we visited a small park right in the city center, where we met and took beautiful photos of Coppersmith Barbet, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, more: Pied fantail, Common Tailorbird, and Ashy Tailorbird. My friend Zenon was a little scared when he saw the messy traffic with many motorbikes in the early morning. But now on the way back to the hotel at 2 pm, he was happy and even said that it was interesting, just a short journey around the center, I had a lot of beautiful bird photos.
Long transportation in nearly 4 hours to Cat Tien National Park from Ho Chi Minh City. We started at 5:30 am and reach the National Park at 9:30. Taking some time for check-in, we changed clothes, using thick socks to cover the legs of our trousers, the purpose is to resist the onslaught of leeches in the rainy season.
That morning, we had amazing shots of the endemic bird in Vietnam, Germain’s peacock pheasant. Zenon longed to be able to see them, and as a result, beyond his expectations, a flock of 2 chicks and a mother hen appeared in the bright light. A moment later, the Pheasant male also appeared with a beautiful and majestic appearance, its feathers had iridescent round dots that looked very noble.
During our time at bird-hide, we also encountered the Green-legged Partridge, some White-rumped Shama, and the Indochinese Blue Flycatcher. A very nice result for a short morning that commuting time seemed to take up completely.
We back to the restaurant inside the National Park, a cup of coffee here gives a feeling of being full of energy, we were able to breathe more comfortably when the humidity was somewhat reduced compared to when we were inside the forest. With butterflies, squirrels, and monkeys in sight, we could drink coffee and see nature at Cat Tien National Park.
I have lived here for many years, I knew that it would rain earlier today, so I took the initiative to change the itinerary a bit to the afternoon. Zenon agreed to that change, instead of a post-lunch break. we continued our bird watching in the NP trails, at 13:00 pm we were able to meet the “colorful” goals he set out: Black and Red broadbill, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird.
The air became difficult to breathe because the humidity was too high, at 14:00 pm, we arrived at a small cafe with an upstairs in the middle of the forest. Zenon could barely breathe now, he and I both took off our coats, and stood in the air under an electric fan. The rainy season in Cat Tien National Park is very humid, the humidity and heat have made everything condensed, and sweat can’t go anywhere to cool your body, making you more uncomfortable.
A cool beer, we take a break and wait for the birds: Blue-winged leafbird, Chestnut-fronted leafbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker… they appear very close to our eyes, above a small fruit tree nearby. And we’ve got many beautiful photos of these birds. Zenon didn’t focus too much on the Stripe-throated bulbul and Streak-eared Bulbul birds, he’d seen them too much in Singapore.
We took a moment to continue walking, the colorful butterflies always attracted both Zenon and me. They often take advantage of old dung or overnight urine from certain species of Mongoose. The butterflies kept gathering and using those minerals. Some beautiful butterflies such as Graphium doson, Graphium antiplates, Troides Helena, Appias Libya… make us love photography until we forget our tiredness.
A stream is flowing over the trail, forming rapids, people have made a “monkey bridge” so that pedestrians can cross without getting wet. Bicycles can easily run straight through this overflow.
We encountered a flock of Black-shanked Douc trying to forage on the top of the tallest tree (Dipterocarpus). They are also afraid that it will rain soon, so they take advantage of eating them, although their habit is often panicking and panicking when they see people.
I tried to look for the Banded Broadbill, a bird very attractive to Zenon, but obviously the rainy season in August is not an easy time to find them. In return, I also met some other birds such as Grey-faced Tit-babbler, Dark-necked Tailorbird, and Black Kite.
It started raining at 4:00 pm, and heavy rain was forecast because of a sweltering afternoon. We sheltered from the rain under a small awning beside the trail. There were also many tourists taking advantage of the rain to make the story a little more fun. After about 30 minutes or so the rain had subsided, and I was able to photograph a large butterfly with black wings with beautiful and attractive white spots, the Papilio Helenus, just as the rays of the sun broke through the forest and shone down to the trail.
We returned to the central park of the NP just after 5:00 pm, by tram, it seems that after the rain and a long day, Zenon couldn’t go on, even though he was very strong and could walk pretty fast. We used a small boat to cross the Dong Nai River to return to the hotel across the river. Outside of the NP, the accommodation is more well cared for and has drier, more pleasant air than if you stayed inside the NP.
Green-bamboo Lodge has a nice restaurant located on the riverside, sitting at the restaurant can look across the river is Cat Tien National Park, cool wind from the river blows in, fresh air, and the way to process the ingredients. The food here will make you feel delicious and relaxed after dinner.
It continued to rain heavily, the rain lasted for more than 2 hours, making him worried. I explained to him that it was a good sign because it would be sunny tomorrow and it would be less oppressive if it had rained heavily the night before.
We slept very well that night.
On the morning of the 2nd day, we had breakfast at the restaurant and then crossed the river by the same small boat yesterday. Tickets to the National Park must be purchased from the previous afternoon if you want to cross the river at 6:00 am. We spent the morning on bird hide hoping to get a good photo of the Bar-bellied Pitta. Then continue to go bird watching in the forest trails. Spending more than 2 hours sitting at bird-hide, we have beautiful photos of many birds: Orange-breasted Trogon, Puff-throated Babbler, Abbott’s Babbler, but the main goal has not been achieved. A Bar-bellied Pitta arrived just to the left of the hide, but refused to step out of the food area (the worms), just after 9:00 am, another female Bar-bellied Pitta appeared similarly. We can see them but not take pictures. The goal cannot be completed. In the rainy season, when there is too much food in the forest, sometimes it is understandable that Pitta birds do not like to eat worms brought by humans.
Zenon was able to take more beautiful photos of the Bar-bellied Pitta bird (considered a top target of the trip) elsewhere on the trail. But his camera didn’t seem to obey as the low light under the canopy of many trees made photography impossible.
We went back to the restaurant across the river, relaxed, and toasted each other with beer. Anyway, seeing what we needed to see, all that remained was to take good pictures. And I hope that the afternoon will be luckier.
2:30 pm, we went back to bird-hide to wait, more than an hour in high humidity and leeches, still no hope. Zenon was about to get up and find himself another chance. My plan is to cycle to the grassland to see birds after 4:00 pm. Still a glimmer of hope, I kept calling Bar-bellied Pitta in various ways, and then the male bird also appeared. It climbed the moss-covered rock just 4m from Zenon, and he had more than 20 minutes to photograph this beautiful bird. We got ourselves 2 bikes and rode towards the grassland as planned.
Taking many beautiful pictures of the Bar-bellied Pitta bird excited Zenon, he rode his bike stronger and more energetic. On the way, we met many birds: Pied hornbill, Greater racket-tailed Drongo, Bronze Drongo, Black-drongo, Ashy Drongo, Common Iora, Great Iora, Red Junglefowl, Greater Coucal. He was impressed with the Black-hooded Oriole and the Scarlet-backed Minivet. He had many pictures of them when I tried to call them low.
The grassland is home to many large herbivores in Cat Tien National Park, we met many Sambar deer and Red Muntjac. In addition, Zenon has also taken many beautiful and very pleasing photos of the Green Peafowl, he showed me many beautiful photos where the green patterns form large “scales” on the bird’s neck of this giant Peafowl.
On the way back, we saw and photographed many more birds: Common Flameback, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Racket-tailed Treepie, Red-breasted Parakeet, etc. After that, We have had a bike competition on the way back: small bikes, about 4km, on a rough road, we did our best to get to the finish line. It is a good memory for me and him for a lucky day.
After dinner on the menu are very delicious dishes. Zenon loved it and complimented him that he couldn’t stop eating until he got up.
The last day of the 3-day tour started with rain at 5:00 pm, the rain was heavy and long as if to make up for a sunny day the day before. I had a chance to get up later than planned because the rain lasted until 8:00 am before it started to stop completely. We have a must-do plan: take beautiful pictures of the Yellow-cheeked Gibbon and visit the nature museum inside the NP. Where there is a very nice collection of butterflies, insects, bugs… on display.
We returned to pack our luggage and check out from the hotel at 11:30 am, back to Ho Chi Minh City to make sure Zenon was at the airport at 16:00 pm 3 hours earlier for his 19:00 pm flight. During the last lunch of the journey, Zenon was invited by me to “pho“, a quite famous dish in Vietnam. Pho in this restaurant is cooked in a special way, we will eat it like a hot pot, not sharing a bowl for each person as usual. I was very impressed with this meal.
Farewell to him after 3 days of watching birds and photography tour together in Cat Tien National Park, Zenon hugged me tightly and promised to come back as soon as he had time.
Vietnambirds hopes that our enthusiastic, attentive service and experience in organizing bird watching tours always bring satisfaction to visitors. Each customer who comes to us is an experience of nature, people, local living habits, and cultural and culinary characteristics…
Visit for more:
Contact in facebook, please click on my name
Call or Message by Whatsapp, viber with the same number: +84982928482