On the very tip of Southern Vietnam, the Mūi Cà Mau National Park protects mangrove forests, which are some of the world’s most endangered habitats. Once destroyed by war, the vulnerable mangroves of Mūi Cà Mau have earned international attention for their extensive conservation efforts.
Rebuilding the habitat has been difficult, but success has led to the mangroves regenerating and giving some of Vietnam’s most threatened species a place to call home.
Mūi Cà Mau National Park is located exactly on the southernmost tip of the country. The national park protects 162 square miles of mangrove habitat with its boundaries stretching along the coast and inland. Ho Chi Minh City is 257 miles (414 km) to the northeast of Mūi Cà Mau. As one of the most remote national parks in Vietnam, the closest is Cà Mau City, which is 75 miles (119 km) away.
Before the war tore through Southern Vietnam, Mūi Cà Mau protected nearly 6,200 square miles of natural wetland habitat. After the war, the mangroves were significantly damaged with the majority of the terrain completely destroyed. Progress to protect the wetlands was further delayed because of the shrimping businesses that flourished after the war.
By the 1990s, shrimp production practically vanished from the area and what was once aquacultural ponds sat abandoned. Vietnam’s government jumped on the opportunity to reclaim the land and in 1986, Mūi Cà Mau gained government protection. In 2003, the area was established as a natural preservation zone and in 2013, Mūi Cà Mau became a national park and Ramsar site.
In 2020, park officials created a 5-year plan to restore and expand the national park’s mangrove habitat. Set to be complete by 2025, the plan would not only ensure the future of the park but also the Mekong Delta. As a natural barrier for Southern Vietnam’s inland areas, the mangroves are the Mekong Delta’s first layer of defense against natural disasters like tsunamis.
What to Do
Partially due to its remote location, a low number of visitors travel to the national park each year and tourism is currently underdeveloped. Currently, the top activity for park visitors is to take a boat tour of the mangroves. Running between the mangroves is the Lon River, which bisects the park to create two small islands that are important to migratory birds: Con Trong and Con Ngoai.
Further inland, part of the Bai Hap River flows through the park as it drains to the ocean through the Cà Mau Province. With intertidal mudflats and estuaries, the Bai Hap River is another popular destination for boaters to view the local flora and fauna. Along the river, a few rare species of trees are regenerating after having been damaged by extensive logging.
Two sites within the park, Dat Mui and Bai Boi are the areas where most birds nest. Globally, endangered bird species like the Chinese egret, painted stork, and black-headed ibis have all been seen at these two sites in Mūi Cà Mau National Park. To visit the bird sites, visitors will need to arrange transportation by boat through a local guide.
On the edges of the coast and mangroves, there are short paths that provide visitors with various viewpoints of the area. In a few spots, there are observation decks that overlook the mangroves and ocean. With these habitats being somewhat unpredictable, visitors are encouraged to stay on the path and hire a local guide if they wish to hike more extensively throughout the national park.
Plants and Wildlife
The majority of the park is comprised of wetland and mangrove habitats, which has led to an increase in the area’s species biodiversity. Several hundred plants and animals thrive in Mūi Cà Mau with the spotlight shining on migratory birds. There are 93 bird species living within the park and most birds stay in the area during the rainy season before moving north during the winter.
Additionally, 26 mammal, 43 reptile, and 233 fish species live in the national park. A few of the animals, like the long-tailed monkey, are included on the IUCN Red Book as threatened. When the mangrove forests are extended by the rain, the park’s marine species return to the area. At certain times of the year, visitors will be able to view an impressive array of shrimp, mollusk, and fish.
Mangrove trees are the most prominent plant species in Mūi Cà Mau as previous logging operations destroyed much of the inland forest. In an effort to restore the area to its previous state, conservation efforts have begun to replant some of the trees. The Rhizophora apiculate trees do well in the wet habitat and under the park’s protection, the regrowth of the forest has been successful.
Getting to Mūi Cà Mau National Park is no easy feat and travelers will need to be prepared for the long journey ahead. From Ho Chi Minh City, travelers will need to head southeast in a car or on a bus as there are no trains or flights to Mūi Cà Mau. The drive will take 8-9 hours, depending on the local traffic. To reduce the travel time by 2 hours, visitors have the option of traveling to Cà Mau City first.
By car, the city is about 6 hours away from HCMC and 2 hours away from the park. As the provincial capital, there are a few accommodations and dining options for travelers looking to stay overnight. Cà Mau City does have domestic flight services from Saigon and it is the best place where visitors can inquire about booking a tour.
Boating to Mūi Cà Mau from Cà Mau City is the fastest and most convenient way to get to the national park. With a limited number of local guides in the area, visitors must arrange their trip prior to arriving at the national park.
When to Visit
With tourism low throughout the year, visitors don’t have to worry about crows in the national park. Migratory bird species visit Mūi Cà Mau during the summer months when the rain floods the mangroves, making it the peak time for visiting from May to September. By October, the weather becomes drier for the winter and the birds will begin to migrate away from the national park.
Underappreciated, Mūi Cà Mau National Park is Southern Vietnam’s best-kept secret. As Mūi Cà Mau continues to thrive, international attention will soon be put on this little-known corner of the world. Visitors who journey to the park before its popularity explodes will be awarded an in-depth view of some of the last surviving mangrove habitats in the world.
Address: Ngọc Hiển District, Ca Mau, Vietnam