Internationally acclaimed, the U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha National Parks are considered to be the Mekong Delta’s most diverse region. As one of two major wetland destinations in Vietnam, ecotourism continues to grow with more visitors traveling to the national parks each year. Highlights in the area include sightseeing the natural wonders and observing the local wildlife.
As a “friendly for all ages” destination, U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha have become a hotspot for families traveling through Southern Vietnam.
U Minh Thuong National Park is located in the Mekong River Delta region of Southern Vietnam. The park protects about 30 square miles of freshwater wetland habitats. Rach Giá, the capital of U Minh Thuong’s Kiên Giang Province, is the park’s nearest major city with the distance between the two destinations being less than a 2-hour drive.
Ho Chi Minh City is fairly distant from the park with a 6-hour journey by car separating the two. U Minh Ha is much further away from Saigon with the drive being about 6 and ½ hours long. Located almost at the point of the southern tip of Vietnam, U Minh Ha is less popular than U Minh Thuong because of its remote location in Cà Mau Province.
While the two parks are not technically connected, they sit only a 2-hour drive apart. Together, these two wildlife areas are combined to create an Upper and Lower Park. U Minh Thuong sits just north of U Minh Ha and it is known for its river-flooded wetland habitats. To the south, U Minh Ha is renowned for its extensive network of rivers.
For Vietnam, U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha National Park have significant historical value for the country and local people. For generations, people have lived in the Mekong Delta region and archeologists have traced human habitation in the national park back to the Oc Eo civilization. Through the centuries, U Minh Thuong thrived until human habitation began to devastate the land.
For two wars, U Minh Thuong was used by the Vietnamese resistance fighters as a military base. The increase of fighting began to wear on land that had already been altered by housing and cultivation. In an effort to preserve the habitat that remained, the Vietnamese government intensified its conservation efforts throughout the country starting in the 1980s.
In 2002, U Minh Thuong received regional acclaim when it became a national park. In the decades that followed, its reputation grew, and today, it’s known as one of the last primary landscapes of the Mekong Delta region. With conservation efforts effectively protecting the park’s core area, this is one of the only places in the world where visitors can view an intact freshwater wetland habitat.
Following the development of U Minh Thuong, U Minh Ha was established in 2006 to protect the lower wetland habitats. Similar to U Minh Thuong, the difference between the two national parks are the landscapes. U Minh Thuong features more forested wetland areas, meanwhile, U Minh Ha is more open with multiple rivers feeding into the natural habitat.
What to Do
Featuring mostly flooded marshland, U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha are relatively flat in elevation which makes them ideal for hiking and boating. Park visitors can book a tour for an all-inclusive experience of both national parks. Apart from the incredible landscape, there is also an animal rescue center run by the park rangers and locals in U Minh Thuong.
Passing through the endangered wetlands on foot gives visitors the opportunity to see the park’s rare flora and fauna. Birdwatchers will enjoy taking a leisurely stroll through the grass as they set their sights on threatened waterbird species. With peaceful views as far as the eye can see, hiking through U Minh Thuong is suitable for visitors of all ages, and a local guide is recommended.
Another guided tour in U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha is by boat. For areas that are significantly flooded, visitors can hire a boat to take them through the wetlands. Reaching new destinations, boating through the parks gives visitors the opportunities to view various animal species. A few tour itineraries have also expanded to include educational activities like fishing with locals.
Encouraging locals and visitors to learn more about conservation efforts in U Minh Thuong, the animal rescue center is open daily. Tours can be arranged at the main entrance of the national park with the park rangers and local guides. For families, the U Minh Thuong rescue center is one of the park’s biggest highlights as it gives visitors an exclusive look at U Minh Thuong’s rarest animals.
Plants and Wildlife
U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha National Park is a rich and diverse habitat where hundreds of species live amongst the wetlands. Recorded amid the plants and animals include several that have been listed as endangered in Vietnam’s IUCN Red Book including the hairy-nosed otter, fishing cat, Oriental darter, black-headed ibis, and Asian golden weaver.
Located less than 6 hours from Ho Chi Minh City, many travelers simply drive or take a bus to U Minh Thuong National Park. U Minh Ha is 6 and ½ hours from Saigon and about 3 hours from Rach Giá. There are accommodations near and within both of the parks, so it is easy for visitors to spend a few days exploring the area.
Another option is to travel to the capital of the Kiên Giang Province, Rach Giá which is 4 and ½ hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors who arrange tours outside of the national parks should inquire about transportation as most companies will provide their clients with a private car and driver.
When to Visit
As a wetland habitat, the best time to visit U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha is during the rainy season. Summer brings the most rain with the land beginning to flood in June, but by November, the water will dry up. The driest and least visited months of the year are March and April.
During the dry season, activity in the park dies down and camping is strictly monitored to prevent forest fires. The rainy season is also the only time to view the park’s bird species as the animals rely on the water to find food and nest their young. When the wetlands begin to dry up for the year, the birds tend to migrate north.
Species in the park that do not partake in migration tend to recede to the forests, which means that it is unlikely for visitors to view the animals. Though, visitors are welcome to take their chances because both national parks are open year-round.
Discover Pure Nature
As one of only three intact wetland areas in Vietnam, the fight to keep U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha National Park from vanishing is an ongoing effort. Visitors can play their part in the conservation of Vietnam’s threatened wetlands by booking a tour of either national park.
Still a secret, now is the prime time to visit U Minh Thuong and U Minh Ha before they become more popular with international visitors. Those who travel to the parks won’t be disappointed as the wetland’s beauty soothes the soul.
U Minh Ha National Park | U Minh Thuong National Park
Address: Vo Doi, Tran Van Thoi, Ca Mau, Vietnam | U Minh Thuong District, Kien Giang, Vietnam
Phone: +84 290 3910 020 | +84 94 727 47 89