Cat Tien National Park – Trekking with wild gibbons

by Mike Still
Cat Tien National Park – Trekking with wild gibbons

We arrived in Cat Tien National Park 2 days after departing Ho Chi Minh City.  Its possible to get to Cat Tien in a day but we were still figuring out our new set of wheels and had plenty of time in Vietnam so decided to take it slow.  I’ll keep this post focused on Cat Tien but have a few updates to share about buying the bike and a little mishap that I’ll fill you in on after you read about Cat Tien.

I wanted to go to Cat Tien for a few reasons, one that its a national park and I simply love national parks and two that there are lots of monkeys here!  The park is famous for having slow lorises and gibbons.  They are both endangered and very hard to spot but we got lucky and found 2 families of gibbons on our trek!

Trekking in Cat Tien National Park

We stayed with Forest Call Lodge and and Mr. Thuat (called as Tut, founder of Save Cat Tien, ASEAN green award winner 2012) took us on an early morning trek. As soon as you enter the park you jump on a ferry to cross the flooded river.  Right now its muddy with the monsoon rains but they say it clears up in the dry season.  If you’re up for a bit more adventure and willing to pay a few extra bucks you can even stay on this side of the park but we were quite happy at Jungle Call Lodge.

Gibbon Trekking in Cat Tien made it onto the top 40 hikes in Asia!

The trek started almost immediately as Mr. Tut pointed out massive trees and vines reminiscent of my time in Bardia National Park.  The jungle grows thick throughout Cat Tien with mosses clinging to tree bark and insects swarming between the leaves.  The only problem was the leech filled mud sections; good thing Mr. Tut gave us leech socks but unfortunately a few still go through!

Getting to Cat Tien National Park

Public Bus from Ho Chi Minh to Cat Tien  –  Go to Mien Dong Bus Station counter #5 – Tickets cost VND 85,000 – 4.5 hours
Drive your own motorbike (like we did) – This 160km drive will take you 5+ hours.  Its quite a pleasant drive once you leave the city.

About 30 minutes into our walk we were a bit skeptical that we’d see anything.  Mr. Tut had mentioned the chances of seeing gibbons was about 70% but so far we’d only seen a few birds and a squirrel.  Sure I enjoyed the undergrowth and all the bugs but I was really here to see some monkeys.  Then suddenly we saw some branches swaying back and forth in the canopy.

Fruit fell to the ground and we heard a few strange sounds.  Mr. Tut grew excited but urged us to stay quiet as we crept closer.  A black blur flashed between 2 trees and Mr. Tut couldn’t stop saying “wow!” as I aimed my camera up to try and capture the gibbon.  For the next half hour we watched as his male grazed on the treetop berries.

 Trekking in the jungle comes with its share of risks.  I HIGHLY recommend getting travel insurance before coming to Cat Tien National Park.  Thankfully I didn’t need it while I was there but World Nomads gave me peace and mind in case anything did happen.

Wildlife in Vietnam

As we headed back to the trail there was another call from a tree in the distance.  We looked up and could easily see branches moving but any wildlife was well camouflaged.  Then an orange shape appeared and we all let out a gasp.  Mr. Tut told us these must be females and in a few seconds we got a better view; this mother had her babe suckling for a morning meal as she swung from limb to limb!

Vietnam is amazing but watch out for these bad things about Vietnam!

All together we saw a family of 4, two males and two females (including the baby).  I could have stayed here for hours watching the primates play but others in the group were growing restless so we ventured onward along the trail. Winding around massive trees and over swampy sections this path had us stopping regularly to pick leeches off each other.  Thankfully we didn’t get too many bites but they were persistent little buggers climbing up our pants.

Around the corner a massive hollowed out tree turned into the perfect batcave.  All 4 of us were able to fit inside at once and as soon as I shined my flashlight up you could see some small fruit bats hanging!  Ronda snapped a photo and caught the little guy staring back at her before we went back to the trail.

Photo by Ronda Christensen

Before we could leave the cave sounds from the canopy came down to us and branches swayed back and forth yet again.  Mr. Tut insisted this was a second family of gibbons but none of us were able to see them and I thought it could have been the same troupe following us.  We gave it a few minutes but without seeing anything decided to head on and have a chance to see some other animals.

Huge trees sported long branches hanging low above the trail.  At times these branches went all the way to the ground and even met another tree forming a wooden bond that only nature can create.  I wish I could tell you all the names of the plant life in this park known for its biodiversity but sadly I can only tell you how beautiful they were.

Trekking in Vietnam

We wandered off again on the trail zigzagging our way through the forest as the bird calls serenaded us.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any other wildlife on this short trek but we did hear a boar and great hornbill in the distance.  We were due to be back by lunch so Mr. Tut led us down another trail that would meet the main road.  He had to break out his machete to clear away overgrown branches and thorny bushes.  I enjoyed watching him cut our path but knew it meant the trek was coming to an end.

Cat Tien National park wasn’t what I expected but I still loved it.  I had been hoping to spot some slow lorises but then realized they generally come out at night time and we only had a short visit so happily compromised to see the gibbons instead.  If you’re heading to southern Vietnam I highly recommend trekking in Cat Tien National Park.  If you have a few extra days you can also head to crocodile lake or take a longer trek in for a chance to see rhinos and other wildlife!

Well I promised I’d tell you more about getting to Vietnam and buying a motorcycle.  There will be a few posts dedicated to this soon but here’s a quick rundown.  I arrived in Vietnam on August 4th to meet Ronda and together we bought a motorcycle.  Its a 110cc Honda Win and has made for a great adventure so far.  We bought it in Saigon and are driving to Hanoi but in our first attempt to leave the city had a minor accident and realized we had too many bags.  The bike wasn’t safe to drive with all that weight so we shipped a bag north to friends in Hanoi and found a private guide to drive with us and take another bag.  That guide’s name is Dung and he’s been a lifesaver so far.  I’m quite behind on posting since we’ve been driving so much but we are loving Vietnam and currently relaxing in Hoi An.  I’m excited to announce that the next few posts will be sponsored as I’m finally succeeding at monetizing LiveTravelTeach while also getting complimentary hotel stays!

Check out this amazing video that Ronda put together of our first few days buying a bike, having a minor accident and hiring a guide in Ho Chi Minh City!

Where to stay in Cat Tien National Park

Budget Hotels in Cat Tien

Green Bamboo Lodge Resort – dorms from $5.  Great location near the park entrance.  Highly rated by solo travelers and budget travel couples.

Cat Tien Forest Call Lodge – dorms from $5 with privates from $10.  WIldlife experts at Cat Tien Forest Call Lodge will take you on an amazing trek into the park with the best prices for excursions.

Green Hope Lodge  $10 and up – Green Hope Lodge is one of the most popular places to stay in Cat Tien National Park.  There is a wide range of choices for your room and its very often booked so be sure to reserve ahead of time!

Midrange Hotels in Cat Tien

Ta Lai Longhouse – $20/person.  We stopped here and it looked AMAZING but decided it was out of our budget.  They have a beautiful river that you can swim in and are much more remote than the other hotels.  They are a bit farther from the park entrance but great for nature lovers!

Cat Tien River Lodge – Privates from $15 with cheap tent options –  This highly rated, beautiful lodge is the 2nd most booked hotel in Cat Tien based on  They have a wide range of rooms available including romantic jungle bunaglows.

Eco Floor Bird Song Lodge – $20-$50 per room – Great for a family with up to 6 in a family room!  Perfect location right near the entrance to Cat Tien National Park.

Luxury Hotels in Cat Tien
Cat Tien Jungle Lodge – $75 and up – Cat Tien Jungle Lodge is the perfect hotel for a luxury traveler who wants to see Cat Tien National Park.  They are next to the park entrance and provide the best service for miles around.  You’ll have the nicest, cleanest rooms and even can swim in their pool next to the river!

 Forest Floor Lodges – $180 – Not your usual 5 star hotel since its IN THE JUNGLE!  Forest Floor Lodges is the best way to experience Cat Tien National Park since you’ll actually be sleeping inside the park.  They provide all the essentials but you’ll be up close and personal with everything the rainforest has to offer.

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City

You’ll undoubtedly stay in Ho Chi Minh City on your way to or from Cat Tien National Park.  I recommend you checking out these great hotels, hostels and resorts based on your travel budget.  We really enjoyed a bit of midrange and and luxury accommodation skipping the budget hostels in Ho Chi Minh.  You can get luxury hotels for a midrange or budget price in Vietnam so this is a great place to splurge!

Budget Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City

Vy Da Backpackers Hostel – dorms from $9.  Great location in district near Ben Thanh Market and the park.  Private rooms here are pricey but the atmosphere is wonderful for backpackers.

The Like Hostel & Cafe – dorms from $8.  No privates here but they have a comfy lounge and are highly reviewed.  Backpackers love it here!

Jan Hostel – Pet friendly hostel with dorms for $8 and privates for $23.  Great location in District 1!

Midrange Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City

Honey House Hotel – Hotel rooms for $25 or $31.  Highest rated hotel in all of Ho Chi Minh on!   This place is perfect for couples that want to be in the heart of Ho Chi Minh!

Joviale Hotel – Deluxe rooms for $47 and family rooms for $80.  The Joviale hotel is near all the spots you want to see in Ho Chi Minh with Ben Thanh Market, the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification palace all within a 10 minute walk!

Luxury Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City

Sherwood Residence – $111 and up – This 5 star hotel includes breakfast and is the most booked hotel in all of Ho Chi Minh on!  You’ll have access to their rooftop pool, sauna and fitness room as well as a short walk to all the hot spots in District 3 with countless delicious restaurants just around the corner.

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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Ryan Biddulph August 26, 2017 - 1:55 am

Incredibly cool experience Mike. We visited the Ke Bang area in central Vietnam for a day at the national park there. Rainy, cool day which felt quite like a visit to Skull Island for the dramatic mountain scenery and mystical feel we experienced there. Mists, fog and clouds enshrouding dramatic peaks. What a magical place. Vietnam rocks!

Mike Still September 7, 2017 - 11:15 pm

I loved Phong Nha Ke Bang too. Not sure if we went in the Ke Bang area but we saw the caves in Phong Nha and positively loved it! It was actually my second time there and I had to show it to Ronda. I went 3 years ago and was lucky enough to be one of the first to explore Son Doong.

You can see photos and read a bit more about that adventure here

Marina August 31, 2017 - 11:17 pm

Picking leeches off of your legs is quite the experience. It’s amazing how you can get used to certain conditions when they’re just normal for where you are.

The momma and baby monkey were just too cute. Couldn’t imagine breastfeeding while swinging from tree to tree! Monkeys are amazing.

Mike Still August 31, 2017 - 11:25 pm

They were the absolute cutest! I didn’t belive how orange they were. Our guide said the females are all orange and in my head I was like “yeah okay, maybe they have a little orange on them or something” but then I saw them! Definitely an acrobatic feat to nurse in the tree.

The leeches were indeed wild but after I freaked out the first time flinging one off me it didnt bother me too much. Ronda had a much harder time with them though


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