Cúc Phương National Park (Vietnamese: Vườn quốc gia Cúc Phương) is located in Ninh Bình Province, in Vietnam’s Red River Delta. Cuc Phuong was Vietnam’s first national park and is the country’s largest nature reserve. The park is one of the most important sites for biodiversity in Vietnam.
In 1960 Cúc Phương was made into a forest reserve and in 1962 Cúc Phương National Park was consecrated by President Ho Chi Minh. Human habitation in Cúc Phương dates back long before the park’s creation, 7,000-12,000 years ago. Artifacts from that time have been found in numerous caves within the park, including human graves, stone axes, pointed bone spears, oyster shell knives, and tools for grinding. In 1789 the Quen Voi section of the park was the site of a major battle in the civil war between Nguyễn Huệ and Thăng Long. More recently, conflicts have emerged between the government and 2,500 Muong ethnic minority tribesmen who live, farm, and hunt in the park. In 1987, 500 Muong were relocated outside of the park because of issues over poaching and land use.
LANDSCAPE AND CLIMATE
Cúc Phương is situated in the foothills of the northern Annamite Range. The park consists of verdant karst mountains and lush valleys. Elevation varies from 150 meters (500 feet) to 656 m (2,152 feet) at the summit of May Bac Mountain, or Silver Cloud Mountain. The limestone mountains house numerous caves, many of which are accessible for exploration.
The average temperature in Cúc Phương is 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit), with a mean winter temperature of 9C (48F). High temperatures can reach above 30C (85 F) and lows are just above zero (32 F). At the low elevations in the valley the temperature is hot and humid while at higher elevations the temperature drops and frostbite is a threat. On average it rains more than 200 days a year and the average annual rainfall is 2,100mm (7 feet). The dry season is November to February, the driest months being December and January.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Cúc Phương is home to an amazing diversity of flora and fauna. Inhabitants of the park include 97 species of mammals, most notable endangered langurs; 300 species of birds; 36 reptilian species; 17 species of amphibians; 11 species of fish; 2,000 species of vascular plants, and thousands of species of insects. A number of species in the park are listed on Vietnam Red Book of endangered species.
Primates in the park include macaques, gibbon, François’s leaf monkey and slow loris. Other mammals including bats, porcupine, flying squirrel, small striped squirrel, belly-banded squirrel, and the rare black giant squirrel. In the past the park was home to Asiatic black bears, wild dogs, and tiger, but over hunting and lack of prey have most led to the loss of these species. Leopard, clouded leopard and jungle cat may still be present in the park.
Bird species include bar-backed partridge, scaly-breasted partridge, silver pheasant, red junglefowl, grey peacock-pheasant, laughingthrushes, red-vented barbet, green-eared barbet, scimitar-billed babblers, brown hawk-owl, scarlet minivet, racket-tailed drongos, racket-tailed treepie, white-winged blue magpie. Migrant species include thrushes, flycatchers, tits, finches, pipits amongst others. Hornbills can also be spotted in the forest.
An endemic subspecies of sub-terranic cave fish is also located in the park.
Flora in the park includes multi-layered canopy; trees up to 70m in height; flowers, including, orchids; ferns with amazingly tall leaves; and an abundance of liane and cauliflory. The park also contains plants used for such practicalities as spices and medicines as well as edible fruits, nuts and shoots.
Cúc Phương National Park is one of the most popular nature tourist destinations in Vietnam. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese and a steady stream of foreign tourists visit the park each year. Lodging and restaurant facilities are available at the park’s entrance and within the park. A paved road cuts into the park and a number of paths for hiking are maintained.
Park rangers patrol Cuc Phuong and provide guided tours for a fee.
Other nearby tourist destinations located in Ninh Binh Province include Phát Diệm Cathedral, Hoa Lư Ancient Capital, Tràng An…