Bach Ma National Park, Thua Thien Hue

Overview
Bach Ma National Park is 60km south of Hue City, 730km south of Ha Noi and 1,000km north of Ho Chi Minh City (or Sai Gon). The national park is in the territory of Thua Thien Hue Province and the park includes the forests on the northern slope of the Hai Van (Sea Cloud) Pass.

In 1932 the French built Bach Ma into a hill station for the colonial officials to get away from the summer heat of central Vietnam. At that time, Bach Ma had 139 villas, banks, post offices...and other facilities for eco-tourism. Due to the long and destructive battles in the area, much of the former infrastructure has been destroyed. Still the freshly wild nature of Bach Ma is attractive enough to pull in more and more visitors who seek cool climate, fresh nature and rich wild life.

In 1991, Bach Ma National Park was established by the Vietnamese government to protect the stretch of forests with high biodiversity running from the Lao Border to the East Vietnam Sea in Thue Thien Hue Province, along the Truong Son Mountain Range.

The national park covers an area of 22,031ha in the districts of Phu Loc and Nam Dong, Thua Thien Hue Province. Bach Ma has steep mountains and dense forests which are home to a wide variety of animals and plants. At the area of lower than 900m elevation, there is tropical monsoon forest and sub-tropical forest at above 900m. The peak of Bach Ma National Park is 1,450m above sea level and is 18 km away from the East Vietnam Sea. Bach Ma National Park's terrain includes limestone steep high mountains and dome-like low mountains.

Climate
Bach Ma National Park has tropical monsoon climate with 2 distinct seasons: dry season from January to April and rainy season from May to December. The wet time is from September through December, during which there may be difficulties accessing the park as the roads are not in good conditions. Bach Ma Mountain receives over 3,500mm of rainfall per year, while the area around the mountain peak receives 8,000mm per annum.

Temperatures at Bach Ma range from 5 Degrees Celsius to over 30 Degrees Celsius. It's normally 7 Degrees Celsius lower at the top than at the foot of the mountain at Bach Ma. The hottest time is from May to August while the coolest time is from November to December. At the summit of Bach Ma, it hardly gets up to 25 Degrees Celsius. Humidity at Bach Ma normally is from 85-95% and it's rarely below 75% during the driest period from March to April.

Flora and Fauna
Bach Ma has representatives of flora and fauna species of both northern and southern Vietnam, and the national park is among the richest biodiversity areas of Indochina. Surveys have found: 2,373 flora species (of which 73 species are listed in Vietnam's Red Book for Endangered Species and 500 species with commercial potential like medicinal purposes...); 1,715 fauna species of which there are 132 mammals species and over 363 species of birds, 134 species of reptiles and frogs, 57 species of fish and 1,029 species of insects.

The vegetation of Bach Ma National Park includes tropical lowland forest below 900m and subtropical montane forest above 900m. There are a number of flora species endemic to Bach Ma 3 of which got their name from the national park: Piper Bachmariaefolia, Cissus Bachmaensis, and Elaeocarpus Bachmaensis.

The summit area of Bach Ma is home to a number of conifers such as Dacrydium elatum, Podocarpus neriifolius and Podocarpus fleuryi. Rhododendron species offer red blossoms along many streams of Bach Ma National Park in January-February. Bach Ma National Park has also a number of timber trees such as those from oak and chestnut families, rosewood and eagle wood. Besides, the park is rich in vegetation of palm trees, rattan, ferns and orchids...

Bach Ma has almost representatives of half of all mammals known in Vietnam. Surveys have confirmed 9 species of primates including  Macaques, Langurs, Loris and the white-cheeked Gibbon. In 1992, the Sao La (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) was found at Bach Ma; this is also the first record of this type of animal.

There are 363 bird species observed at Bach Ma which accounts for over 1/3 of all bird species in Vietnam. There are 7 species of pheasants at Bach Ma including the rare endemic Edward's Pheasant.

Trails for eco tourism at Bach Ma National Park
There are different trails at Bach Ma National Park for you to explore: the trail at the gate with picturesque waterfalls, the Summit Trail with fresh wild nature and breathtaking panoramas:
- 800m trail from Morin Villa to the Hai Vong Day Tower (Tower for Observing the Ocean) at 1,430m above sea level.
- Rhododendron Trail to the 300m waterfall: 30minutes walk through a forest.
- The lake walk offers 30 minutes walk through a series of waterfalls and lakes.
- The Pheasant Trail is 2.5km through forest with pheasants-watching, and a waterfall.
- White Seraya Trail through a forest with gigantic trees.
- Khe Su Village Trail with the Vietnamese-styled garden and organic vegetables.

Visiting Bach Ma takes less than a day and a tour of Bach Ma National Park is not a  hard adventure, but rather a trip to the wild. Hiking boots are not required, but recommended. There are leeches found on some trails and if you are not comfortable with those creatures, be prepared with insect repellent. Also some on some trails, drinking water may be available, but it's better to bring your own.

Accommodation at Bach Ma National Park
There basic guesthouses and homestay at the base of Bach Ma Mountain and there are restored French-styled villas up in the mountain of Bach Ma. All accommodation are with basic facilities.

Tours to Bach Ma National Park
Paradissa offers one-day tours and bird-watching tours to Bach Ma National Park from either Hue or Da Nang or Hoi An. It is possible to stay overnight at Bach Ma in the park’s guesthouse with basic facilities.