Ninh Binh

Van Long Nature Reserve: An Accidental Miracle of Nature

Van Long Nature Reserve (Vietnamese spelling: Khu bảo tồn Vân Long) is the biggest wetlands in the whole Northern River Delta. It’s about 22km away from Trang An Landscape Complex in Ninh Binh, or 91 km away from Hanoi.

Van Long holds two titles in Vietnam’s Book of Records being ‘The place with the highest number of Delacour’s langurs’ and ‘The place with the most expansive natural scenery”. It’s also one of the nine Ramsar Wetland Sites of Vietnam attracting many visitors, especially French, Korean, and Japanese.

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Bamboo Boat Ride: The Best Thing to Do in Van Long Nature Reserve

Bamboo Boat Ride: The Best Thing to Do in Van Long Nature Reserve
[ by the claus from Flickr ]

Visitors can enjoy a boat ride over crystal-clear water and watch wildlife for around two hours. You’ll witness the best scenery during the afternoon and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll see flocks of white egrets flying back to their nests.

Your boat rower will also be your guide explaining the tales behind the caves and temples along the way. For an extra tip on the side, you can ask the boat rower to take you to any interesting spot.

The wetland of Van Long Nature Reserve is nicknamed ‘the tideless bay’. The surface is so still and clear that you can see your own reflection on it. The water is also emerald green as opposed to the turquoise sea blue due to the moss at the bottom.

Along the ride, you will visit the Four Mothers Temple (đền Mẫu Tứ Vị Hồng Nương) at the bottom of Meo Cao Mountain (núi Mèo Cào). The temple worships four protectors of people living by the water. People say the mountain looks like it was scratched by a cat, hence the name.

You can also see other limestone mountains and caves of interesting shapes. One of them is the Fish Cave where a lot of freshwater fish gather.

The Ecosystem of Van Long Nature Reserve

Van Long Nature Reserve
[ by vulinhlsvn from Pixabay ]

In 1960, a 30 km dike turned Van Long into 3 500 hectares of wetland. Unintentionally, it created a safe place for many species of flora and fauna including migrant birds. Research found Van Long to be a combined ecosystem of limestone and wetland whereas the Red River Delta is wetland only.

One of the most valuable discoveries here was a community of 40 Delacour’s langurs. This type species is on the IUCN Red List and was previously only found at Cuc Phuong National Park. Van Long is now the largest site for research on them.

This nature reserve is also home to 722 species of flora, 39 species of fauna, 38 species of amphibians and reptiles, 100 species of birds, many of which are endangered.

Van Long is the only place to find the Bonelli eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) in Vietnam. It’s also home to Lethocerus indicus (cà cuống)— an arthropod on Vietnam’s Red List— which is an indicator of clean water.

Delacour’s Langur in Van Long Nature Reserve

Delacour’s Langur in Van Long Nature Reserve
A family of Delacour’s langur
[ by Tuan Bui from Facebook ]

The Delacour’s langur is considered to be one of the world’s most endangered primate species. Currently, the only viable population occurs in Van Long Nature Reserve.

This species is also found in fragmented populations across limestone karst forests of Ninh Binh, Nam Ha, Hoa Binh, and Thanh Hoa in North-central Vietnam. One of their major threats is being hunted for traditional medicine.

Their fur color and bushy tail is unique amongst Southeast Asian langurs. The fur is white from just above the hips to just above the knees while the rest is black. This makes them look like they’re wearing a pair of white pants, hence the name ‘voọc quần đùi trắng’ (White Pants langur) in Vietnamese.

They mainly eat leaves and are active during the day. The group size averages to ten individuals, with one adult male, four females, and their offspring. 

The young are born with open eyes, strong arms, and orange fur which begins to turn black at around four months. However, the full adult coat pattern is not achieved until around three years.

Traveling Tips for Van Long Nature Reserve

Traveling Tips for Van Long Nature Reserve
[ by ronan crowley from Flickr ]
  • Entrance ticket: 20 000 VND per person.
  • Boat ride ticket: 60 000 VND per boat for two.

Best time to visit: From May to June is when the lotus blooms. From November to April is when birds from the North migrate here and the whole reserve will be covered in a white shade.

Accommodation: You are likely to only spend a day here. However, a fun thing to try is a day on a homestay joining locals in their paddy fields.

Food: There’s a restaurant here that serves charcoal-grilled snakehead fish (cá chuối) found in the Fish Cave as a signature dish.

After some quality nature-exploring, you can reward yourself with a trip to Chicken Village Hotspring (Suối nước nóng Kênh Gà) just 12 km away. It’s usually included in tours from Hanoi to Van Long Nature Reserve

Also, check our article on ‘25 Best Things To Do in Ninh Binh’ to know how to get to Ninh Binh. From there, you have a couple of ways to get to Van Long Nature Reserve.

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