Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma National Park is located in central Vietnam in the province of Thua Thien Hue, around 700 km south of the country's capital Hanoi and 1000 km north of Ho-Chi-Minh-City (Saigon). The national park covers an area of about 22,000 ha in the districts of Phu Loc and Nam Dong. It was created in 1991 to protect the centre of the last corridor of forest stretching from the South China Sea to the Annamite mountain range at the border with the Lao PDR. With steep mountains and dense forests this area is home to a wide variety of animals and plants. At the base of the mountains there is tropical monsoon forest, above 900 m sub-tropical forest. There are species from both northern and southern Vietnam, and Bach Ma is recognized as one of the areas of Indochina with high biodiversity. Bach Ma mountain peak is the highest point in the park at 1450 m above sea level and is only 18 km away from the coast.
Bach Ma National Park is relatively easily accessible from Hue (40 km), Da Nang (65 km) and Hoi An (90 km). The park headquarters and entrance is about three km from the small town of Cau Hai, where the park road meets National Route
1. There are frequent buses (both local and tourist) from Hue and Da Nang, and there is a railway station in Cau Hai.
2. Private motorcycle taxis can take you for a small fee from Cau Hai to the park's entrance.
According to Vietnamese tradition, the Bach Ma ridge got its name ("white horse") from the white cloud which continually caps its peak. The area first attracted the attention of conservationists in 1925 when a plan to create a national park protecting the Edward's pheasant was submitted to the French colonial authorities.
On 29 July 1932, the summit plateau was selected by the French chief engineer Girard to become a hill station for the colonial administration of Hue. In the following years, a village including 139 villas and hotels was created, which soon became known as the Dalat of Central Vietnam. For accommodating holiday makers and to avoid commuting on the steep, 19 km long road to the next major town, there were even a post office, a market, and a hospital. After the French left Vietnam in 1954, the hill resort was soon forgotten and the remains of some of these buildings are now being smothered by the returning jungle.
The South Vietnamese government designated the Bach Ma - Hai Van National Park in 1962 but the conservation initiatives did not last very long. The Vietnam War saw heavy fighting in the park as the summit was used as an advanced helicopter base by the US Military. The American troops took advantage of the view from Bach Ma summit across the coastline and attempted to control the area between Hue and Da Nang. Evidence of this period remains in the form of unexploded ordinance and some hills still have not fully recovered from the spraying of defoliants.
After the reunification in 1976, several projects intended to develop fruit tree and vegetable plantations in the mountains but due to the harsh weather conditions these attempts failed consecutively. Eventually, Bach Ma summit and a surrounding area of 22,031 ha were given the protected status it deserves when Bach Ma National Park was created in 1991
Climate and weather
The climate in Bach Ma National Park is tropical with two distinctive seasons caused by the monsoon winds. There is hot and dry wind occurring from May to August and can be typhoon from June to November.
Bach Ma mountain is the wettest place within Vietnam with approximately 8,000 mm rainfall each year, mainly falling in the period between September and December. Areas at the foot of the mountain still receive about 3,000 mm annual precipitation. Air humidity is mainly between 85 % and 95 %. March and April are the driest months but even during that time humidity is rarely lower than 75 %.
Because of its high altitude, the summit area of Bach Ma mountain is always around 7 degrees cooler than the surrounding lowland areas. Temperatures in December and January can be quite cool with around 15 degree centigrade. The hottest months of the year are from May to August.
The weather conditions in the park area can change very quickly, in the morning being sunny changing to cloudy with heavy rain in the afternoon. Because of the proximity of the sea there are often strong winds.
The time in February is famous for the red Rhododendron simsii blossoms, well worth discovering and exploring with dry weather and still favorable temperatures. Most people visit Bach Ma in summer to escape the heat, and the park is particularly busy during weekends in June, July and August. The first torrential rainfalls in September mark the end of the high tourist season and bring back silence and serenity to the area.
Flora & Fauna
Studies of the biodiversity of Bach Ma’s forests show clearly that the park supports a very large number of plant and animal species. This is partly due to the variations in altitude and also because the park is located within the transition area of two bio-geographical zones containing species from northern and southern Vietnam.
The vegetation includes two main formations: tropical lowland forest below 900 m and subtropical submontane forest between 900 and 1450 m - latter being the richest and are less disturbed by human influence. The flora of Bach Ma includes 2,147 species which represents around one-fifth of the entire flora of Vietnam. Of these, 86 species are listed as endangered in the red book of Vietnam. There are also over 500 species which have commercial potential as medicinal plants. Bach Ma has given its name to at least three plant species: Piper bachmariaefolia, Cissus bachmaensis, and Elaeocarpus bachmaensis.
In the summit area there are some species of rare conifers like Bach Ma pine (Dacrydium elatum), Podocarpus neriifolius and Podocarpus fleuryi. In February, the red blossoms of the Rhododendron species - Rh. simsii - can be seen along small streams and in particular at the bottom of the Rhododendron waterfall.
Forests contain such valuable broadleaves trees such as species from the Dipterocarp family, rosewood and eaglewood. On the upper mountain, tree species of the oak and chestnut family are prevailing.
Forests are rich in palms such as rattans and fishtail palms as well as in ferns and orchids.
Due to the effects of spraying with herbicide chemicals and bombing during the Vietnam war the original forest in parts of the national park has suffered considerably.
The fauna of Bach Ma National Park is very various with a lot of endemic and rare species. Until now, scientists have identified 1.493 species including 132 species of mammals (occupy half of all mammals known in Vietnam), 358 bird species, 31 reptile species, 21 frog species , 57 fish species and 894 insect species. Nine species of primates are confirmed in Bach Ma, including macaques, langurs, loris and the white-cheeked gibbon. The elusive Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) was only discovered in Vietnam in 1992 and is also present in the protected area. Large predators, such as tiger and leopard, may still remain in remote areas of the park.
The 358 species of birds that have been observed in the park represent over one-third of the species found in Vietnam. There are seven species of pheasants, including the rare endemic Edward's pheasant (Lophura edwardsi). Historically, this species was very common in the forests along the foot of the mountain but was already considered to be extinct by the 1940s. More than 50 years later, it was rediscovered in the park and has become the symbol of Bach Ma National Park.
Bach Ma National Park offers a variety of infrastructure facilities for tourists ranging from the visitor centre over marked nature trails to a range of guesthouses.
On the map below, guesthouses, trails, and access roads are marked. Clicking on these or on the list of keywords enables you to reach the information required.