Tra Su Forest is located in Van Giao Commune, Tinh Bien District, An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. The forest is about over 20km from Chau Doc City and 10km from the Cambodia border.
Belonging to the national specialized forest system in the western region in Southern Vietnam, Tra Su forest is an ideal destination for ecological and scientific research tours in the Mekong Delta, thanks to its wonderful diverse wildlife.
Prior to 1975, Tra Su was destroyed by the bombs and became uncultivated area. After the war, authorities in An Giang Province invested to reforest cajuput and build a 12km long, 4m wide and 4m high dyke system that helps prevent the area from being swamped during flood season. The forest has been designated as a special restoration zone since 1983, with the target of becoming a renowned scientific forest and nature reserve.
To get to Tra Su Cajuput Forest, first go to Chau Doc City and then turn left about 17km to Nha Bang Town in Tinh Bien District. From there it is only 4km to Cam Mountain, which is right next to the Tra Su Cajuput Forest.
When to visit Tra Su forest?
The best time to visit Tra Su is at the high water season, from September to November. At this time of the year, the entire forest floats on a vast area, so a motor-boat is the only way to travel around. Indeed, rowing along the green mysterious canals is a particularly good idea, since the tourists are able to stop as they chose to pick wild berries or fruits or go for a bit of fishing in quiet contemplation.
What to explore at Tra Su forest?
The forest includes 845ha special-purpose forest surrounded by a 645ha buffer zone. It is the habitat for many colonies of water birds, bats and various others such as rare and endangered animals and reptile species.
Scientists estimate that it is home to over 70 species of birds, including 2 very rare species of Giang sen (Mycteria leucocephala) and the Dieng Dieng (Anhinga Melanogaster); 11 species of animals belonging to 6 families and 4 orders; 20 species of reptiles; 5 species of amphibians; 23 species of fish, including Ca com (Chitala ornata) and Tre trang (Clarias batrachus) having the scientific value and being in danger of extinction.
The flora is equally abundant and splendid with over 140 specified floral varieties which represent the second largest number of plant species in the Mekong Delta region, only after the Xeo Quit Cajuput Forest in Dong Thap Province. They include 22 varieties of trees, 25 varieties of shrubs, 10 varieties of vines, 70 varieties of grasses, 13 species of aquatic plants, 22 varieties of ornamental plants, 9 varieties of fruit trees and particularly many varieties of medicinal herbs of high value.
The forest is sub-divided into several sites to make getting around easier, that include a 3,000m2 fishing area, a 3,200m2 bird sanctuary and a 2,500m2 bat sanctuary, all of which cater to the specific individual demands of different types of tourists.
If visiting the key sites by foot, visitors must spend pretty much the whole day in the forest. However, if they jump in a motor-boat, it will save a lot of time, and permit a leisurely five hour round trip of all the significant sites throughout the ecological forest. They can view the lovely landscape as the scenery drifts along both river banks, enjoy the fresh air as well as listen to the magical music as performed by the birds of the forest and other jungle insects and animals.
Apart from the birds and animals, the tourists will see the wonderful countryside and farmers busily attending to their paddies, orchards and so on, but still happy to stop for a chat with guests.
In the midst of the forest there is a special ornithologist’s watch tower, standing some 10m high that allows tourists to enjoy a fantastic panorama of the vast greenery below, dotted with birds in the silhouette of the Cam Mountain in the background. The colour of the waterways changed from one place to another, sometimes turquoise and at other times silver, purple or amber, due to the numerous species of water creatures.
During the high water season, the forest’s canals and streams are dense with clusters of water ferns, a particularly vivid sight when the setting sun imparts a golden glow on the emerald-green duckweed that blankets the water’s surface. Lotus flowers and water lilies, cultivated by local farmers to supplement their incomes during the rainy season, cover much of the water. However, as night settles and the sun sets, the view changes and becomes enlivened as the birds return home for the night, covering the night sky in a huge screeching mass of feathers.
The natural aspect of the landscape is given a wonderful dimension by the few small farm-houses that are irregularly placed here and there, perched high up on stilts above the flood plain with their rudimentary bamboo ceilings made out of cajuput trees, providing a charming and unique setting as the forest is slowly consumed by the dark skies of night amongst the ambient noise of jungle animals.
What to eat at Tra Su forest?
In the return trip, visitors can have dinner at one of the local restaurants in the area. Ca loc nuong trui (grilled snakehead fish and vegetables) and lau mam (hot pot with marinated fish, chili and vegetables) are two dishes not to be missed. Ga rung nuong muoi ot (farm chicken grilled with salt and chili) is also distinctive, quite unlike other regional specialties.
Locals and tourists alike are also fond of nom hoa sung (salad of water lily), nom hoa dien dien (salad of sesban flowers) and ca ro kho to (caramelised anabas fish with fish sauce and chili in an earthen pot).
Apart from the significance of preservation and economic value, the area also boasts many unique cultural features as it is the home of the Kh’mer and Kinh people who practice several traditional handicrafts, such as brocade weaving, silk weaving, cooking Thot not (Borassus flabellifer) sugar, distilling cajuput essential oil, raising bees for honey, etc.
Endowed with peace and tranquility, Tra Su Cajuput Forest became a unique and attractive ecological destination in the Mekong Delta Vietnam.
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