10th - 30th March 2019
Leader: James Eaton
Max group size: 7
Our comprehensive tour takes us the length and breadth of Vietnam, and targets nearly all of Vietnam’s specialities - we were the first company to offer such a comprehensive itinerary, and we continue to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible during three weeks inside this endemic-rich country. Starting in the sunny south at Cat Tien National Park, in search of the gloriously bright Bar-bellied Pitta and Germain’s Peacock Pheasant before heading to the endemic-rich Dalat highlands to begin our laughingthrush-quest – Orange-breasted, Collared, Black-hooded and White-cheeked – the names not doing justice to such fabulous, though highly-elusive birds. Grey-crowned Crocias, Vietnamese Greenfinch and Cutia and Black-crowned Parrotbills are other mouth-watering specialities.
Venturing into central Vietnam, Birdtour Asia began pioneering tours here when the region was still very much an unknown quantity. It is now the heart-beat of a Vietnam tour, with Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush, Golden-winged Laughingthrush, Black-crowned Barwing and Sooty Babbler being the notable highlights in-store. A fine supporting cast are equally highly-prized, that could include Indochinese Green Magpie, Limestone Leaf Warbler, Indochinese Wren Babbler and Red-collared Woodpecker. Finally, a trip to the misty north could prove a fitting end with Short-tailed Parrotbill, our final Laughingthrush – Grey, and Limestone Wren Babbler.
International arrivals into Ho Chi Minh City. Night in Ho Chi Minh City.
Following an early morning breakfast we depart for Cat Tien National Park, 3-4 hours, arriving for lunch for a three-night stay. We have the afternoon to begin our exploration of this wonderful park, one of the few areas of lowland forest left in Indochina. Night at Cat Tien National Park.
Days 3 - 4:
Cat Tien National Park is well known for its diversity of birds, including several globally endangered species and Indochinese endemics, such as Germain's Peacock Pheasant, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pittas, Siamese Fireback, Green Peafowl, Pale-headed and Black-and-buff Woodpeckers, Red-vented Barbet and Grey-faced Tit Babbler. Other species we will hope for during our pleasant yet exciting stay here include Orange-breasted Trogon, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbill, Ashy-fronted Green Pigeon, Red Junglefowl, Banded, Black-and-red and Dusky Broadbill, Banded Kingfisher, White-crested Laughingthrush and Blyth's Frogmouth. Nights at Cat Tien National Park.
We will have a final morning birding inside the national park before driving to the forested pass along the road from Di Linh to Phan Tiet, where a newly created road now gives access to some excellent montane forest at around 1200m. This is the most reliable site for the beautiful Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, while other regional endemics regularly seen in the area include Black-hooded and White-cheeked Laughingthrush. Other species present include Rusty-naped and Blue Pitta, Green Cochoa and the newly split Black-crowned Parrotbill. Night at Di Linh.
Once again we bird the forest south of Di Linh in search of the previously mentioned species. Other possibilities in the area include Silver Pheasant, Bar-backed Partridge, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Yellow-vented Green Pigeon, Red-vented Barbet and Vietnamese Greenfinch, as well as most species present in the Dalat area which we drive to after the mornings birding.
In the afternoon we will make our first visit to Ta Nung Valley, a small pocket of forest that is amazingly birdy.
Ta Nung is one of less than a handful of sites from where the recently rediscovered Grey-crowned Crocias is known. On this day, we will put a special effort into finding this globally endangered Dalat endemic. The excellent path through the sub-montane forest is good for many other rare and spectacular species, among them Red-vented Barbet, White-cheeked and Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Indochinese Green Magpie, Blue-winged Minla, Black-headed and Rufous-backed Sibia and Red-headed Trogon. Night in Dalat.
With two full days at our disposal we begin with a visit Mt. Lang Bian, at 2100m one of the higher mountains on the Dalat Plateau with an avifauna that is distinctly different from most other sites in the area. Passing through the pine forest on our ascent, we may find the endemic Vietnamese Greenfinch and several more widespread species with distinct Annamese forms including Red Crossbill and Eurasian Jay. In the broadleaved forest near the summit, we will search for the rare and elusive Collared Laughingthrush, one of the most beautiful of the Dalat endemics. Mixed flocks in this area usually hold endemic Black-crowned Fulvetta and Vietnamese Cutia along with a host of other possibilities including robinsoni Black-headed Sibia, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-spectacled, Blyth's and Kloss's Leaf Warblers.
On the following day we shall visit the remnant forest patches at Ho Tuyen Lam. The forest here can seem very quiet, until we hit a feeding flock, which could contain such gems as Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Black-headed Sibia, Black-crowned Parrotbill, Grey-bellied Tesia, Vietnamese Cutia and perhaps Grey-crowned Crocias. The pine forest surrounding the lake is also a good spot for Vietnamese Greenfinch, Red Crossbill, Vietnamese Cutia, annamensis Long-tailed Minivet, Burmese Shrike, Black-collared Starling and Vinous-breasted Myna and Slender-billed Oriole. Nights in Dalat.
We depart Dalat in the morning, flying back to Ho Chi Minh City to connect with another flight to Pleiku, situated in remote Kon Tum province. Night in Mang Den.
We will spend the day birding along a road cutting through lush forest in search of one of Vietnam’s recently described species; Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush. Here at its one known, accessible locality. Yellow-billed Nuthatch and Black-hooded Laughingthrush are also present here and we will also see what else this little-known area supports. Night in Mang Den.
Depending on the previous days success we will either spend the morning birding around Mang Den again or head north early to Dak To, for three more recently described Vietnamese birds, the Black-crowned Barwing, Indochinese Fulvetta and Golden-winged Laughingthrush. Night at Dak To.
A very early start for a full days birding along the boundary of the largely-inaccessible Ngoc Linh National Park. The main targets here are Black-crowned Barwing, Indochinese Fulvetta and the very elusive Golden-winged Laughingthrush. A large variety of other species are possible including Green Shrike-babbler, Green-tailed Sunbird, Rufous-grogeted Flycatcher, Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minla and Stripe-breasted Woodpecker. Night at Dak To.
Early morning depart Dak To, heading to the coast to arrive at Bach Ma National Park in the early afternoon, with lunch just outside the park. The upper slopes are home to the near-endemic Indochinese Wren Babbler, Indochinese Yuhina, Indochinese Green Magpie, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Silver Pheasant, Long-tailed Broadbill, gayeti Sultan Tit and Black-throated Laughingthrush. Though the accessible forests were largely destroyed by a typhoon several years ago we will look for several wanted species including Austen's Hornbill, White-winged Magpie, Blue-rumped Pitta, Black-browed Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Fulvetta and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Night at Bach Ma National Park.
A full mornings birding inside Bach Ma National Park seeking out the specialities that have thus far eluded us. On the way out, Masked Laughingthrush is possible before we head further north along the coast. Night in Dong Ha.
The long-winding road that takes us along the Laos border passes through some nice areas of forest, here we will make stops looking for Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, Indochinese Wren Babbler and a variety of other possiblities including White-winged Magpie. Night at Phong Nha.
A full days birding at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Our main targets will be Sooty Babbler, a near-endemic restricted to the Annamite mountains and the recently-described Limestone Leaf Warbler. Other species possible include the seldom-seen Red-collared Woodpecker, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Indochinese Green Magpie, Austen's Hornbill, Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped Pittas. Phong Nha-Ke Bang is an important reserve for three endangered primates; Southern White-cheeked Gibbon, Hatinh Langur and the gorgeous Red-shanked Douc and we have a chance of seeing the latter two. Night at Phong Nha.
We will spend part of the morning at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park before driving back to the coast and heading north yet again, arriving at Cuc Phoung National Park in the evening. Night at Cuc Phoung National Park.
A full day inside Cuc Phoung National Park, the country's oldest national park, for a select bunch of species, including Limestone Wren Babbler, Red-collared Woodpecker, White-winged Magpie, Chestnut-necklaced Partridge (=Tonkin Partridge) and Collared Falconet. Night at Cuc Phoung National Park.
After mornings birding, possibly including a chance of Delacour's Langur if birding has been successful, before we travel up the winding roads to Tam Dao, an old French-colonial hill station in the afternoon. Night at Tam Dao.
Here, in the Tam Dao National Park, we will make an excursion into the cloud forests of the surrounding mountains to search for pittas, cochoas, parrotbills and many more. The birding here can be very exciting, as wintering mixed feeding flocks quickly move through the undergrowth and canopy, consisting predominantly of wintering warblers, babblers and yuhinas. Birds we can hope to see along the trails include Grey Laughingthrush, Green Cochoa, Chestnut Bulbul, Coral-billed, Red-billed and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Black-chinned Yuhina, and if we are lucky diminutive Short-tailed Parrotbill. In the late afternoon we head back down the hill to Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, for our final dinner. Night in Hanoi.
International departures from Hanoi International Airport.