National Parks in Mekong Delta - Mekong River Attractions
Con Dao National Park is centred on an archipelago of 14 islands, the largest of which is Con Son. The topography of Con Son island is mountainous, and dominated by a granite ridge, which runs from south-west to north-east, sheltering the bays on both sides of the island from strong winds.
Con Dao National Park
The highest points on the island are the summits of Mount Thanh Gia and Mount Chua, at 577 and 515 m respectively. The smaller islands reach a maximum elevation of 200 m.
There are no permanent watercourses on any of the islands of the Con Dao archipelago, only seasonal streams. In the rainy season, water is plentiful but, in the dry season, there is a serious lack of water. Three reservoirs collect water during the rainy season to supply the local population during the dry season.
The Con Dao archipelago is located on the boundary between two sea currents: a warm one from the south, and a cold one from the north.
Con Son island and many of the other islands of the archipelago are extensively forested. According to the revised investment plan, the national park supports 4, 905 ha of forest, equivalent to 81% of the total terrestrial area. To date, 882 vascular plant species have been recorded at the national park, including 91 species of medicinal plant. One outstanding feature of Con Dao's flora is the 44 plant species that were discovered for the first time on the islands. A number of these species are named after the site, including Dipterocarpus condorensis, Ilex condorensis, Pavetta condorensis and Psychotria condorensis.
To date, 24 species of mammal, 69 species of bird and 42 species of reptile and amphibian have been recorded at the national park. Although the number of species is relatively low, the density of individual species is often high, and there are a number of endemic taxa, including an endemic subspecies of Black Giant Squirrel, Ratufa bicolor condorensis. The bird fauna of Con Dao National Park is not well studied. However, a number of bird species recorded at Con Dao are not known from any other site in Vietnam, including Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica, Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus, Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor and Masked Booby Sula dactylatra.
The marine ecosystems at the national park include mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Mangroves cover a total of 15 ha, and are distributed around Ba island and along the west coast of Bay Canh island, and along the north and south coasts of Con Son island. The coral reefs at Con Dao are among the most pristine in Vietnam, and are distributed in shallow waters around the islands, covering a total area of around 1, 000 ha. The coral reefs support high levels of biodiversity, including over 270 coral species. Surveys conducted by Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography have shown the presence of 1, 323 species of marine fauna and flora, including 44 species listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam. At 153 species, the recorded mollusc diversity of Con Dao is the highest of any of Vietnam's offshore islands. The national park supports around 200 ha of seagrass beds, which support a small population of the globally threatened marine mammal, Dugong, numbering around 12 individuals.
Con Dao National Park contains a number of nesting beaches for Green Turtle Chelonia mydas and Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata, two globally threatened marine turtles. More than 250 females visit a total of 14 nesting sites annually, forming over 1, 000 nests. Nearly 80% of the nesting takes place between June and September. Furthermore, a number of cetaceans have been recorded in the marine component of Con Dao National Park.
Lung Ngoc Hoang Nature Reserve
Lung Ngoc Hoang Nature Reserve is situated in the flat Mekong Delta region. An extensive network of canals runs throughout the site.
There are three major vegetation types at Lung Ngoc Hoang Nature Reserve. The most widespread vegetation type is Melaleuca forest, most of which is commercial plantation with few biodiversity values. There are several small patches of open swamp and grassland, which have greater biodiversity value, although much is now planted with Melaleuca saplings. Approximately one third of the site is given over to rice and sugar cane cultivation.
The grassland areas include some large areas of Eleocharis dulcis meadow, associated with which are Cynodon dactylon, and patches of naturally regenerating Melaleuca. Three other grassland types are to be found at the site: Scleria poaeformis meadow, which includes some Eleocharis dulcis and members of the Poaceae; Hymenachne acutigluma meadow, which predominates along some of the canal banks; and Phragmites vallatoria meadow, which occurs as occasional patches of tall, dense stands.
The aquatic plant community of the canals is comprised mainly of Eichhornia crassipes, Pistia stratiotes, Salvinia cucullata, Ipomoea aquatica, Ludwidgia adscendens, Centrostachys aquatica, Azolla pinnata, Spirodela polyrrhiza and Lemna aequinoxialis
The diversity of wetland birds recorded at Lung Ngoc Hoang is low. No globally threatened or near-threatened species have been reliably reported from this site. Large wetland birds are scarce at Lung Ngoc Hoang, only a few egrets and herons have been recorded here during the dry season. During the wet season, however, a few more wetland species have been documented, including Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus and Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis. The avifauna of the Melaleuca plantation areas is species poor, consisting mainly of Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica, Olive-backed Sunbird Nectarinia jugularis and Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosa. No significant records of other faunal groups have been made at the site.
Mui Ca Mau National Park
Mui Ca Mau National Park is situated at the southernmost tip of Vietnam. The site was originally covered in natural mangrove forest but the vast majority was destroyed during the Second Indochina War and, later, by conversion to aquacultural ponds and agricultural land. Most of the aquacultural ponds have been abandoned, and now support extensive areas of re-colonising mangrove forest. There are extensive mudflats, which are also being colonised naturally by mangrove. The site is continually growing due to accretion rates along the coastline of up to 50 m per year in places.
The site is bisected by the Lon river, in the mouth of which two islands (Con Trong and Con Ngoai) have been formed by the accretion of sediment. To the north of the site is the estuary of the Bai Hap river, one of the largest rivers in Ca Mau province.
Nui Cam Nature Reserve
At 710 m, Nui Cam is the highest point in the Bay Nui (seven mountains) area of An Giang province. These mountains are surrounded by the plain of the Mekong Delta, an anthropogenic landscape dominated by wet rice cultivation. Nui Cam is drained by a number of streams, which flow into the local canal system, which forms the main hydrological system in this part of the Mekong Delta.
The principal habitat types at the site are secondary forest and plantation forest. Botanical surveys at Nui Cam have recorded 178 plant species. Of greatest conservation significance, the site supports a population of the globally critically endangered tree species Aquilaria crassna.
Phu Quoc National Park
With an area of 56, 200 ha, Phu Quoc is the largest in an archipelago of 14 islands. Phu Quoc island lies in the Gulf of Thailand, about 40 km due west of the Vietnamese mainland. Phu Quoc National Park is situated in the north-east of the island, and the northern and eastern boundaries of the national park follow the coastline. The topography of the national park is hilly, although not particularly steep. The highest point in the national park is Mount Chua at 603 m. The national park is drained by numerous, mainly seasonal, streams. The only sizeable river on the island is the Rach Cua Can river, which drains the southern part of the national park, and flows into the sea on the west coast of the island.
Little information is available on the flora and fauna of Phu Quoc National Park. The natural vegetation of Phu Quoc island is lowland evergreen forest and the national park supports 12, 794 ha of forest, equivalent to 86% of the total area. The forest appears to be in good condition, particularly at higher elevations, although forest at lower elevation is degraded. The forest is characterised by members of the Fabaceae. To date, 929 plant species have been recorded on Phu Quoc island. At lower elevations in some areas, the national park supports distinctive formations of Melaleuca sp. forest, characterised by tall trees and an open, park-like structure.
Numerous publications report the occurrence of Pileated Gibbon Hylobates pileatus (formerly considered a subspecies of White-handed Gibbon H. lar) on Phu Quoc island.
Because of its beautiful scenery and unspoilt beaches, Phu Quoc island already attracts a number of tourists. However, the tourism potential of the national park and the surrounding marine area have yet to be fully realised.
Thanh Phu Nature Reserve
Thanh Phu Nature Reserve comprises the section of the Mekong Delta coastal zone between the Co Chien and Ham Luong estuaries (two of the mouths of the Mekong River). As is the case with other sites on the eastern coastline of the Mekong Delta, Thanh Phu Nature Reserve is strongly affected by erosion as well as accretion. The coastal landscape at Thanh Phu is made up of the following elements: sandy belts, tidal mudflats, saline tidal swamps and toxic acid-sulphate swamps.
The coastal mangroves at Thanh Phu are dominated by Rhizophora apiculata, Avicennia marina, A. officinalis, Excoecaria agalloccha and Sonneratia spp. The most extensive mangrove type is Rhizophora apiculata mangrove. These mangroves are an important habitat for a number of aquatic organisms, including some with high economic value.
The intertidal mudflats are an important habitat for shorebirds. However, all the shorebird species occurring at Thanh Phu Nature Reserve are common coastal migrants, such as Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia and Sanderling Calidris alba.
Tram Chim National Park
Tram Chim National Park supports one of the last remnants of the Plain of Reeds wetland ecosystem, which previously covered some 700, 000 ha of Dong Thap, Long An and Tien Giang provinces. The national park is located 19 km to the east of the Mekong River, at an elevation of about 1 m. The topography of the national park is flat, and slopes slightly to the east. In the past, several natural streams and rivers flowed from west to east, distributing water from the Mekong River to the Plain of Reeds. Now these streams and rivers have been replaced by a system of canals, some of which flow through the national park.
Prior to canalization, the Plain of Reeds was seasonally flooded with standing water for continuous periods of up to seven months per year. Since canalization, floodwaters drain more rapidly, and the national park is flooded for less than six months per year. Water levels in the canals begin to rise in June, at the beginning of the rainy season. Between September and December, the national park is inundated to a depth of 2 to 4 m, with a peak in October.
Since the mid-1980s, 53 km of dykes fitted with sluices have been constructed around the national park, with the aim of impounding floodwater for longer, and reducing the lowering of the water table during the dry season. The national park is fragmented by canals into five management zones; the water level of each can be managed separately