Day 1: Arrival in Ho Chi Minh
Our Cambodia & South Vietnam birding tour starts in the modern, bustling metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly and informally known as Saigon). Upon arrival, you will be transferred to our hotel. If you arrive earlier in the day, you will have the opportunity to visit the Mekong Delta or the coastal suburb of Can Gio to look for shorebirds that might include Spoon-billed Sandpiper, “White-faced” Plover and Nordmann’s Greenshank. Overnight in HCM City.
Day 2: Transfer to Da Lat
We depart Ho Chi Minh City, and travel northeast to Da Lat in the central highlands. We will likely arrive in late afternoon, after making several birding stops along the way. Overnight at the luxury resort Hoang Anh – Dat Xanh for a 3-night stay.
Days 3-4: Da Lat
Da Lat sits on a plateau at 1,475 m (4,921 ft) and is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its comfortable temperate climate. The region’s landscape is picturesque – dotted with lakes and surrounded by woodland full of native pines. The distinct weather and habitats make the Da Lat Plateau a biodiversity hotspot, recognized by Birdlife International as an Endemic Bird Area (EBA) – one of five in Vietnam. Five species – Black-crowned Fulvetta, Collared Laughingthrush, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, Grey-crowned Crocias and Vietnamese Greenfinch are only found here.
During our stay, we will explore the forested slopes of the highest peak in the region Mount Langbian at 2,169 m (7,116 ft), birding the trails for the spectacular and endangered Collared Laughingthrush. Other birds we will look for include Yellow-billed Nuthatch, the near-endemic Vietnamese Cutia, White-browed (Da Lat) Shrike-babbler, Black-crowned Fulvetta and Green-backed (Langbian) Tit. The handsome and elusive Green Cochoa is also found here and should be vocal this time of year, and we should encounter a good number of wintering species.
Another important site we will visit is the Tung Na Valley, famous for the rediscovery of the Grey-crowned Crocias in the 1990’s and still regularly found here. Other important targets include Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Black-headed (White-spectacled) Sibia, Vietnamese Greenfinch, and Indochinese Green Magpie. Later, we’ll visit Tuyen Lam lake, an area where the greenfinch is again possible, and where we can find several bulbuls, Slender-billed Orioles, Red (Annam) Crossbill, and Black-throated (Langbian) Sunbird.
At the popular Datanla Waterfall, we will look for Annam Barbet, Gould’s Sunbird and Vietnamese Cutia while we enjoy the beautiful series of waterfalls. And finally, we will explore the Da Lat Flower Garden, a large landscaped park that holds various shorebirds, waders and kingfishers.
Day 5 : Di Linh
We depart Da Lat in the afternoon and take a relatively short drive to Di Linh. Certain species can be easier to find at the Nui San Pass than in Da Lat – exciting possibilities include Blue Pitta, Rusty-naped Pitta, Spotted Forktail, White-cheeked Laughingthrush, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Orange-breasted Laughingthrush, Vietnamese Cutia and the near-threatened and near-endemic Black-headed Parrotbill. Overnight in Di Linh.
Day 6: Nui San Pass and transfer to Cat Tien National Park
We will revisit Nui San Pass in the early morning hours, looking for the aforementioned species, and giving Green Cochoa another shot. We then continue on to Cat Tien National Park for a 4-night stay at Park HQ guesthouse. Overnight at superb Cat Tien National Park.
Days 7 - 9: Cat Tien National Park
Cat Tien National Park contains the largest remaining tract of lowland tropical forest in southern Vietnam – a mosaic of primary and secondary forest, seasonal wetlands and large swaths of grassland and bamboo. Cat Tien is one of Vietnam’s premier birding sites and exploring the jeep tracks and forest trails here should give us a good chance of finding many of our key targets: Germain’s Peacock-pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Green Peafowl, Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped Pittas, Gray-faced Tit-babbler and more. Many lowland birds with a wider distribution in Southeast Asia also occur here including various broadbills, woodpeckers including Black-and-buff, Great Slaty, Greater Yellownape and Greater Flameback, barbets including Green-eared, hornbills, drongos including Spangled, green pigeons, parakeets, rollers, orioles, babblers including Puff-throated and Chestnut-capped, leafbirds, blue flycatchers, sunbirds, mynas including Golden-crested, malkohas, Orange-breasted Trogon, Banded Kingfisher, Red Jungle Fowl, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Woolly-necked Stork and White-browed Piculet.
Night walks could turn up Brown Hawk-Owl and nightjars including Great Eared. Cat Tien is also rich in mammals, and with luck we’ll see Sambar, Muntjac, Black Giant Squirrel, striped and ground squirrels, Buff-cheeked Gibbon, Black-shanked Douc Langur, and treeshrews. Overnight Cat Tien Park.
Day 10: Transfer to Siam Reap
We spend the morning in the Cat Tien National Park, and with time permitting, visit Tan Phu State Forest en route to Ho Chi Minh City to look for the rare and near-endemic Orange-necked Partridge. We then depart from Tan Son Nhat International Airport for a short international flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Overnight at Apsara Holiday Hotel.
Day 11: Angkor Wat
Today, we visit Angor Wat, one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, and together with neighboring temples form the remains of different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. As we revel in the historical grandeur of these UNESCO World Heritage sites, we will also look for birds – moats and forest patches within the temple walls can hold special birds such as Oriental Darter, Alexandrine Parakeet, White-throated Rock-thrush, Forest Wagtail, and much more. Overnight at Apsara Holiday Hotel.
Day 12: Ang Trapeang Thmor
After breakfast, we spend a full day exploring Ang Trapeang Thmor, a nature reserve that is a patchwork of grasslands, dry forest and rice fields. The reserve is an important wintering site for the endangered eastern population of Sarus Crane. The wide-open spaces are also good for raptors such as Greater Spotted Eagle, rarely Imperial Eagle, Black Baza, and harriers while owls such as Spotted Owlet, Barn Owl and Spotted Wood-owl roost in the scattered copses. We will also visit the nearby Trapeang Thma Lake, a reservoir that can have a staggering number of birds depending on water levels – species here include Lesser Whistling-duck, rafts of Cotton Pygmy-Goose and Garganey, Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork, various shorebirds and occasionally Black-necked Stork. Overnight at Apsara Holiday Hotel.
Day 13: Tonle Sap and Preah Vihear
We depart Siem Reap early to comb the grasslands of Tonle Sap for the critically endangered Bengal Florican. Through a community conservation program, local villagers will join us and help locate these incredibly rare birds. As we scan, other birds we could find include Eastern Marsh-Harrier, Pied Harrier, various waders, Bluethroat, Oriental Skylark, and the scarce Manchurian Reed-Warbler. We then continue north towards the remote village of Tmatboey in Preah Vihear Province, making quick stops to look for White-rumped Falconet. This part of northern Cambodia harbors a rich ecosystem of open woodlands, seasonally-wet grasslands, deciduous dipterocarp forest and scattered wetlands – some of best remaining examples in Southeast Asia. After getting settled into our rustic guesthouse, we will do some late afternoon birding and species we may come across include Crested Treeswift, Small Buttonquail, Rufous-winged Buzzard, various Bee-eaters, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Indochinese Bushlark, Purple Sunbird, and much more. Overnight at Tmatboey.
Days 14: Tmatboey
We will have a full day to explore the area around Tmatboey and to find our target species. Trapeangs are small waterholes scattered throughout the forest and are the best spots to find the near-mythical Giant Ibis and White-shouldered Ibis. As we jump from one trapeang to another looking for ibis, we will find other species along the way including Black-headed Woodpecker, the enormous Great Slaty Woodpecker, the striking White-bellied Woodpecker, Velvet fronted Nuthatch, Burmese Nuthatch, Burmese Shrike, Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon, Brown Prinia, Blossom-headed and Red-breasted Parakeets, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Indochinese Bushlark, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Black-hooded Oriole and White-rumped Falcon. Night-birding is also often productive, and the local guides should know where several roosts are with Spotted and Brown Wood-Owls, Collared and Oriental Scops-Owls, Brown Fish-Owl and Spotted Owlet all possible along with Savannah and Large-tailed Nightjars. Overnight at Tmatboey.
Day 15: Tmatboey - Kratie
We will spend the morning mopping up any targets we may have missed around Tmatboey, and then depart for Kratie overlooking the Mekong River via the Stung Treng Bridge. Overnight at Dolphin Mekong Hotel.
Day 16: Mekong River
This morning, we hop into boats to explore the Mekong River north of Kratie scanning the banks of small vegetated islands for the recently described and near-threatened Mekong Wagtail. Another possible highlight of this cruise is seeing the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin, which are resident in small numbers here (2018 census found 92 dolphins, the highest number in 20 years). Other birds we hope to find include the increasingly rare Grey-throated Sand Martin, Small Pratincole and Pied Kingfisher. In the afternoon, we drive to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Overnight in Phnom Penh or participants can opt to fly home in the evening.
Day 17: Departure
Our Cambodia & South Vietnam birding tour ends today. You can depart anytime today.