Vietnam: Highlights

Focusing on the superb but sadly declining laughingthrush species of central Vietnam, along with a whole host of Indochinese and Vietnamese endemics. Golden-winged Laughingthrush, Bar-bellied Pitta and Indochinese Green Magpie are some of the standout birds on this short itinerary. Designed to cover all but one of Vietnam's accessible endemics, plus the vast majority of near-endemics and future splits. Depending on what is available at the time of our visit, we will likely visit several hides which offer excellent photographic opportunities.

Next dates

18-31 March 2024

Tour length: 14 days

Group size limit: 7


Joshua Bergmark and a local leader

Spaces available

Day 1: International arrivals into Ho Chi Minh City International Airport (SGN). Night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 2: Following an early morning breakfast we depart for Cat Tien National Park, 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.

Day 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. Mammals could include the stunning Black-shanked Douc, Buff-cheeked Gibbon, Leopard Cat, or Pygmy Loris. Nights at Cat Tien National Park.

Day 5: 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 some excellent montane forest can be accessed at around 1200m. Along the way, we will try a spot for the newly-split Annam Prinia. 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 another newly-split near-endemic, the Black-headed Parrotbill. Night at Di Linh.

Day 6: 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, and one of only 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 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, “Plain” Blue-winged Minla, Black-headed and Rufous-backed Sibia and Red-headed Trogon. Night in Dalat.

Days 7-8: With two full days at our disposal, we’ll begin with a visit Mt. Lang Bian. At 2100m, it is 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, the endemic form of Long-tailed Minivet, Burmese Shrike, Black-collared Starling, Vinous-breasted Myna and Slender-billed Oriole. Nights in Dalat.

Day 9: Flying back to Ho Chi Minh City, we will connect with another flight to Pleiku, situated in remote Kon Tum province. Night in Mang Den.

Day 10: We will spend the day birding along a road cutting through lush forest in search of one of Vietnam’s more recently described species; Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush. Here at its one known accessible locality. Yellow-billed Nuthatch and Black-hooded Laughingthrush are also present here, along with a range of other more widespread Vietnamese birds. Night in Mang Den.

Day 11: Depending on the previous days success we will either spend the morning birding around Mang Den again or head north early to Dak To to arrive in time for an afternoon session. Night at Dak To.

Day 12: A very early start for a full day 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 but stupendous Golden-winged Laughingthrush. A large variety of other species are possible including Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Green Shrike-babbler, Green-tailed Sunbird, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Red-tailed Minla and Stripe-breasted Woodpecker. Night at Dak To.

Day 13: 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, “Black-crested” Sultan Tit and Black-throated Laughingthrush. Birding is usually hard work here, but we hope to also find White-winged Magpie, Black-browed Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Fulvetta and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Night at Bach Ma National Park.

Day 14: After a full morning birding inside Bach Ma National Park we will head to Da Nang International Airport (DAD) where the tour ends at midday in time for afternoon flights. There are multiple flights each day to either Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Hong Kong. NOTE: We can help organise any short extensions to northern Vietnam, or the neighbouring countries of Cambodia and Laos on request.

Tour details

$ 4,500
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 400

Accommodation: Comfortable hotels throughout.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside birding with short forays onto forest trails.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.