Recall Of The Wild: Getting Close To Nature In Ninh Binh’s Thung Nham Bird Park

Serene and magically beguiling, Thung Nham bird park is one of the rare and exceptional ecotourism destinations in Vietnam that manages to preserve and display its biodiversity while at the same time running headlong into the future.

Table of contents

Asian Openbill Storks - Thung Nham Bird Garden

1. Thung Nham Bird Park – Where Nature And Nurture Intersect

The sky is a great source of ornithological wonder and Thung Nham bird park is an excellent place to see birds heading off and arriving in their millions. Tucked away between lushly carpeted limestone mountains and sheltered from the wind, the park is home to a great diversity of both migratory and resident birds. It has breeding groups of storks, night herons, magpie robins, and other species. Amazing as the diversity might seem, the park bird population is dominated in numbers and kind by members of the stork family, including yellow bitterns, cattle egrets, Chinese pond herons, and black bitterns.

What is, perhaps, even more, striking are its flocks of cranes – one of Asia’s most loved birds which are often considered to represent noble characters and longevity in many cultures. A trip to Thung Nham bird park during the breeding season – the period between August and April (lunar calendar), creates the wow factor of huge flocks of these charismatic creatures flying and strutting about in the brilliant sunlight. In Vietnam, cajeputs are largely associated with the Mekong delta and yet, this unlikely plant, whose seeds are dispersed by the birds themselves, is taking hold in Thung Nham bird park, providing a nesting site for the cranes as well as a safe home for other terrestrial wildlife.

2. From A Wasteland To A Prominent Ecotourism Project

The Thung Nham bird park – in Vietnamese Thung Nham means valleys surrounded by limestone mountains – covers around 300 ha in the Trang An Landscape Complex. It is home to more than 111 species of fauna, including 40 species of birds. A few years ago it was nothing; now it’s North Vietnam’s largest natural bird park.

It is all thanks to Pham Cong Chat – CEO of Doanh Sinh tourism service and trading joint-stock company. It was an amazing and unexpected twist of fate that gave him the idea of turning a piece of wasteland, which only used to be accessible via boat and a tight mountain pass, into a farm, and later on, an ecotourism project. In 1999 during a disastrous flood, he discovered by chance, that birds congregated in large numbers at Tiên (Fairy) Lake – an 18 ha body of water that was sacred to the locals and which had a flourishing aquatic life below the surface. Driven by an intuition stemming from an age-old belief that birds only gather at safe and peaceful lands, he saw an opportunity to preserve the ecosystem, protect the birds, conserve their habitat, and run ecotourism projects to boost local development.

Thả đèn hoa đăng - Irena
Dê lợn Thung Nham

Dark moss green and clear all year round, Fairy Lake is home to 50 tons of fish with varieties ranging from grass carp to mrigal carp. Among the inhabitants of the lake is the ‘trau’ fish, a member of the snakehead family. According to local lore, the taste of the Ninh Binh ‘trau’ fish is so incredible and unique that it has been called the ‘food of emperors’ – delicacies reserved for the pleasure of the imperial court.

If Fairy Lake’s vibrant diversity and abundance of fish is one reason for its appeal, what locals believe about the lake elevates it into the realm of the sacred. In Ninh Binh, water drawn from Fairy Lake is revered as blessed and tradition dictates that on New Year’s Eve (lunar calendar), locals should cleanse their families’ incense bowls with it to pay respects to ancestors as the water has a sacred power to clean impurities.

Conservation comes first at the Thung Nham bird park. Part of the strategy involves 24/7 patrols and enlisting the support of the locals. The park management board laid down strict rules: travelers aren’t allowed to leave trash behind, they must maintain a certain distance away and keep quiet in order not to disturb the birds. Conservation efforts, combined with the park’s strategic location, allows birdlife to thrive. Sighting of wading birds is commonplace but the real success story here is the preservation of two rare species listed in Vietnam’s Red Data Book: the great hornbill and the Asian openbill storks.

Along with the restoration of the wasteland, making Thung Nham more accessible was another crucial step in the bid to promote ecotourism. The waterway was kept intact while a bamboo-lined cobbled path passing over the mountain was opened. This 2-km idyllic nature walk brings travelers to the park’s viewpoint which offers a commanding view of the lush landscape below.

3. Thung Nham Bird Park Rules and Regulations

I. For The Staff

1. Operating hours:

  • Summer time: 7h00 to 18h00.
  • Winter time: 7h30 to 17h30.

2. Ticket Price:

  • Children and adults higher than 1 meter: 30,000VND/ticket (extra ticket).
  • Children under 1 meter: free.

3. The staff should advise visitors to:

  • Ony roam in paths marked by the park.
  • Put on life jackets before leaving the dock.
  • Only seat in designated seating locations.
4. Assign lifeguards and have rescue equipment stands by when necessary.

5. Capacity:

  • The maximum capacity is 12 per boat.
  • The minimum number of tickets purchased for the boat to leave dock is 3 (applied for a group of two passegers during low season).
II. For visitors

1. Please kindly abide by the following rules:

  • Buy tickets before boarding the boats.
  • Follow the guide’s instruction. Always put on life jacket before boarding the boat for the safety of others and yourself.
  • Present your tickets before boading.
  • Respect the natural surroundings, no littering, and don’t make noise during the trip.
  • Don’t play around, keep your hands inside the boats, and don’t try to row the boat yourself.
  • Children under 15 should be accompanied by parents.
2. Thung Nham Ecotourism zone shall not be responsible or liable for any loss or damage sustanined or caused by visitors’ disrespect of the rules and regulations.
If you have any enquiries, suggestions, requests or complaints in respect of our services, you may contact us through hotline 0915.375.968.
Vườn chim Thung Nham, Ninh Binh
Vườn chim Thung Nham, Ninh Binh

While challenges lie ahead, the continued thriving birdlife at the Thung Nham bird park could be the transformative force behind the revival and flourishing of Ninh Binh’s nature scene and the driving factor for Vietnam’s sustainable tourism movement.