November 17, 2009

Dray Sap Falls and Yok Don National Park, Vietnam

Several years ago we visited Buon Ma Thuot on a trip from Dalat through the central highlands. Although sadly I have no photos, the drive from Dalat to BMT was one of the most beautiful of my life, although perhaps one of the least comfortable - the stack of plastic bags at the front of the bus was extremely well used by the passengers..

Dray Sap Falls

I was drawn to BMT for the coffee - which was wonderful - but at first glance the town looked fairly uninspiring, so we hired a motorbike for a few trips out into the countryside.

We bought a map and some ponchos for the random rain showers and set off, driving through small towns and villages out towards the Dray Sap waterfalls. The countryside was stunning but as we had no idea how long it would take us (about an hour from BMT in the end) there wasn't much stopping.

When we arrived at Dray Sap we found there were actually three sets of falls - I have lost their names, sadly. The first were nothing much to speak of - no real drop, more like a set of rapids around some rocks.

Dray Sap Falls

Next, up the road, was Dray Sap itself - an immense, horseshoe shaped set of falls. The roar from the water was deafening and the volume of water coming down the falls was immense - it was May, the rainy season had barely started and (in Saigon at least) there had been six months of almost no rain at all yet the falls were truely impressive.

Crossing a bridge over the water would take you around to a second set of falls with a small spit of land and trees in between where another equally impressive set of falls were, with a walkway that would take you up close to the falls.

The forest around the falls was incredible, with a lot of old growth trees wrapped in all kinds of creepers - a really diverse array of trees, plants and foliage. We were getting exhausted but had heard there was one more set of falls up the road, so we decided to go for it.

It was a mad ride through the forest, starting on a road about 1.5m wide but it was clearly rarely travelled. As we sped down the road the forest began to reclaim more and more of the tarmac, until we had just inches either side of our elbows.

At last we reached the final set of falls, and they were a treat. Although I think there was building work on the other side - who knows what was planned - it had stopped for the day, and all around us the forest was wild and overgrown, there were no other visitors about, and the falls were the most spectacular yet. A fire burning on the other side of the falls sent smoke hanging eerily over the water, adding a real air of mystery to the place. It was a special experience and is very much fixed in our memories.

The next day we left BMT again in a different direction, in search of the Yok Don National Park. The countryside was stunning, and the drive was magical.. but sadly the park was rather disappointing. It was well maintained and there were community projects to involve local villagers in the upkeep and protection of the forest - all great things, no doubt.

Sadly though, from a visitors perspective the countryside outside the park was a lot more interesting than the forest inside, which was a relatively young plantation, with regularly planted trees and nothing like the biodiversity we'd seen around the falls. The drive we took around the area that evening was far more memorable than the park itself.. and breakfast down the road was perhaps one of the best bowls of pho I had in the two years I lived in Vietnam... it is a long way to go back, though! :)

Related sites:
Vietnam national parks
Vietnm Travel Guide
Adventure Travel Tours in Vietnam

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