Yok Don National Park – The Vietnam’s Biggest Protected Area

Linh
Linh | Published: November 8, 2019

Yok Don National park borders with four communes in Dak Lak province: Ea Bung and Chu M’Lanh communes – Ea Sup district, Krong Na commune- Buon Don district, and Ea Po commune, Cu Jut district. The park covers a flat plain that extends from eastern Cambodia into northern Dak Lak and southern Gia Lai provinces in Vietnam. 

    Location: 40km from Buon Ma Thuot, Krong Na, Buon Don district, Dak Lak

1. Topography of Yok Don National Park

Yok Don National Park is flat with an elevation of 200m with lowland landscape dominated by dry forest studded with seasonal pools. Semi-evergreen forest can also be found, along watercourses. 

There are, however, several ranges of low hills within the national park; the highest is the eponymous Mount Yok Don at 482 m in the south-eastern range. Yok Don is bisected by the Srepok River- a major tributary of the Mekong River. During the dry season, the two largest streams at the site, the Dak Ken and Dak Na, are ramified to a series of interrupted pools.

2. Biodiversity Values

  • Vegetation

The vegetation at Yok Don National Park is dominated by deciduous forest and semi-evergreen (mixed deciduous) forest, with smaller areas of evergreen forest, particularly on hills and along watercourses.

The deciduous forest contains members of the Dipterocarpaceae family, including Dipterocarpus tuberculatus, D. obtusifolius and Shorea obtusa. However, Anacardiaceae, Combretaceae, Fabaceae and Myrtaceae families are also well represented. The canopy of this forest type is open and most trees have thick, fire-resistant bark.

Unlike the deciduous forest, the semi-evergreen forest at the site has a closed canopy and is stratified into five layers. This forest type is characterized by the presence of Lagerstroemia calyculata, Shorea cochinchinensis and Anisoptera scaphula. 

Evergreen forest has a limited distribution in the national park, being confined to higher elevations on the range of hills in the south-east of the site. This forest type is denser and is dominated by members of the Fagaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Sapindaceae, Ebenaceae and Meliaceae families.

  • Flora 

Because deciduous forest generally supports a lower floral diversity than evergreen forest, the diversity of plant species at Yok Don is lower than that at other national parks in Vietnam. According to Anon (1998), 474 vascular plant species have been recorded at the national park, of which 28 are listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam. Yok Don is considered to be one of seven internationally important Centres of Plant Diversity in Vietnam.

  • Fauna 

Yok Don National Park has a reputation as an important site for the conservation of large mammals. Indeed, scientists consider the continued occurrence of asian elephant elephas maximus, gaur bos gaurus, banteng B. javanicus and tiger panthera tigris at Yok Don to be confirmed. 

In addition, evidence from recent trophies and first-hand reports indicates that the national park may support small numbers of the globally vulnerable eld’s deer cervus eldii. Furthermore, two globally threatened primate species also occur at the national park: black-shanked douc pygathrix nigripes and yellow-cheeked crested gibbon hylobates gabriellae.

Yok Don is the only known site for the critically endangered giant ibis in Vietnam and supports the last known breeding sarus cranes in the country. Yok Don supports a globally significant population of green peafowl, estimated to number at least 400 individuals. Larger permanent waterways support small but nationally important populations of white-winged duck, masked finfoot, lesser and grey-headed fish eagles. 

Yok Don is also one of a handful of sites in Vietnam with recent records of white-rumped and red-headed vultures. However, most of these records have been from the western part of the park, close to the Cambodian border, which is closed to visitors.

3. What to Do in Yok Don National Park?

  • Trekking 

Day 1: Buon Ma Thuot – Yok Don National Park

An ideal trekking tour should be included 3 days. On the first day, you can depart from Buon Ma Thuot airport. When you reach the park, you can trek deep into the forest in order to contemplate the variety of fauna and flora system. At lunch, set up a tent to relax and take a meal. Then, in the evening, stroll for a while to enjoy the atmosphere of night time or just stay in the tents or hammocks chatting with friends and family. 

Day 2: Full day trek Yok Don National Park

Get up early and continue your trip to the peak of Yok Don Mountain. It may take you around 2 hours to hike up to the top of this mountain. From here, you can enjoy a great view of beautiful nature below. Then, go to Dak Lau stream, set up a camping site to make dinner with fish and  herbaceous plants.

Day 3: Yok Don National Park-Don Village – Buon Ma Thuot

On the third day, take an elephant ride to continue your journey. After that, visit Srepok River to enjoy the stunning landscapes where hold so many bird species. In the afternoon, visit Yang Lanh village and immerse yourself in the diverse traditional cultures of different ethnic minorities such as Laos, M’nong and Ede.

  • Elephant bathing

Elephants in Yok Don used to ride heavy baskets on the backs to wait for tourists. Now, they have a more comfortable life to roam in the safe forest. If you go to the park, you may see many elephants bathing in mud, water and dust. Even though they are wild free to nature, you can get close to them in the allowed distance to take pictures without worrying about your safety. 

  • Bird watching 

If you want to watch a number of different birds in Yok Don National Park, you need to wake up early in the morning. Trek into the jungle until you find the best bird-watching areas. Here, if you are lucky enough, you will have an opportunity to spot even some rare species like bee-eaters, green peafowl, oriental-pied horn bill, yellow-footed pigeon, Rufus tree pie and so on.

4. Where to Eat?

There are numerous restaurants serving delicious food near Yok Don National Park for tourists to enjoy.

  • Restaurant Tai 

Location: 19 Nguyen Khuyen, Tan Loi, Buon Ma Thuot city

Tel: 093 160 57 57

  • Thanh Hung Restaurant

Location: 1 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Tan Loi, Buon Ma Thuot city

Tel: 0262 3957 057

  • La Garden

Location: 57 Nguyen Khuyen, Tan Loi, Buon Ma Thuot city

Tel: 093 241 22 68

5. Where to Stay?

  • Happy Homestay

Location: 251 Nguyen Thi Dinh, Tan Tien, Buon Ma Thuot city

Tel: 0262 3890 252 

  • Nam Son Hotel

Location: 10 Le Van Huu, Ea Tam, Buon Ma Thuot city

Tel: 0262 7307 979

  • Ngoc Tran Guesthouse

Location: 215/1 Y Wang, Ea Tam, Buon Ma Thuot city

Tel: 0898 383 886

6. Best Time to Visit Yok Don National Park?

The best time to visit Yok Don National Park is on the dry season, which is between October and April. This is the time when the temperature is pleasant, the forests are lush and the tourism activities are varied. Whether you choose a bird watching or a mountain hiking, you will get the best experience ever. 

Your holiday will be unforgettable if it is filled with a trip to Yok Don National Park in Vietnam!

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