Monkey Island Eco Forest Park: a Peculiar Adventure in Ho Chi Minh City

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: November 17, 2020

If you wish to escape from the bustling city and immerse yourself in nature for just one day, Monkey Island Eco Forest Park in Can Gio will be the perfect hiding corner. Just beware of the mischievous monkeys though, there is a fine line between a friendly creature and a cheeky hat or food stealer.

    Location: Can Gio District, Ho Chi Minh City

I. Overview of Monkey Island Eco Forest Park

Overview of Monkey Island Eco Forest Park
Source: tripadvisor.com

Can Gio, a district in the southeast of Ho Chi Minh City is well-known for its mangrove natural reserve. The area contains a diverse ecosystem, with monkeys being one of the largest communities. Monkey Island Eco Forest Park, located inside Lam Vien Ecotourism Zone, is home to more than 2000 different species of baboon. It is one of the 24 subdivisions of Can Gio Nature Reserve, the green house of untamed species in the modern city.

II. Highlights of Monkey Island Eco Forest Park

Highlights of Monkey Island Eco Forest Park

1. Story of Monkey Island Eco Forest Park

Can Gio was originally a wetland territory and covered with saltwater all year round. This peculiar character has made the land the habitat of thousands of plants and animals. However, after many years of war, it was severely contaminated by chemicals and threatening anyone who intended to come close at the risk of stepping on unexploded ordnance. From an animate region, Can Gio turned into a deserted land where almost no sign of life is visible.

It was not so long after the end of the war that the authorities started to take action. Restoration activities were initiated from 1978, with 31 hectares of thicket being planted, bringing the ravaged forest back to life. The effort of local people has been recognized by UNESCO, as Can Gio Nature Reserve became the first Biosphere Reserve of Vietnam in 2000.

As for Monkey Island Eco Forest Park, ideas of an ecotourism zone started to form in 1994, when the area underwent rehabilitation. From a spoilt land with less 100 individuals of monkeys, it had lured thousands of species to return and turned into their safety house. The people managing the park share a profound knowledge and affinity for the animal, and they have spent years learning about their habits, feelings and desires. Choosing a career far off the splendid city, all of them have the same vision of preserving and even growing the species.

Highlights of Monkey island eco forest park 2

2. Meeting the Lovely Monkeys

Monkey Island Eco Forest Park is indeed a monkey sanctuary. The moment you walk through the entrance, you will see an eco park with pathways spreading around. This allows visitors to comfortably walk and interact with the monkeys. These animals seem to be amiable at first sight, begging for food with such an innocent face. Accepting their request and they will grab the food before immediately running away. 

But not all of these four-limbed friends care about your permission, prepare to be surprised when your food gets dragged from your hand at lightning speed. The stealer may instantly escape, or stand on unreachable branches of tree, laughing hysterically at its helpless victims. You may get pissed at first when you realize your tasty treats have been taken away but after all, this is an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind experience that you can only get by visiting a Monkey Island.

A conspicuous characteristic of the monkeys on Monkey Island Eco Forest Park is their tight connection as a community. You will see mother monkeys swinging from branch to branching while holding their babies, or father monkeys searching around for something to feed their offspring. Don’t try to mess with any of them, because you may get retaliated by a horde of monkeys who have the same intention of protecting their fellows. 

III. Nearby Attractions from Monkey Island Eco Forest Park

As we have mentioned before, Monkey Island Eco Forest Park is just a part of Can Gio Nature Reserve. All the other parts are located in the same region, and a few hours is all it takes for a trip around the district. You will discover the diverse ecosystems of Can Gio and understand how it earns the title ‘The City Green Lung’. You will also learn a great deal about the history and culture of the land. If you have already planned for a getaway from the sprawling metropolis, why don’t you make the most of your time by putting these places into your itinerary.

1. Crocodile Farm

Crocodile farm in Monkey island

The  crocodile farm lies right at the  entrance of Vam Sat Mangrove Forest. People came up with the  idea with a view to building an ideal environment for the species. The muddy swamp is covered with greenery and  the stable tropical weather creates a perfect living condition. Building a crocodile farm hits two targets with one stone, it provides a stable income and protects the animal from the risk of extinction.

2. Vam Sat Mangrove Forest

Vam Sat Mangrove Forest - Monkey island eco forest park

Vam Sat Mangrove Forest is the place that gives you the answer to your wonders about the title ‘The City Green Lung’. With an area of 75.740 hectares and more than 2000 species,  the numbers have already promised a fascinating exploration. 

But words are never enough to depict the excitement awaiting you and the only way to experience it, of course, is actually giving it a visit. Lucky for you, your journey will be free of exhaustion,  as all you need to do is stepping onto a speedboat. For 20-minute, it will take you through the forest, allowing you to fully admire its most outstanding features.

Rhizophora Apiculata (‘Cay Duoc’ in the native language) will instantly strike your attention with its extensive, abundant arching stilt roots as well as several aerial roots emerge from the shorter branches. The root system looks like a giant cage, preventing anyone from getting close to the tree. Hence, the phenomenal beauty of ‘Cay Duoc’ can only be admired from afar. 

Normally, the tree stands on soft mud of estuaries, which can be easily washed away due to a lack of sediment. And that’s where the expansive roots become useful. From your boat, you will notice a thick range of ‘Cay Duoc’ on both sides of the river. All of them are planted and carefully protected by the local residents, who endearingly call them ‘Flood Prevention Soldier.’

Another prominent flora in Vam Sat Mangrove Forest is Sonneratia Alba (‘Cay Ban’ in the native language), also an evergreen tree that can only be found in mangrove forests. Despite growing on the same kind of muddy soil, ‘Cay Ban’ can be distinguished from ‘Cay Duoc’ with its spreading vertical roots, rising from the cable of underground roots stemming from its trunk. It is the pioneering colonist of muddy estuaries, and also the most widely distributed species of plant in the area.

Located in the metropolitan Saigon, Vam Sat Mangrove Forest seems like an exotic scene in the concrete jungle. Yet, it plays a vital role in protecting the environment of the city. It acts as a green lung, absorbing pollutant exhausts from automotives and factories, filtering out hazardous particles by keeping them on their leaves or barks. 

Therefore, the people of Saigon are always persistent in preserving the forest, even when they utilize it for commercial purposes. And as an eco-embracing tourist, we should take a similar responsibility, relishing the natural beauty of Vam Sat Mangrove Forest without spoiling the surroundings.

3. Tang Bong Watchtower

Tang Bong watchover - Monkey island eco forest park
Source: tugo.com.vn

Also a part of Vam Sat Mangrove Forest, but Tang Bong Watchtower stands out with its extraordinary height of 26 meters. This is where you can get a panoramic view of the forest and also a spectacular view of birds flying around and building their nests. If you visit the tower in the late afternoon, you will observe flocks of birds and bats flying in opposite directions. The birds return to their nests after a long day finding foods while the bats only become active at night when they have spent the whole day sleeping.

4. Rung Sac War Base

Rung Sac War Base
Source: luxurytravelvietnam.com

Rung Sac, a nearby primitive jungle in Can Gio used to be a strategic location during the America-Vietnam war. With its varied and hard to access topography, it was chosen as a main military base for the Vietnam Communist Army (Viet Cong). 

Upon visiting the base, you will find dummies portray Viet Cong soldiers in a wide range of activities. Some were hiding behind bushes, watching every move of their rivals. Some were discussing the next targets in their war campaign. Some were wrestling with crocodiles, the natural enemy that constantly threatens to put their life to an end. 

Accompanying Viet Cong soldiers are fearless local women who provide medical support, garments and groceries. To reach Rung Sac War Base, you will need to take a motorboat ride through a few kilometers of waterway.

5. Hang Duong Seafood Market

Hang Duong seafood market

After a long trip around Can Gio, it’s time to drop off at some eateries and feast on the local cuisine. And Hang Duong Market would be a paradise for any seafood lovers. Opening all day, the market offers a wide range of seafood dishes, such as snails, shrimps, fish or crabs. 

First of all, walk around the market to understand the average price and avoid getting ripped off. Then, come to your chosen stalls, pick up the living creatures that are still swimming in glass tanks. Continue by choosing your favorite method of cooking, and a tasty, fresh from the oven meal will be served in no time.

IV. Extra Tips for Visiting Monkey Island Eco Forest Park

  • Getting to Can Gio: You can get to Can Gio on a variety of vehicles: motorbike, taxi, coach or bus. A journey from the center to Can Gio by motorbike will take around 1.5 hours (50km). The road is fairly comfortable to drive on. Just be aware of traffic rules to ensure the safety of yourself as well as other passengers.
  • Protecting Yourself Against Sunlight: The southern area has a unique trait of being sunny all year round. So it’s always a good idea to protect yourself with sunscreen, suncoat and a broad-brimmed hat. Whenever you are outdoors, regularly apply your sunscreen and keep your hat on all the time. You will be grateful for these simple steps when you return home without a painful sunburn blister or peeling.
  • Avoiding Potential Injuries: Interacting with the monkeys seems like an exhilarating experience but there are possibilities of getting injured. After all, they are just animals who are completely ignorant of the idea of hurting people. Therefore, avoid teasing the monkeys as it might trigger an aggressive response.

After a stressful working week, there is no better way to unwind than blending in with nature. If you are looking for a total change of environment right on the other side of the city, mingling with natural friends and leaving behind your daily worries, Monkey Island Eco Forest Park is the ideal addition to your travel plan.

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