Ho Chi Minh City, also known with the former name Saigon, has a good reputation among the foreign tourists, not only for the historical constructions that have witnessed the ups and down of this city, but also for a wide range of entertainment spots with ecotourism trips for tourists to explore. Located in the center of Ho Chi Minh City, Thao Cam Vien Park, or Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, is the place where you can discover the biodiversity of animals and plants in the south of Vietnam. Thao Cam Vien Park is also one of the eight oldest parks in the world.
- Location: 02 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hour: 07.00 – 18.30 daily
Phone number: 028 3829 1425
Ticket fee: Adults and children above 1.3 meter: 50,000 VND. Children from 1.0 to 1.3 meter: 30,000 VND. Children under 1.0 meter: free.
Best for: family, kids, group and solo
I. A Brief History of Thao Cam Vien Park
Thao Cam Vien Park started its construction on March 23rd, 1864 with the name of Botanical Garden. It was the idea of the Governor-General of Indochina at that time, Pierre-Paul De La Grandière, with the ambition to enhance the conservation of plants and animals as well as serve the study of contemporary scientists. At the order of the Governor-General, Mr. Louis Adolphe Germain, a veterinarian of the French army, was in charge of expanding 12 hectares of wasteland in the north of Thi Nghe Canal to raise animals and grow plants.
By the end of 1865, the garden was completed and occupied 20 hectares, with many kinds of rare species imported from the neighboring countries like India, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. On February 17th, 1869, five years after the very first construction, the park was open to the public with 509 animal species, including 120 mammals, 344 birds and 45 reptiles. The residents of Saigon at that time called it Saigon Zoo, and that name has been associated with Thao Cam Vien up to present.
Between the years of 1924 and 1927, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden merged another 13-hectare-land on the north bank of Thi Nghe Canal, widened the campus and supplemented with more species. Also during this period, it was invested in constructing large-scale architectural works on its campus such as King Hung Temple and Blanchard de la Bross Museum. In 1956, the garden was renamed Thao Cam Vien as we call today, and Blanchard de la Bross Museum was named the National Museum of Saigon.
After the Liberation of South Vietnam (April 30th, 1975), Thao Cam Vien Park has welcomed millions of both domestic and international visitors every year. In order to adapt to the increasing number of tourists, Saigon Zoo has constantly upgraded the campus with many works like investing in the construction of stone embankments along Thi Nghe Canal, improving the drainage system, building fences, renovating and expanding animal sheds to suit the ecological life of each animal.
II. Highlights of Thao Cam Vien Park
Throughout more than 150 years of construction and development, Thao Cam Vien Park now is the largest zoo in Vietnam with more than 1000 animals of 125 species, nearly 2000 woody plants of 260 species, 23 species of domestic orchid, 33 kinds of cactus, 34 types of bonsai and the green grass on an area of 17 hectares, many of which are on the Red List of Threatened Species. Up to now, Thao Cam Vien Park is still one of the most favourite amusement parks, attracting local people and also tourists from all over the world.
The purpose of Thao Cam Vien Park is to conserve the endangered species of fauna and flora, as well as educate the public to protect the surrounding environment. The program of breeding animals in captivity is one of the most successful ones of Thao Cam Vien Park, with the aim of replenishing the populations of these species. In particular, Thao Cam Vien Park is the only zoo in the world up to now that has bred successfully crested argus pheasant, a threatened species of bird in the world. In addition, Thao Cam Vien also plays a pivotal part in extracurricular activities about biology and environment of students in Ho Chi Minh City.
Thao Cam Vien Park is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Ho Chi Minh City. The garden is not only a historical monument but also a typical cultural symbol of the city named Uncle Ho. Built at the same time as the Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden are considered as a witness of history, having gone through the ups and downs of Ho Chi Minh City for more than 150 years. The constant vitality and typical cultural values have brought Thao Cam Vien Park a distinct and unmistakable trait from anywhere else.
III.What to See and Do at Thao Cam Vien Park?
1. Exploring the animals and plants
Thanks to the corporation with many zoological and biological gardens, as well as a lot of scientific organizations all over the world, the zoo is continuously made more abundant. Thao Cam Vien Park is the home of dozens of mammals, birds and reptiles such as giraffes, monkeys, African lions, white Bengal tigers, gibbons, chimpanzees, zebras, antelopes, deers, black bears, African ostrich, flamingos, turtles, snakes and so on. Besides the familiar animal species, Thao Cam Vien has many exclusive species, some of which have their first presence in Vietnam.
The botanical garden of Thao Cam Vien Park includes various valuable and rare plant species, some of them are imported from American and African countries. Orchids, cactus, bonsai are diverse with many colors, shapes and sizes. There are also many old trees with the age more than 100 years, and Thao Cam Vien Park contains lots of endangered plants of Vietnam such as frankincense trees, diospyros mollis, chukrasia tabularis, sindora siamensis and so on. There are also some lakes with many different kinds of lotuses and other water plants.
Coming to Thao Cam Vien Park, you can take part in the activities such as feeding herbivores, watching carnivores, taking care of plants, and at the same time, you will have a chance to listen to the introduction and the stories about flora and fauna conservation here.
2. Playing recreational games
Thao Cam Vien Park for sure is an ideal destination for children to play on weekends. Besides discovering the plants and animals here, children can take part in a wide range of entertainment games such as fishing, ball house, buoy house, ferris wheel, glider, swan-shaped boat, balloon, electric car, train and many other interesting games. Moreover, there is also an area for adventurous games such as sky-exploring, flying carpet, high-speed glider. The ticket fee for each activity is quite cheap, ranging from 10,000 VND to 20,000 VND. You can find this playing area near the Nguyen Thi Minh Khai entrance of Thao Cam Vien Park.
3. Watching art performances
At weekends and in the holidays, Thao Cam Vien Park offers a free 30-minute performance of elephant at the elephant rearing zone from 09.00 to 09.30 am. In particular, on some holiday occasions, there will be an additional show in the afternoon from 14.00 to 14.30. Moreover, in the grounds of Thao Cam Vien Park, at the main stage, there is an art program with intriguing performances of local artists such as singing, dancing, zoo circus and magic show. These musical shows take place on Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm, and on Sunday, there is an extra performance from 16.00 to 18.00. This is one of the activities that you should not miss when coming to Thao Cam Vien on the weekend.
4. Visiting King Hung Temple
King Hung Temple is one of the most long-lasting temple worshiping King Hung in Ho Chi Minh City, which was built in 1926 with the first purpose of praying for the Vietnamese soldiers who died in the World War I. It was not until 1954 that the temple changed its name to King Hung Temple, where is the place to worship King Hung and other famous generals such as Le Van Duyet and Tran Hung Dao. King Hung Temple is adjacent to the main gate of Thao Cam Vien park, in front of Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History. This is the place to contemplate the traditional architecture of temple and pagoda in Vietnam, as well as enjoy the festival atmosphere on the 10th day of the lunar March.
Note: The Hung King Temple at this address was closed permanently.
5. Ho Chi Minh Museum of History
Built at the same period of time as King Hung Temple, Ho Chi Minh City Museum of History is located nearby Thao Cam Vien park and considered one of the largest museums in Ho Chi Minh City. By the end of the 20th century, Ho Chi Minh Museum of History consisted of more than 30,000 artifacts, along with approximately 25,000 valuable documents of history, which assists the study of archeology and ethnology. The museum is divided into two areas: a 15-room part is in charge of displaying artifacts from the feudal time, and the other 6-room area is for displaying historical items of South Vietnam. Besides, there is a large yard outside the museum that displays many kinds of weapons during the Vietnam War.
IV. How to Get to Thao Cam Vien Park
Thao Cam Vien Park is located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City in District 1. The neighboring area of this park comprises a lot of other places of interest for you to discover such as Ben Thanh Market, Nha Rong Harbor, Ho Chi Minh Museum of Fines Arts and Independence Palace. Thao Cam Vien Park is easily accessible by motorbike, taxi, car or bus.
If you go by motorbike, you can reach Thao Cam Vien Park on two streets: Nguyen Binh Khiem Street (the main entrance) and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street. There are also two parking areas on these streets, and the parking spot for cars is only on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street. And if you go by bus, you can get off at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Le Duan Street, then have a short walk to reach Thao Cam Vien. The buses that take you to this park are bus No. 06. 14, 19, 45, 52 stopping at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai gate and bus No. 18, 35, 50 on Le Duan Street.
V. Extra Tips
- Due to the large area of Thao Cam Vien, if you do not want to walk a lot, you can take a tram to see the panoramic view of this park. The tram ticket is sold at the entrance near Le Duan gate.
- You should visit Thao Cam Vien Park in the dry season from December to April, when the average temperature is quite favorable for outdoor activities.
- If you go to Thao Cam Vien Park on summer days, an umbrella, a hat and sunscreen are necessary to protect your health and skin.
- When watching the animals there, remember to keep a safe distance with these animals, because some fierce carnivores might do harm to you.
- Protect the environment of Thao Cam Vien Park. Do not arbitrarily pick the flowers, carve on the trees or feed the animal without the permission of the zookeeper.
Thao Cam Vien Park is one of the historic constructions of Ho Chi Minh City and is also a typical symbol of this city. The persistent vitality as well as specific natural and cultural values have brought the garden a unique feature that cannot be found in anywhere else. If you have a chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City and Thao Cam Vien Park, don’t hesitate to share with us your experience and wonderful moments in Thao Cam Vien Park.