Đồng Nai Biosphere Reserve (DNBR) was expanded and renamed (from Cat Tien) in 2011 due to its rich biodiversity and cultural values. It covers an area of almost one million ha and is situated in the centre of the South-east region of Việt Nam, only 70km from Hồ Chí Minh Ciy (HCMC) and 40km North of Biên Hòa City. The core zone covers over 170,000 ha and consists of three protected areas: Cát Tiên National Park (72,000 ha), Đồng Nai Cultural Nature Reserve (68,000 ha) and the Inland Wetland Protected Area of Trị An - Đồng Nai (32,400 ha).
Located in the upper reaches of the Đồng Nai River, DNBR’s ecosystem ensures clean water supply in dry seasons and minimizes flooding in the rainy season, particularly to HCMC’s residential areas, industrial zone and export processing zone. The biosphere reserve also has rich cultural diversity, being home to 11 ethnic minorities. During the war, these forests hosted “Revolutionary Base D” which made a significant contribution to Việt Nam’s victory. Local people still recall remarkable tales about the brave battles and harsh conditions facing the soldiers and the remains of a US military airplane is said to be lying in an inaccessible part of the rainforest.
DNBR has a very high biodiversity value with 1,610 recorded species of plant, 105 mammal species, 351 bird species, 109 reptile species, 41 amphibian species, 1189 insect species and 159 species of fish. Some of these species are extremely rare including mammals such as the Asian elephant, gaur and leopard; and many rare plant species.
A popular tourist destination
Cát Tiên National Park (NP) is the main drawcard for tourists to Đồng Nai due to its natural beauty, rich biodiversity and pristine forests that contain trees such as the huge Tung-tree, which at more than 2 meters in diameter provides a rare example of Việt Nam’s once widespread ancient forests. It is also one of the few places where nocturnal wildlife can be easily viewed. These features make Cát Tiên NP valuable, not only for conservation and tourism, but also for scientific research. The Bàu Sấu Wetland has been listed as a Ramsar site due to its international significance for migratory birds.
The Đồng Nai Cultural and Nature Reserve contains many important cultural and historical relics. This reserve provides great potential for combining both natural and cultural tourism due to its close proximity to major urban areas. Trị An Lake at 32,000ha conserves a lake with more than 72 islands, while the 160ha stone park in the town of Định Quán is a good place for a short stop when traveling between Đồng Nai and Cát Tiên. Many stones of exotic shapes among forests trees create beautiful vistas. Tourists coming to the Culural Nature Reserve also have opportunities to observe wildlife during the day.
DNBR is home to archaeological sites in Cát Tiên that date back to the third until sixth century such as the biggest Lynga - Yoni statues (from ancient Kymer culture) in South-east Asia that are not yet fully understood by researchers.
Eleven colorful ethnic minorities currently reside in DNBR. Visitors can experience their traditional methods of exploiting national resources, and their traditional customs and festivals, including Sayangva, a ritual to pay respects to the God of Rice. Also, the gong culture, based on the gong instrument which is in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is of high importance to several ethnic groups in the DNBR. The unique customs of Chơro people can be experienced more intimately at the traditional longhouse in Lý Lịch (close to Đồng Nai Culture and Nature Reserve). Meanwhile you can stay with the Mạ and Stiêng minorities in a community-owned longhouse in Tà Lài Ethnic Village (close to Cát Tiên NP). In Tà Lai tourists can stay in the newly opened Bamboo House - the first of its kind in Việt Nam and enjoy local specialties such as glutinous rice cake, rice cooked in bamboo stem, grilled meat, forest rattan and traditional wine.
Cát Tiên NP and Đồng Nai Culture and Nature Reserve offers well-furnished hostels and private rooms that are ideal starting points for trekking tours to the forest and ethnic communities. At the centre for ecosystem, culture and history situated near Bà Hào lake and Sen lake where Đồng Nai Festivals and major events are organized. Here tourists have the option to stay indoors or outdoors in comfortable tents.
The wide range of natural and cultural attractions in DNBR will satisfy most tourists and make a significant contribution to conservation and sustainable local livelihoods.
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition I- 2021)