The marshes circling Ca Mau form one of the largest areas of swampland in the world, covering about 150,000 hectares. The Ca Mau Peninsula was a stronghold of resistance against France and America, and for this it paid a heavy price, as US planes dumped millions of gallons of Agent Orange over it to rob guerrillas of jungle cover. Further damage has been done by the shrimp-farm industry, but pockets of mangrove and cajeput forests remain, inhabited by sea birds, wading birds, waterfowl and also honey bees, attracted by the mangrove blossoms.
Mui Ca Mau National Park
This voyage to the end of the earth may not quite be a Jules Verne epic, but it’s a fun and satisfying way to pass a day, as you get to visit not only the southernmost point of Vietnam but also the end of mainland Southeast Asia. The speedboats that take you through the throng of life in the delta can get pretty crowded, but if you’re lucky you might get a window seat to look out on the houses, shacks and boats that line the river.
Once inside the national park, you can take a photo of yourself standing beside a boat-shaped monument marking the latitude (8 degrees north) and longitude (104 degrees east) of this remote location, then gaze out over the endless ocean and the mountainous Khoai Island just off the coast. There’s even a look-out tower from where you can get good views over the mangrove forests, and a restaurant on stilts over the water.
U Minh Forest and National Park
U Minh is famous for its cajeput forests. Lining the nearby canals are water palms, modest groves of cajeput and fish traps consisting of triangles of bamboo sticks driven into the riverbed. The slender white trunks of the cajeput thrive in U Minh’s marshy, coffee-coloured waters, and gliding through them in a boat would be a truly tranquil experience if it were not for the racket of the boat engine. Along the way, you may spot bright blue birds flitting over the water, or, depending on the season, apiarists collecting honeycombs from the trees, which attract bees in huge numbers when they are in flower.