Ba Bể National Park
Ba Bể National Park is a reserve in Bắc Kạn Province, Northeast region of Vietnam, set up to protect a freshwater lake (Ba Bể Lake) along with surrounding limestone and lowland evergreen forests. It is located about 240 kilometers northwest of the capital city Hanoi.
Ba Bể Lake
Ba Bể Lake (Vietnamese: Hồ Ba Bể, Ba Bể meaning "Three Lakes" in the local Tay language) is the largest natural fresh water lake, stretching about 8 kilometers in the north-south direction. The surface area of the lake fluctuates between 3 and 5 km² between dry and wet season. Unlike many lakes in Karst limestone areas, Ba Bê Lake never falls dry. Its average depth varies between 17 and 23 meters, the maximum depth is 35 meters. The lake lies about 150 meters above sea level, making it also Vietnam's highest. The name "Three Lakes" refers to the three parts of the lake named Pe Leng, Pe Lu, and Pe Lam. All these three parts are connected into a single continuous body of water, however.
The Ta Han, Bo Lu, and Leng Rivers feed into the lake from the south and the west. During the dry season, water is drained from the lake northwards into the Nang River. During high floods in the wet season, the latter flow is reversed however, and the lake takes up water from the Nang River thereby acting as a buffer regulating flooding.
Flora and fauna
The vegetation in Ba Bể National Park mainly consists of limestone and evergreen forest. The former covers steep mountain slopes on which the soil cover is thin. The latter depends on thicker soil cover and has a higher species diversity. The dominating tree species of the lime stone forest are Burretiodendron hsienmu (Tiliaceae) and Streblus tonkinensis (Moraceae). Climbing bamboo (Ampelocalamus) is a regional endemic plant common on the hill slopes near the lake shore.
65 mammal species have been recorded in the park, among them: Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Slow loris (Nycticebus coucang), Rhesus macaque, Stump-tailed macaque, François' langur, Asian black bear, European otter, Owston's palm civet, Asian golden cat, Mainland serow, Red giant flying squirrel, Particolored flying squirrel (Hylopetes alboniger), Hairy-footed flying squirrel as well as 27 bat species.
Furthermore, 233 bird species, 43 reptile and amphibian species among them the king cobra and the Vietnamese Salamander (Paramesotriton deloustali), have been recorded. In Ba Be lake, 106 fish species from 61 genera, 17 families, and 5 orders have been recorded. The park is also noteworthy for its diversity in butterflies for which 354 species have been recorded.
Scenic landscape features
Puong Cave is a large cave in the north of the park through which the Nang River flows. The main cave is up to 50 meters high and about 300 meters long. It is inhabited by a population of 5 to 10 000 bats belonging to 18 species. The "Fairy Pond" is rock basin filled with clear water which seeps through the surrounding limestone rock. The Dau Dang Waterfall is formed by the Nang River. It consist of a sequence of rapids which stretch over a length of almost one kilometer. Widow Island is a small, cone-shaped islet near the center of the southern lake. According to the local legend, the islet was once the home of an old widow who was spared from a flood through divine intervention.
Highlights of Ba Be National Park are peaceful boat trips on the lake, visit at nearby tourist spots such as Puong cave and Dau Dang waterfalls and trekking to minority villages. Basic homestay at villages in the park is also a great experience. Further north of Ba Be is Cao Bang Province, a remote area where you can see authentic ethnic minority lifestyles as well as the famous Ban Gioc Waterfall.
Trekking & Hiking
Ba Be is considered by both native Vietnamese and visitors to be the best trekking area in the country. The whole district is dominated by the Pia Booc mountain range rising to a height of 1527m. It is the combination of the scenery, from the karst outcrops clad in rich vegetation, to the paddy fields carpeting the lower slopes of the Na Nghe mountain; the rich variety of flora and fauna; and the ralationship between the ethnic minority and nature, which together make this is a unique and rewarding trekking location. Local guides know the best routes to take you to the hidden gems and best viewpoints, to keep your trek enjoyable. memorable but safe.
Kayaking is the best way to explore the breathtaking beauty of Ba Be Lake. Paddle through the islets, discover hidden caves, visit fishing villages. You can get closer to the limestone karsts, and find some really secret corners of Ba Be Lake and the Nang river. Kayaks can go where big boats can't reach, and with their lack of engine noise are so much less intrusive, a real eco way of travel. When traveling wearing a life jacket is must. You need to wear suitable clothes; T-shirt and shorts, swimming suits in summer (Mar, Jun, Jul) warmer clothes in winter (Nov, Dec, Jan), wet shoes, hat, sun cream and sun glasses, dry bag for storing camera, insect repellent, water. Kayaking is only provided by the Ba Be Tourism Centre - Mr Linh's Homestay in Bo Lu village.
Ba Be is great for exploring by bicycle. Sport bikes can be rented for around $10 per day. The main roads around the national park are mostly in good condition and don't see much traffic. One day around the park should enable you to visit the Hua Ma cave, Thac Bac waterfall and some villages. Car hire and motorbike taxis can also be arranged in Ba Be. Motorbike taxis can be good way to explore the park as the drivers usually know the best spots. Be sure to clearly agree your plans and price in advance.
Mr Linh's Homestay, Bo Lu village, Bac Kan or others homestay which is very easy to find in shore lake. Luxury style homestay. Clean, having air conditioning, healthy food. Can also book lake tours and ethnic minority village treks. Mr Linh also has a cheap homestay in the village.
National park and infrastructure
Ba Bể National Park was established in 1992, it covers an area of 100.48 km². Facilities include an information center, guest houses, a lake management station, and an ecological research station opened in 2004.
Some hotels guesthouses and restaurants in Cho Ra or Cho Don town are an available if you come late from Hanoi.