January 9, 2024
HANOI – Blessed with a diverse ecosystem and natural landscapes, it is no surprise that the southernmost province of Cà Mau has quite the edge in eco-tourism.
I went to Cà Mau in December to attend its first-ever Shrimp Festival, and while I did have fun browsing the stalls and sampling tasty seafood dishes, the festival also highlighted several eco-tourism sites worth checking out.
One of those places is the Sông Trẹm Eco-tourism Site in U Minh District, around one hour’s drive away from central Cà Mau City, and one of the province’s most popular sites.
Nguyễn Hoàng Khởi, head of the site’s management board, told Việt Nam News: “The Sông Trẹm Eco-tourism Site combines both tourism and preservation of bio-diversity. There are plenty of things to do here for lovers of nature.”
Visitors can look at a wide variety of animals being preserved here, including Asian black bears, ostriches and crocodiles. Or one might enjoy viewing and taking photos at a big lotus lake filled with beautiful pink flowers, or even see how fresh honey is harvested from beehives.
One of the most memorable activities here has got to be the motorboat tour that takes you around the site’s cajuput forest. Along the one-hour ride visitors can take in the view of all the lush, wild greeneries, all while listening to a guide giving a tour on the centuries-old plants that make up Cà Mau’s rich and diverse eco-system.
Nguyễn Đức Anh, a tourist from HCM City, said that he had a busy office job, so he loved the relaxing feeling of being surrounded by nature, with the layers of leaves and branches shielding him from the harsh noon sunlight, and being able to look at all types of weird trees that he had never seen before in real life.
“As a city person I greatly enjoyed the rare opportunity of riding in a motorboat, snapping selfie pictures whenever I could, especially when the boat made a stop at a lotus lake along the river,” he said.
His favourite part of the ride (and definitely mine and the others too) was when we all got to see how local fishermen use bamboo cages to trap and catch fish. He even laid a cage trap himself, which was a fun experience for him.
The site is popular with local tourists, either individual visitors or in group tours. Many enjoy partaking in camping, and the site also hosts school field trips and team building trips from companies.
If you like seafood, you should definitely check out a wide range of local specialties at the site, such as grilled snakehead fish, snakehead fish hot pot, sour eel broth, clay pot perch, and fried catfish with ginger fish sauce. They certainly made for a great lunch after a long sight-seeing trip.
On our way back to the city centre, we also stopped by Tư Sự Stork Garden in Thới Bình District, another tourist magnet.
No one could perfectly understand why this family garden has been able to attract so many birds. It currently has around 20 types of storks, and nearly 150,000 birds, a gift from nature.
As a lover of animals, I was absolutely delighted to have such an up-close and personal bird-watching experience, seeing flocks of birds flying in the sky, perching on tree tops and just living their lives, not minding us visitors admiring them from afar. Being able to look at a cute baby stork was also a big thrill!
As we walked along the garden, guides also provided us with interesting trivia about stork habits, as well as all the hard work that went into creating a very suitable environment for the birds to thrive in.
Trương Minh Thắng inherited the garden from his father, and followed in his footsteps to nurture their family treasure.
“It’s like it was meant to be. At first we just let storks flock to our garden, then gradually we planted more trees to shelter them. More and more of them came, so we expanded our area for the birds to 4ha from 1.4ha, and now to 10ha, for them to make nests and breed here,” he said.
The garden has become an attractive destination for domestic and foreign visitors who want to be immersed in nature.
Local authorities have instructed residents to not hunt birds in the garden to preserve them and develop eco-tourism, and they are calling for travel agencies to create more tours and bring more visitors here.
There are also plenty of regional treats available for foodies, especially shrimp crackers, dried fish and shrimps, all great for getting the taste of Cà Mau back at home.
And of course, there are plenty of other places to visit, such as the Cà Mau Cape National Tourism Site, the GPS 0001 national coordinate landmark, and U Minh Hạ National Park, all offering fantastic sightseeing and photo-taking experiences, as well as learning about the province’s rich eco-system, history and culture.
Tourism development, promotion
As of November 2023, the province welcomed nearly 2 million visitors, a 44 per cent rise year-on-year. Tourism revenue reached VNĐ2.7 trillion (US$110 million), up 42 per cent.
Cà Mau Province has been focusing on enhancing and promoting its tourism, partaking in numerous events around the country to advertise its tourism products, such as the 2023 International Tourism Expo in HCM City, the Vietnam International Travel Mart in Hà Nội, and a conference held in Đà Nẵng to introduce travel destinations in the Mekong Delta.
The province also invited agencies, tourism businesses and the media to survey its tourism spots.
Its recent 2023 Shrimp Festival drew over 40,000 local and international tourists. They were introduced to the province’s wide array of shrimp products and One Commune One Product certified specialties.
And just like me, many tourists have had the chance to experience Cà Mau’s eco-tourism sites, with their natural beauty and delicious cuisine, leaving us wanting to return to explore more of what the province has to offer.
According to the province’s authorities, the success of the festival is an important basis and precedent for Cà Mau to build the festival into a large-scale event, a brand on the national and international level.
HCM City and the 12 provinces and Cần Thơ City in the Mekong Delta have also been collaborating to strengthen their links to promote the region’s tourism products.
Nguyễn Minh Luân, deputy chairman of Cà Mau People’s Committee (the provincial administration), said it was one of the key regional linkage programmes and had received special attention from all partners.
According to the province’s Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism, Cà Mau’s localities and businesses have been focusing on digital transformation, tourism promotion and facilitation, and cooperation in tourism development.
For 2024, Cà Mau will continue to work with relevant parties to promote its tourism, develop manpower for the industry, and call for investment, as well as partake in fairs, exhibitions and other events to promote its tourism products.
It will also share information and experiences in state management of tourism activities and building development plans.
While the province can be far away for some visitors, being a six to seven-hour drive from HCM City, Cà Mau Province is certainly worth checking out for lovers of nature and tasty seafood. VNS