The town of Ca Mau borders the U-Minh Forest (admission 10,000d; 6am-5pm, closed Mar-May), a vast mangrove jungle covering 1000 sq km of Ca Mau and Kien Giang provinces. Residents make use of certain species of mangrove for making timber, charcoal, thatch and tannin.
Along with being an important habitat for waterfowl, the U-Minh Forest – the biggest mangrove jungle around the world beyond the Amazon basin – which was a favourite hideout for the VC during the American War. The Americans responded with chemical de foliation, which caused huge damage to the forests. Thanks to the heavy rainfall, the dioxin was washed out to sea and the forest is returning . People have also planted many eucalptus trees because they have been said to be relatively dioxin-resustant.
Nevertheless the mangrove forests are being further destroyed by clearing for shrimp-farming ponds, charcoal production and woodchipping, even though the government has tried to limit these activities. In 2002 an area of 80 sq km was preserved as U Minh Thuong (Upper U-Minh) National Park.
The forest is famous for its birdlife, and travellers will enjoy a boat trip around Ca Mau, although the feathered flocks aren’t nearly as common as the swarms of mosquitoes. It takes visitors around thirty minutes to get a boat trip and costs 100,000d.
Ca Mau Tourist can arrange a boat tour for around US$140, but try to find better deals with locals down at the ferry pier where you can get a speedboat to Thu Bay (two hours), followed by a motorbike to U-Minh Forest for 70,000d.
Ca Mau Nature Reserve
Sometimes known as Ngoc Hien Bird Sanctuary, these 130 hectares form one of the least developed and most protected parts of the Mekong Delta region. Shrimp farming is prohibited here. You can access by boat.