Apart from indulging in bird watching, visitors to a famed sanctuary in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap are now being treated to gorgeous vistas of a unique blossoming grass.
Tram Chim National Park, spanning several communes in Tam Nong District, became the world’s 2,000th and Vietnam’s 4th ramsar site in February 2012.
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, and has continued to provide an international framework for wetland preservation ever since.
The 7,500-hectare reserve is home to 233 waterfowl species, and the park’s population of around 100,000 accounts for a quarter of the country’s waterfowl numbers, including endangered ones.
The haven also boasts the largest diversity of flora and fauna across the pristine Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds), which also comprises Lang Sen Wetland Reserve, another ramsar site.
U Minh Thuong National Park, located in Kien Giang Province’s U Minh Thuong District, about 364km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, officially became the world’s 2,228th and Vietnam’s 8th ramsar site on February 22.
Yellow flowers on green grass
A Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter recently paid a visit to the Tram Chim park, not only to witness flocks of birds but also to see the vast fields of flowering grass.
Approximately 50 hectares of the land surrounding checkpoints Chien Thang (Victory) A4 and A5 in the park alone are overgrown with ‘hoang dau an,’ scientifically known as Xyris indica L.
The yellow grass, a genus of flowering plants in the yellow-eyed-grass family, typically blooms early in the lunar year until the end of the second lunar month, dependant on tides.
During the season, the grass comes into flower between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm each day, which requires visitors’ timely arrival to the fields in order to see spectacles.
The Tram Chim park began offering tours to the grass fields around two years ago.
The striking sight drew approximately 1,000 tourists each day around the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, which ended in mid-February.
The park’s Tourism and Environmental Education Center revealed that they have welcomed between 500 and 600 visitors every weekend since February this year.
To reach the A5 area, visitors can ride in electric cars or sampans that cover a distance of 10 kilometers or a waterway distance of 35 kilometers.
Having been to the sanctuary during the floating season several times, the reporter could not help marveling at such a huge concentration of birds, a sight she had never been treated to.
As she made her way deeper into the densely vegetated area, the unfolding ‘hoang dau an’ grasslands looked just like any other weeded stretch at first glance.
After trekking another one kilometer however, the reporter was stunned to see the meadows changing color as the clock struck 11 o’clock.
‘Hoang dau an’ boast leaves which are mostly distichous, linear, flat and thin or round with a conspicuous sheath at the base, and small, yellow dioecious flowers borne on a spherical or cylindrical spike or head.
The reporter took delight in seeing single flower buds on the spike expanding into conspicuous flowers, which then ‘dyed’ the fields a radiant yellow within the hour.
After all the buds flowered, the grass dried out and withered.
According to Nguyen Van Hung, director of Tram Chim National Park, as ‘hoang dau an’ withers away, it is time for ‘nang kim’ grass, or eleocharis atropurpurea, to thrive.
The ‘nang kim’ nuts are the favorite food among red-headed cranes, the haven’s signature fowl which has been teetering on the brink of extinction around the world.
The park’s management are planning to make more efforts to restore natural grasslands and wetland vegetation, and add more iconic flowers grown in Dong Thap Province to enhance its tourist appeal, Hung added.
The sanctuary has also offered multiple tours for vacationers to choose from, during which they can watch birds in their breeding grounds, become a fisherman for the day or harvest rice crops in different seasons.