Thunderous waterfalls, - endless coffee plantations, remote ethnic villages - these are the first things you hear about Dak Lak, if you hear anything at all. This under-the-radar province in Central Vietnam is in no hurry to reveal its treasures. That, of course, is half the appeal. Where else can you go glamping on a huge lake, meet elephants up close in the forest and drink coffee with ethnic tribes? If you're looking for a reason to visit, here are seven compelling things to do in Dak Lak.
The first thing to know about Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) is that it has long (long) been inhabited by ethnic minorities - the only ones brave enough to conquer the dense jungle and wild tigers. Everyone else is a newcomer by comparison. To get a complete picture, start at the Dak Lak Museum of Ethnology. This is the perfect place to learn about local tribes, get an introduction to Buon Ma Thuot's history and learn about the area's impressive biodiversity.
You could easily spend a few hours viewing the displays of ethnic gongs, excavated canoes and primitive weapons. Afterward, take in the field with a tour of the area's ethnic villages, or learn more about the highlands gong orchestras - a tradition so rich it is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
A long-term partnership between Yok Don National Park and the international charity Animals Asia
has delivered something beautiful: the first ethical elephant tour in Vietnam. The experience begins with a walk through the forest, guided by the expert
park rangers. You are on your way to find the elephants because they are not coming to you.
In the new program that the park uses, each elephant is free to roam, eat and sleep of their choice. A mahout stays with the elephant to keep him safe, but otherwise the animal lives as it would in the wild.
The tour focuses on locating the elephants and observing from a distance, while the guides provide insight into the unique story and personality of each pachyderm. The hope is that more of Dak Lak's 45 captive elephants will be introduced into the park, where they can live healthy in a natural environment. After learning everything, you can refuel with lunch at the ranger station, sail down the Serepok River, or cycle deeper into the national park.
Dak Lak in Vietnam