Discovering pristine and scenic destinations has been the tourists’ trend today, and Muong Nhe Nature Reserve (also named Muong Cha and Muong Te) is an enigmatic site to study. The Site is located in Dien Bien Province, in the northwest of Vietnam. Getting to Muong Nhe, you find the untouched natural settings and biodiversity to express love for Nature and enhance your environmental awareness if wished. The scenery remains impeccable with the extraordinary flora and fauna.

Scientific Information about Muong Nhe Nature Reserve

  • Muong Nhe Nature Reserve is located in Muong Nhe District, Dien Bien Province. The Nature Reserve is encompassed by Laos’ land border in the west and China’s border in the north. Its map coordinate is 21°50′ – 22°35′ N, 102°10′ – 102°58′ E
  • The topography of the Site is dominated by mountains of the average height of 1.200m. Some mountains can reach more than 1.800m high, and the highest peak is Phu Nam Man of 2.124m.
  • It has an area of 182.000 hectares.
  • On 08 July 1976, the “Nature Reserve to protect mammals and birds” was established in Muong Nhe (Anon. 1993) according to Decision No. 6/QD-TKNN of the Lai Chau Provincial People’s Committee.
  • Then, Muong Nhe Nature Reserve was addressed in Decision No. 194/CT dated 09 August 1986 of the Chairman of Council of Ministers, with an area of 182.000 hectares (MARD, 1997).
  • In 1993, Forest Inventory and Planning Institute prepared an investment project for Muong Nhe Nature Reserve in Dien Bien with the proposed area of 396.176 hectares, including the 109.625-ha strict protection area, 268.566-ha forest rehabilitation area, and 17.985-ha agricultural land and residential area (Anon. 1993). The project was approved by the Lai Chau Provincial People’s Committee on 24 June 1993. However, due to the population movements in Muong Nhe, the project was not been confirmed by the Council level. After that, there were two other investment projects for Muong Nhe, but both were not officially accepted by the authorities.
  • For decades, there have been population movements inside and outside of the Nature Reserve which seriously degraded the coverage of the forest.
  • Muong Nhe was included in the list of Special-use forest to be established in Vietnam in 2010, prepared by the FPD of MARD, with an area of 182.000 hectares. This article has not been approved by the government yet (FPD 2003).
Travel to Dien Bien from Hanoi via Pha Din Pass

Travel to Dien Bien from Hanoi via Pha Din Pass

Biodiversity and Conservation Topics in Muong Nhe Nature Reserve Dien Bien

Muong Nhe covers 47.400-ha forested area, approximately 15% of the total area of the Nature Reserve. There are 9.920-ha evergreen forest on the low sector (below 800m high), 19.850-ha forest on the low montane sector (between 800m and 1.800m high), 1.705-ha evergreen forest on the high mountain (above 1.800m high), and 15.925-ha bamboo forest. The remaining area of the Site includes 204.201-ha grassland and 43.980-ha shrub or agricultural land (Anon. 1999). The dominant type of plantation in Muong Nhe Dien Bien is the grassland which takes 66% of the natural areas of the region. The prominent types are Imperata cylindrica, Themeda gigantea, Thysanolaena maxima, Saccharum spontaneum and Erianthus arundinaceus (Nguyen Duc Tu et al. 2001).

Before the years of 1990, Muong Nhe was considered as the center to protect large mammals. Cox et al. (1992) estimated around 200 Asian elephants Elephas maximus in Muong Nhe. However, during the wartime 1979, the number of large animals in this Site reduced rapidly. According to the surveys of WWF and MARD in 1991, the large animals in Muong Nhe was described as “rare,” the Bos gaurus was “globally endangered” and Asian elephants were “almost extinct” (Cox et al. 1992). Also, there recorded around 158 species of birds in Muong Nhe (Hill et al. 1997). Furthermore, this Site has the protective forest that protects Da River.

Regarding conservation matters in Muong Nhe, major threats are the forest clearance for agriculture, forest fire, and illegal hunting. The natural habitats are disturbed due to humankind’s activities and their low environmental awareness. The locals’ houses are built from timber and wood of the forest, which decreases the forest coverage degree.

Young motobiking travelers check in at A Pa Chai border guard station in Muong Nhe

Young motobiking travelers check in at A Pa Chai border guard station in Muong Nhe

Off-the-beaten-track Travel to Muong Nhe Nature Reserve

Around 700km from Hanoi city, people can drive on the 12 Highway from the historical and epic Dien Bien City to Muong Nhe. The roadsides are very scenic and featured with the magnificent mountains, dense forest, and the Thai’s ethnic stilted houses. The drive offers lots of eye-catching scenes to take pictures and historical statues of the Vietnamese martyrs to study. On the way to Muong Nhe Nature Reserve, you can expect to meet some H’mong ethnic women who are selling vegetables and fruits.

When you’re getting to Muong Nhe, be ready for the scenic sightseeing of the evergreen forest, bamboo forest, mountain, and waterfall which remain off-the-beaten-track and impeccable. In the westernmost of Vietnam, the Nature Reserve ensures the enjoyable adventure and trekking as long as you are keen on the picturesque greenness and wildflowers. The higher you go in Muong Nhe, the more spectacular the scenery is. It’s interesting to spot the ethnic houses in the green landscape and take pictures. Sometimes, you might see ethnic women carrying their babies on the back and working on the farms with the buffalo. The whole scenery has no traits of modern buildings.

As the natural habitats in Muong Nhe are degraded seriously, Vietnam Travel Agency Indochina Charm Travel operates tours to this destination now to meet the ethnic groups and learn their culture. Muong Nhe District has up to 149 ethnic villages that preserve their culture and customs. To further excite the trip, you can try conquering the 0 A Pa Chai – the westernmost of Vietnam that is frequently visited by tourists. What’s more, if you arrive there on the 3rd, 13th, and 23rd every month, it is possible to attend the A Pa Chai hill-tribe markets. Travel to Muong Nhe Nature Reserve, you join the real off-the-beaten-track world offering the picturesque panorama: blended with the green forest are the yellow wild sunflowers and the unpaved red land.