Vietnam: Ecology from Coast to Jungle

Sustainability and the Environment

Journey through diverse ecological systems and immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture. Float through mangrove forests and explore marine ecology while learning about current challenges to the conservation of Vietnam’s natural environments.



Community Service


Water Activity

Outdoor Activity



July 5, 2019


Program Description

Explore the ecology of one of the most diverse places on Earth. Travel to mangrove forests, the Central Highlands, and the Mekong Delta to discover the flora and fauna of jungle and coastal areas. Visit a crocodile lake and bird sanctuary. Gain firsthand knowledge of Vietnam’s ecology while learning about the threats, including climate change and development pressures, affecting the country’s natural environments and indigenous communities.

Vietnam is home to 16% of the world’s species, so you can expect to see many exotic animals during your time here. Canoe down the Dong Nai River for an intimate view of monkeys and birds in their mangrove habitat. Visit an endangered primate rescue center and learn about conservation efforts and challenges at Cat Tien National Park, home to mammals such as elephants and sun bears. Attend seminars on climate change led by university professors and subject experts, visit the floating markets on the Mekong River, discover local ecology, and bike, trek, and snorkel on the beautiful Côn Đao islands, which boast numerous coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Experience the Vietnamese core values of humanity, community, harmony, and family during your urban and rural homestays. In the Hoa An village homestay, you will participate in a community service project, such as building a biogas system or farming. Travel to the Central Highlands to learn about Vietnamese traditions and practice Zen meditation. Continue learning about Vietnam’s history and culture through visits to historical sites such as the underground tunnels from the Vietnam War. Your trip concludes with an overnight visit to the gorgeous white sand beaches on the Côn Đao islands.





July 5, 2019 - August 1, 2019

Program Fee:


(does not include airfare)
Group Airfare Cost:


Depart/Return City:

Los Angeles


Ho Chi Minh City, 3 days


Ho Chi Minh City*, 6 days; Da Lat city (Central Highlands)*, 3 days

Other Accommodations:

University dormitory, educational institute, hotels

Sample Itinerary

    Days 1-3

    Orientation in Ho Chi Minh City

    • Learn about the history, culture, and environment of Vietnam from experts.Visit important sites throughout the city,  historical monuments such as  Reunification Palace,War Remnants Museum, the History Museum and the Botanical Garden. Take a tour of the new downtown Saigon area, take a bus to Can Gio to explore a mangrove forest, crocodile Lake and a bird sanctuary.
    • Get to know other members of your group during activities and social events such as an ice cream social.
    • Attend a survival Vietnamese language class and practice by interacting with your group and locals.

    During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

    Days 4-10

    Urban Homestay in Ho Chi Minh City

    • Become immersed in the daily lives of a Vietnamese family and explore the surrounding areas of Ho Chi Minh City.
    • Attend Vietnamese language classes
    • Visit sites of historical interest, such as Cu Chi Tunnel and house of women during Vietnam war, 
    • Visit and organic farm or a community centre to attend cultural activities with your group.
    • Work with local volunteers at a cultural NGO and attend a seminar on the work they do.
    • Visit the Opera House and watch the AO show, a Vietnamese culture show using bamboo cirque, acrobatic acts and theatrical visual drama.
    • Learn to cook traditional Vietnamese food with your host family.

    During this period, you will stay in the home of a family.

    Days 11-20

    Homestay in the Central Highlands – Da Lat City

    • Become immersed in the daily lives of a Vietnamese family and explore the surrounding neighborhoods with your host family. 
    • Explore the Truc Lam Monastery and attend a seminar on Zen meditation.
    • Visit historical and cultural sites , such as Prenn Waterfall, Bao Dai Palace, and a silk weaving factory.
    • Take an agriculture  tour in Dalat where you will visit a flower farm, coffee farm, cricket farm, an elephant and Pongour water fall.
    • See a gong performance by members of the Lat ethnic group
    • Hike to the  Lang Bian Mountain and reflect on the ecosystem and conservation of pine tree forests surrounding the area.
    • Visit and learn about a Macadamia and Coffee Farming by a local start up working on sustainability and conservation.

    Thematic Focus at Cat Tien National Park

    • Learn about conservation efforts and challenges at Cat Tien National Park
    • Trek through the primary forest to explore the flora and fauna there and go kayaking with a local community.
    • Visit a gibbon primate center, the Monkey World or the Endangered Primate Species Center at Dao Tien Island to learn about the conservation efforts at the center.
    • Observe wildlife at night and have a camp fire with local high school students.
    • Take a short flight to Ho Chi Minh City for  a two night stopover and the chance to do some sight seeing, an pick up any necessities in the city before your excursion ahead 

    During this period, you will stay in the home of a family in Dalat and in guest houses.

    Days 20-25

    Excursion to Mekong Delta and Con Dao Island

    • In the area of Ben Tre, a province of the Mekong Delta , go on a boat tour on the Mekong River,  visit a coconut candy making farm and visit a family who weaves traditional mats.
    • You will also have a chance to cycle in the village, exploring the neighboring areas, and learning about the local livelihood of people.
    • Participate in a community service project — such as building a house, repairing a road, building a biogas system, or teaching English to children
    • Meet with Vietnamese youth and participate in cultural exchanges, having lively debates about climate change and sustainability.
    • After a day in Ho Chi Min city, transfer to the Can Dao Island.   Attend seminars on the environment and climate change and on culture and folk music in the area.
    • Explore the pristine island and learn about its natural resources and conservation challenges.
    • Visit the floating markets on the Mekong River, the museum of Vo Thi Sau and have free time to enjoy the Bo Dap beach at the Con Dao camping site, including snorkeling and exploring coral reefs.

    During this period, you and your group will stay in an educational institute and a centrally located hotel.

    Days 26-27

    Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Ho Chi Minh City

    • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program
    • Attend a farewell party on an Indochina Boat on the Saigon River.

    During the reflection period, you and your group will stay at a nearby hotel.

    Day 29


    Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

Itinerary is subject to change.

Past Group Leaders

  • Jacob Reckford

    Originally from Portland, Oregon, Jake spent two years in Thailand teaching English and coordinating a teach abroad program for an international education organization. A graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder with a BA in film studies, Jake first caught the travel bug when he studied abroad with Semester at Sea, and has lived in, studied in, and explored 23 different countries since!

    Prior to living in Thailand, Jake worked as the teen programs coordinator for a residential camp in Oregon and as a unit leader for a camp in Colorado. Jake is scuba certified, TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certified, and he is an active community volunteer. In his free time, Jake enjoys film, basketball, playing music, skiing, and backpacking.

  • Sarita Upadhyay

    A native of upstate New York, Sarita Upadhyay graduated from Cornell University with a BS in natural and environmental systems. While in college, she spent seven months living and studying in Melbourne, Australia. She also co-founded Big Red Bikes, Cornell’s first bike-share program, and raised $50,000 to ensure the program could be funded and continue to operate past her own graduation. After college, Sarita followed her love of the outdoors to the Amazon in Ecuador, where she coordinated a teaching program, and then to Cuzco, Peru, where she managed logistics and tours for a travel company.

    Sarita worked on developing green infrastructure projects in Chicago, Illinois, at an urban sustainability-themed think tank before leading The Experiment’s summer 2014 Costa Rica: Biodiversity, Ecology, and Sustainability program. She has traveled extensively in Asia, with highlights including living on a farm in Laos, taking a motorcycle trip in Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, and visiting family in Delhi, Mathura and Mumbai, India. Currently, Sarita lives in San Francisco where she studies psychology and works on research in health-related psychological interventions at the University of California, San Francisco. Sarita is a PADI-certified Advanced Open Water Diver and former lifeguard. In her free time, she is an avid cyclist and hiker.


Student Voices

  • This was honestly the best experience I ever had. I got to learn about things I never knew about. The most exciting thing was that I got to see animals in there natural habitat. This experience really opened my mind to think about how much we are affecting the environment. It changed the way I am. I am a more open person.

  • As a Vietnamese-American, I am proud that I have a culture to be a part of. What I realize is that I need to work on my skills in the Vietnamese Language and expand on more knowledge about Vietnam. Some of the favorite places that I have visited was Da Lat because I love how the agriculture is so engraved into the local community. Also, Con Dao island because it is beautiful and I had the chance to go canoe for the first time!

  • I learned how amazing Vietnam is, how Vietnam has shaped the world, and how it has shaped me. I learned that Vietnam will always be apart of me and my outlook on life. I was beyond blessed to have the opportunity to find myself in Vietnam’s enchanted environment, and I could not pick anyone better to share my experiences with.


Pre-departure Documents

Summer 2019

Congratulations on your upcoming Experiment summer on the Vietnam: Ecology & Conservation program. Visit our pre-departure page for information about our expectations, communications, and travel planning. In early 2019, our summer international information will be published in a secure page, found in the Parent Portal.

In early spring, the following program-specific documents will be linked to this page:

Many questions can be answered by reviewing these materials, but please do not hesitate to contact us if further information is required. To submit or update your domestic travel and emergency contact information, please login in to the Parent Portal.

Important Passport and Medical Information

If you do not yet have a passport, or if you have not applied for one, you should do so immediately.

If you have not had a physical with your doctor since June 2018, make an appointment as quickly as possible, as your health form must be filled out based on a current physical.

Please bookmark this web page for easy use in the future.