Get ready to encounter the most dangerous animals in Vietnam. From teeth-snapping saltwater crocs to slithering snakes you’d probably prefer not to meet on your jungle trek, this list has the whole lot.
Some do their damage with neurotoxins and venoms, biting their victims when they least expect it. Others are more brutal beasts, with chomping jaws evolved to slice through living flesh.
These various animals reside all over Vietnam. From the sloshing mud waters of the Mekong Delta to the glowing lagoons of Ha Long Bay to the misty rice paddies up by Sa Pa and beyond, they inhabit this buzzing country of rickshaws and incense-plumed temples from tip to toe. They’re worth knowing about before you set off on your Indochina adventure, don’t you think?
Saltwater crocodile – the biggest of the crocodiles in Vietnam!
Behold the largest living reptile on the planet! Yep, the monstrous saltwater crocodile is like something plucked straight out of the age of the dinosaurs. In fact, the main stem of the species is thought to be a whopping 25 million years old, with regional adaptations coming around 10 million years ago to give this Vietnamese beast the features seen today.
They include a wide, flat nose snout that dwarves the facial features of other crocs, along with a leaner, more muscular body shape than their African compadres. On top of that, the saltwater crocs of Nam’ can get huge. We’re talking six metres in length and over half a tonne in weight. The head alone is thought to weigh in at 200kg or so!
Saltwater crocs don’t have the best relationship with humans. They’re extremely territorial and aggressive by nature. Official figures say they’re responsible for around two fatal attacks every year in Australia alone. On the flip side, these guys are now largely extinct in Vietnam today. They do have some habitat coverage around the northern wetlands by China and have popped up recently in the southerly provinces of close-by Thailand to boot.
Vietnam is the very heart of king cobra territory. Arguably the most fearsome snake on the planet, these guys range from the Western Ghats of India in the west all the way to the sun-splashed isles of the Philippines in the east. Indochina sits right there in the middle, touting all the humid forests and jungle coverage the animal could ask for.
King cobras are pretty darn big. The largest specimens have clocked up well over five metres from snout to tail tip, with total bodyweights peaking over 12kg. Their most iconic features are the olive-green hue and the chevron back pattern that’s present on younger individuals. Oh, and you also get that don’t-even-think-about-coming-close hood, which fans out from either side of the head and neck.
Bites from these uber-dangerous snakes are often fatal. Estimations put the death rate of bitten individuals at around the 28% mark. That’s down to a debilitating neurotoxin venom, which works to shut down the central nervous system and causes breathing difficulties, drowsiness and vertigo. And while the venom itself isn’t the most potent in the world, the king cobra is often known to overdose victims with enough to kill up to 20 people at any one time!
Vietnamese giant centipede
The Vietnamese giant centipede really does deserve its name. It’s huge! Anyone squeamish for bugs certainly won’t crave an encounter with these beasts. They’re also known as Chinese red-headed centipede and the orange-legged centipede, and can grow to a whopping 20cm from tip to toe. They’re found all across Southeast Asia and South Asia, from Indonesia to the jungles of Borneo to – of course – backcountry Vietnam.
Backcountry is the key, however. These alien-like insects are rarely found in big cities like Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. They’ll only really be a threat if you head to the lush subtropical and tropical jungles that dash through the hinterland of Indochina. There, they squirm and lay in wait in the undergrowth of wet muds and decaying leaves.
Considered a particularly aggressive arthropod, the Vietnamese giant centipede is fast to pounce on suspecting prey. That’s usually small spiders and other bugs, but could also be mice and diminutive mammals. They use a powerful neurotoxin to immobilise their victims, disrupting the nervous system and breathing channels. Some cases of human encounters have led to acute hypertension, palpitations, and even – according to some reports – death, although such encounters remain rare.
Malayan pit viper
Although it has Malayan in the name, this particular member of the rather-unfriendly pit viper family can be found right across Southeast Asia, from the hazy middle hills of Cambodia to the volcanic isles of Indonesia. In Vietnam, you’ll be most likely to encounter them in coastal woodlands and bamboo forests, largely in rural areas like the Mekong Delta or the karst-carved North Central Coast.
There’s no doubt that the Malayan deserves its place on this list of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam. Notoriously bad tempered and with a penchant for straying into villages in search of food, there are regular reports of human contact. The incidents that go badly often go very badly indeed. A bite from this viper is hugely painful and causes necrosis of muscle mass and skin. Most victims do survive, but often need to undergo amputation.
White-lipped pit viper
Woe to the person who comes into contact with the white-lipped pit viper. This grass-green slider is one of the most venomous snakes in Vietnam. It’s found in the wetlands, the bush, and among the bamboo blooms near the wiggling riverways all across Southeast Asia, but has a habitat that also extends as far afield as the Himalayan foothills in Nepal and the mountains of north-central China.
The species sports the trademark triangle head that’s common across the viper genus. Males tend to grow to around the 60cm mark, while females are generally longer. But, surely, its most striking feature is its colouring. A bright, lush, glossy green streaks along the top of the snake, while there’s a yellowish tinge that gives way to blazing mustard eyes with a brooding black dot right at their centre.
Although fatal bites from the white-lipped viper are relatively rare in humans, there’s no question that this resident of the jungles can do some damage. It’s got a strong procoagulant venom that interrupts proper blood flow and causes huge swellings and localised blister formations. Effects can last several days after the initial bite and cause intense pain sensations at and around the site of contact.
Known to be one of the most venomous snakes in Vietnam, and right up there with the most dangerous animals in Vietnam overall, the many-banded krait isn’t the most savoury of critters in Indochina. Don’t just take our word for it. Back during the Vietnam War, American GIs called this one the ‘Two Step Snake’ on account of how far they thought you’d manage to walk before dropping dead in the aftermath of a bite.
Talking of the bite…the many-banded has a formidable neurotoxin venom. Once injected it causes severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and vertigo. Death rates are estimated to be around the 10% mark, and are usually down to a failure of the respiratory system linked to nervous system collapse.
One upside of the many-banded krait is that it’s rarely aggressive and generally shy of human habitation. They’re largely nocturnal and prefer non-confrontation to territorialism. In addition, the whole family of banded kraits should be easy to spot. That’s down to their bright brown and yellow back markings, which makes them simpler to see in forested areas and undergrowth.
Last but not least on our list of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam comes the humble mozzie. Usually considered a nuisance for travelers and a source of irritating bites, they’re actually one of the major threats to human health in the country. The reason? Tropical disease. These abundant fliers spread all sorts through their bite, and can ruin a trip without you even knowing they’ve come, gone, and attacked in the process.
The major worry is malaria. However, recent years have seen a huge dip in infection rates across Vietnam, while the proliferation of anti-malarial drugs has helped protect travelers jetting in and out of the country. There are still some incidences, though, especially around the more tropical south and the water-logged Mekong Delta.
In addition to that, you’ve got dengue to think about. It’s another tropical ailment transmitted by mosquitoes and has been slowly gaining momentum across Vietnam and Southeast Asia more generally in recent years. 2019 showed a whopping 320,000 cases overall, which translated into 50 deaths in total.
What is the most dangerous animal in Vietnam?
You might be surprised to hear that the mosquito reigns as one of the most dangerous animals in Vietnam. At least, that is, statistically. Malaria and dengue fever combined have a hand in around 60 deaths annually. And it’s growing, with more than 200% increase in dengue cases year-on-year since 2018.
You can mitigate the risk of contracting a tropical disease by checking if you need to take any anti-malarial medication when you travel to Vietnam. Also, try to cover up at peak mozzie times like dusk and dawn, and use a DEET-based protection spray whenever you head out.
Of course, snakes are also an issue. They’re responsible for an estimated 60,000 bite incidents a year. Sadly, there are no hard stats on which snakes pose the biggest threats to humans and how many attacks prove deadly in the end. However, we’d pay particular attention to the likes of pit vipers (who are known to be aggressive) and banded kraits (which have very potent venom).
Are there any venomous snakes in Vietnam?
From long many-banded kraits to forest-green vipers in the jungles, Vietnam is packed to bursting with venomous snakes. Sorry if that wasn’t the answer you wanted to hear!
The good news is that most bite incidents occur in rural areas and away from major tourist hotspots like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Ha Long Bay.
The most venomous snakes of the bunch in Vietnam are the white-lipped pit viper – a forest dweller that resides on thin branches and close to rivers – and the Malayan pit viper, which is both aggressive and well concealed thanks to its good camouflage. Also watch out for the notorious king cobra, which reside all over Vietnam.
Are there alligators in Vietnam?
There are no alligators in Vietnam. However, there are saltwater crocodiles, which many people confuse for gators on account of their lean body and scale patterns. We’ve listed these ancient beasts up there with the most dangerous animals in Vietnam because you certainly wouldn’t want to get anywhere near their jaws, which can close with a force of a car-crushing 3,690 pounds – the strongest on the globe!
So, what are the most dangerous animals in Vietnam?
There’s a whole medley of different creatures to be wary of if you’re traveling to Vietnam. From the humble mosquito to the positively Jurassic saltwater croc, they range from the minuscule to the mighty. Some are silent killers that can transmit deadly tropical diseases. Others are formidable predators of the jungles and swamps.
We’d also say pay special attention to the snakes in Vietnam. They’re some seriously daunting critters. Many possess venom enough to kill tens of humans and snake bites are relatively common in this corner of Southeast Asia – estimated to be between 30,000 and 60,000 each year!