Con Dao Islands (Côn Đảo)
The Con Dao Islands are an emerald archipelago situated in the South China Sea about 50 kilometers off the south-eastern coast of Vietnam, including 16 islands and islets. Con Dao is around 185 kilometers away from the town Vung Tau. The largest island is Con Son Island, famous for its prison built by the French colonial government and giving Con Dao the name Devil’s Island, for nobody was supposed to ever return after embarking a boat heading for the island. The remains of these buildings can be visited today.
The island, framed by lovely, mostly untouched beaches, coral reefs and scenic bays is largely mountainous and forested in its interior, making it the perfect spot for snorkeling and diving as well as for hiking and wildlife watching. The main island offers various possibilities for both kinds of activities but perhaps the best island to visit is Bay Canh with lovely beaches but also old-growth forests. Roughly 80% of the land area in the Con Dao Islands is part of Con Dao National Park representing various ecosystems such as sea grass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs, but also protecting Vietnam’s most important sea turtle nest sites. Another interesting animal seldom seen here is the dugong, a large marine mammal whose population has rapidly declined over the past years mostly for anthropogenic reasons such as hunting, habitat degradation and fishing-related fatalities.
Due to relatively high cost and a little more inconvenience in getting around compared to other famous and more developed tourist destinations in Vietnam, mass tourism has fortunately been kept to a minimum, making the exploration of this nearly untouched example of natural beauty an experience no one will ever forget.