CON DAO, THE PARADISE ISLAND
This group of 16 mountainous islands lost in the vastness of the East Sea, classified as a national marine and land park, captivates travellers with its wild, unspoiled, dazzling nature. This archipelago, still very well preserved, offers Edenic beaches, water with 50 shades of blue and turtles which, from April to November, offer the spectacle of egg laying and hatching. A dream to be shared by two!
The sumptuous beaches of Con Dao
Of the 16 islands that make up the Con Dao archipelago, only one island offers hotel facilities to welcome visitors: Con Son Island. Be reassured, it is possible to go to some of the other islands by boat excursion and Con Son Island has enough beaches to satisfy all your desires of idleness.
To the northwest is the delicious Bai Dam Trau beach where you can have lunch with your feet in the water. Bai Bien Dong in the northeast offers a huge expanse of immaculate sand. The beach of Bai Bien Dac Doc, very wild, offers a grandiose panorama with mountains covered with vegetation in the background. Bai Lo Voi and Bai Tam An Hai, on the east coast, are the two closest to the city centre. Heading towards the south of the island, you will find deserted beaches that are only accessible during low tide. According to Travel Leisure magazine, Con Dao is one of the bluest places in the world!
Con Dao National Park
The Con Dao archipelago was classified as a national park in 1993 in order to protect its exceptional ecosystem. Covering an area of 20,000 hectares, this nature reserve is divided between land and sea, including 14 of the 16 islands of the archipelago. Con Dao is a true sanctuary of biodiversity where more than 130 animal species, including several endemic species, 800 plants and splendid coral reefs have been identified. Hiking trails have been laid out to go deep into the forests of the national park to observe this abundant flora and fauna. You can hike alone or accompanied by a national park guide who will inform you about the local biodiversity. Underwater, scuba diving enthusiasts are in for a treat. The marine park is home to no less than 360 species of coral and 1700 different aquatic species. One can observe: sharks, dolphins, dugongs, rays, a very large variety of tropical fish and of course the green turtles that have made the reputation of Con Dao.
The unique spectacle of the turtles laying their eggs
The archipelago of Con Dao, where 80% of the turtles recorded in the country lay their eggs, is a real sanctuary for green turtles. During the nesting season, between April and November, the site of Bay Canh can accommodate each night about thirty turtles which can lay up to 200 eggs each. The eggs hatch after about 70 days in the warmth of the sun. Out of their shells, the young quickly return to the sea. Their chance of survival is very limited, only 1 in 1000 will survive. Con Dao National Park was the first to successfully and systematically implement a marine turtle conservation program. In order not to disturb the turtles too much, only a small number of tourists can watch the laying or hatching of eggs every day.
Poulo Condor's prison
Today it is hard to believe that this island paradise was once hell on earth. The island of Con Son, the main island being part of the Con Dao archipelago, was indeed home to a terrible prison, used by the Annamite power and then by the French colonial authorities from 1862. Built on the model of Cayenne in French Guyana, the prison of Poulo Condor locked up common law prisoners, political prisoners and opponents of French colonization. Detention conditions were inhuman, some prisoners were locked in "tiger cages" and the mortality rate reached 70%. Several Viet Minh cadres were imprisoned such as Pham Van Dong, Le Duc Tho but also the wife of General Võ Nguyên Giáp. This prison remained operational throughout the Indochina War. Then in 1955, the Republic of Vietnam transformed it into a "re-education centre" to lock up the opponents of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, Poulo Condor's prison is a museum and a poignant witness to Vietnam's troubled history. You will note that in the city centre you can see former colonial mansions, including the very well restored one of the prison administrator.
Best season: The period from March to September is the best season to stay in Con Dao because of the absence of rain and the fairly gentle waves that allow visitors to fully enjoy the island.