“I never imagined it’d be so beautiful even though I have heard so many people say so,” Minh Ha, a 29-year-old from the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau, declared when he made the trip to Con Dao Island earlier this year.
Con Dao is an archipelago consisting of 16 islands in southern Vietnam, about 185km off the coast of Ba Ria – Vung Tau, the same province charged with its administration.
It takes about four hours by high-speed boat to travel from Ba Ria – Vung Tau to Con Dao Island, the biggest in the archipelago, a journey well worth time considering the island made it onto Vogue magazine’s list of the top nine paradise islands in the world.
Though growing in popularity, there still only a few hotels on the island, making it the ideal destination to get away from the throngs of tourists crowding popular destinations such as Hoi An and Nha Trang.
Though Con Dao’s beauty is often recognized thanks to its pristine unspoiled beaches, forests, turquoise waters, and a strictly-protected national park, each of the other smaller islands nearby is equally stunning.
Hon Cau, a small island 30 minutes from Con Dao by canoe, is a hidden gem amongst the archipelago.
It’s white-sand beaches and transparent ocean waters are stunning and the reefs off its coast are so beautiful that not scuba diving in the area would be a sin, according to Nguyen Phung Hung, head of Department of Ecotourism and Environmental Education at the Con Dao National Park.
Meanwhile, Hon Bay Canh, the second largest island in Con Dao, is also a must-visit stop for visitors to the archipelago.
Hon Bay Canh is also known for beautiful beaches, but not for tourism.
Instead of visitors, sea turtles spend their time on the island’s beaches thanks to its designation as Vietnam’s largest sea turtle conservatory.
It is also the only place in Vietnam with cardisoma carnifex – a species of terrestrial crab.
Nine years ago, a French production team visited Hon Bay Canh to film Koh Lanta, a reality game show based on the popular reality show “Survivor”.
After the program was broadcast in 2010, more French and European tourists have visited Con Dao, Hung said.
According to Nguyen Anh Nhut, Con Dao’s deputy chairman, the revenue from the islands’ tourism reached VND1,276 billion (US$55 million) in the first nine months of 2019.
The island welcomed 332,083 tourist arrivals in the same period, a 41.43-percent increase year-on-year.