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See & Do in Con Dao Island

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You’ll get the most out of Con Dao Island by wandering and exploring independently on foot or on two wheels. Some of the nicest things about being on Con Dao Island are its compact size, sparse population, rich natural forest cover, white sandy beaches, rocky headlands and some of Vietnam’s best roads – minus traffic. The town and the island’s rural roads will reveal enough of their charm and beauty to keep you going for a few days: beaches, buildings, forests, markets and mountains.

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The main (and only inhabited) island, Con Son was once the site of French-run prisons for Vietnamese involved in the independence movement. Most of the derelict prisons are located in Con Son Town, where you can visit the prison cells, and infamous tiger cages. Many locals visit Con Son to pay their respects to revolutionaries such as Vo Thi Sau, the first women on the island to have been executed by the French.

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Aside from this rather bleak part of Con Son, the island has plenty of unspoilt beaches where you can enjoy a day of sunbathing, swimming, and dining on fresh seafood. Closest to the town is Bai An Hai Beach, which connects Ben Dam Harbour to several beachfront resorts and fishing villages. If you prefer privacy, rent a motorbike and make your way south towards Mui Ca Map (Shark Cape) and Nhat Beach to enjoy fine white sands and breathtaking views of the ocean. 
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There are now several well-marked, beautiful treks you can do on your own. One, in the hills behind Con Son town, takes you past the remains of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge (built by prisoners) and through the jungle to a rocky cove, called Bai Ong Dung, on the north side of the island. You can make a loop by coming back on the path through So Ray fruit plantation. Several other trailheads are also signposted just above the Ma Thien Lanh Bridge, all leading into the jungle and to the other side of the island. In the north of the island, the long 11km round trip path to Dam Tre Lagoon is signposted to the right (due east) a couple of kilometres before reaching the airport. The Con Dao National Park official or Dive Dive Dive offers a useful map of these treks. Some of the longer walks still require a guide, which can be arranged at National Park Headquarters.

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Island-hopping and diving are popular activities on Con Dao Islands, where you can explore most of the uninhabited islets and spot various wildlife such as stingrays, barracudas, moray eels, and dugongs. Hon Bay Canh Island is the most important egg-laying area in Vietnam for sea turtles as well as being home to the rarely seen and endangered Dugong (sea cow). From July to August it is possible to see Green and Hawksbill turtles nesting. An evening boat trip to one of the nearby islands, allows you to visit the beaches to watch the turtles nest and lay their eggs. The turtles come on to the beach at high tide and at night, so depending on the time of year you are visiting, it may involve a late night and lots of patience while waiting for the turtles to make their way to the beaches, but worth every moment.

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Con Dao Island offers by far the best diving in Vietnam. You can choose the Dive, Dive, Dive! that their office is on Nguyen Hue Street. The owner, Larry, is a long term Vietnam expat who’s passionate about diving and snorkeling in the area, and has his finger on the pulse when it comes to environmental concerns and other major issues facing the islands.

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A good new Con Dao gift shop has recently opened on Nguyen An Ninh Street in Con Son Town. Island specialties, such as bags of tropical almonds (grown on the enormous old trees lining the town’s streets), local grape liquor, and fresh honey, are all available.

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For any further information about things to do on the island, please email us.

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