Escape to the Con Dao Islands
230km from Ho Chi Minh City, the Con Dao Islands are a group of 16 land masses where you can find deserted beaches to swim, quiet bays to explore, coral reefs to snorkel and lush forests to hike through.
Yet the islands have a dark past, once housing political prisoners during the French colonial era, later those people who opposed the Saigon regime, and finally the Viet Cong. You can explore the history of the islands as the prison buildings still stand and are open to the public. Con Dao Prison and Phu Hai Prison are particularly well preserved and tell of the horrific history they have seen. With a local population of only 5,000, it is a surprise to learn that many of the current inhabitants of the islands are previous jailers and inmates who now live in peace.
Wildlife fans will not be disappointed as approximately 80% of the land consists of Con Dao National Park. Since the islands separated from the mainland some 15,000 years ago, many endemic species exist, such as the black squirrel or crab eating macaque. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) are working on the islands to monitor and preserve endangered sea-turtles and rare dugongs also live in the waters. This is one of the many reasons to dive or snorkel at the Con Dao islands, which also boasts beautiful coral, tropical fish, rays, cuttlefish and giant barracuda.
Few tourists come to the remote Con Dao islands so you’ll often have a beach or forest trail entirely to yourself.