Con Dao National Park is a natural reserve area on Con Dao Island, in Ba Ria Vung Tau Province in coastal southeastern Vietnam. The park includes a part of the island and the surrounding sea. The national park is characterized by a diverse ecosystem. Many species of corals and especially the sea turtles, dolphins, and endangered dugongs are found here.
Map of Con Dao national park
Topography and hydrology
Con Dao National Park is centered on an archipelago of 14 islands, the largest of which is Con Son. The topography of Con Son Island is mountainous, and dominated by a granite ridge, which runs from south-west to north-east, sheltering the bays on both sides of the island from strong winds. The highest points on the island are the summits of Mount Thanh Gia and Mount Chua, at 577 and 515 m respectively. The smaller islands reach a maximum elevation of 200 m.
There are no permanent watercourses on any of the islands of the Con Dao archipelago, only seasonal streams. In the rainy season, water is plentiful but, in the dry season, there is a serious lack of water. Three reservoirs collect water during the rainy season to supply the local population during the dry season.
Con Son Island and many of the other islands of the archipelago are extensively forested. According to the revised investment plan, the national park supports 4,905 ha of forest, equivalent to 81% of the total terrestrial area. To date, 882 vascular plant species have been recorded at the national park, including 91 species of medicinal plant.
One outstanding feature of Con Dao’s flora is the 44 plant species that were discovered for the first time on the islands. A number of these species are named after the site, including Dipterocarpus condorensis, Ilex condorensis, Pavetta condorensis and Psychotria condorensis.
To date, 24 species of mammal, 69 species of bird and 42 species of reptile and amphibian have been recorded at the national park. Although the number of species is relatively low, the density of individual species is often high, and there are a number of endemic taxa, including an endemic subspecies of Black Giant Squirrel, Ratufa bicolor condorensis. The bird fauna of Con Dao National Park is not well studied. However, a number of bird species recorded at Con Dao are not known from any other site in Vietnam, including Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica, Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus, Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor and Masked Booby Sula dactylatra.
The marine ecosystems at the national park include mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Mangroves cover a total of 15 ha, and are distributed around Ba Island and along the west coast of Bay Canh Island, and along the north and south coasts of Con Son Island. The coral reefs at Con Dao are among the most pristine in Vietnam, and are distributed in shallow waters around the islands, covering a total area of around 1,000 ha. The coral reefs support high levels of biodiversity, including over 270 coral species.
Surveys conducted by Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography have shown the presence of 1,323 species of marine fauna and flora, including 44 species listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam. At 153 species, the recorded mollusc diversity of Con Dao is the highest of any of Vietnam’s offshore islands. The national park supports around 200 ha of seagrass beds, which support a small population of the globally threatened marine mammal, Dugong, numbering around 12 individuals.
Con Dao National Park contains a number of nesting beaches for Green Turtle Chelonia mydas and Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata, two globally threatened marine turtles. More than 250 females visit a total of 14 nesting sites annually, forming over 1,000 nests. Nearly 80% of the nesting takes place between June and September. Furthermore, a number of cetaceans have been recorded in the marine component of Con Dao National Park.
The Con Dao archipelago has historical significance as the site of several prisons used by the French colonial regime and South Vietnamese regime. Many famous revolutionaries were imprisoned on the island prior to 1975, and the site is considered a national memorial. A 30 ha site incorporating the prisons has been formally recognized as a national heritage site.
The Con Dao archipelago has already been developed for tourism, which is now one of the most important sectors of the islands’ economy. There is great potential to further develop ecotourism at the national park, in the form of hiking, birdwatching, and snorkeling, diving and watching nesting turtles.
When to go to Con Dao Island?
Con Dao national park is located at a point where cool and warm ocean currents converge and create a localized climatic system. The wet season is from July to September when frequent fierce squalls buffet the west facing aspects of the islands. During this time visibility can be cut down to about 100m and the wind storms can last about half an hour and can be quite frightening. Swimming, diving and snorkeling can be dangerous. During this time the eastern face of the island is sheltered. In September, the currents and winds reverse thus exposing the east side of the islands to bad weather until January. The weather is calm all over the archipelago during the remainder of the year.
This unusual weather pattern allows hiking, swimming, snorkeling and diving to be an all-year-round activity. From January to June, conditions are usually calm all over the archipelago.
The forest is incredibly dry during dry season and there’s a high risk of forest fires. Don’t light fires or even smoke in the forest. During rainy season, check with the park office about trail conditions. Keep track of your time, and be out by nightfall.
Con Dao national park trekking?
Con Dao National Park covers an area of nearly 6,000 hectares of land and 14,000 hectares of water area. Hiking through the forest is the best way discover Con Dao national park as the experience will enable you enjoy fresh air, hear the birds chirping, and watch colorful butterflies. You will also have chances to see many animals during the hike. The beaches near the national park are also very beautiful and deserted, where you can relax.
Con Dao national park hiking permit
You must get a hiking permit from the national park office to enter the park. You need to do this every day you go into the park. You need to carry this permit with you on your hike. The island is a military base and there are some areas off limits, so they want to know where you are going and it also acts as a registry in case someone goes missing. The ticket may be checked at entrance booths or at park ranger stations.
Con Dao national park hiking routes
Con Dao national park is not an ideal place for multi-day jungle treks. There are a number of hikes you can do while you are on the island.
Virgin Mary Cave
Virgin Mary Cave is a small grotto with a statue of the Virgin Mary inside. It is an easy and short walk (about 500m).
Ong Dung Beach
This is another easy and short walk (about 500 m downhill on stone path with steps). Also opportunities to encounter some of the local monkeys.
So Ray Plantation
So Ray Plantation hiking trail is moderately strenuous; a bit over a kilometer up a steep hill and rougher trail. The trail to So Ray is harder to find than others, but rewarding as at the time lies an abandoned colonial plantation once worked by prisoners and an observation tower with excellent views of Con Son town and the sea.
There are other great hikes on Con Son and the other islands. For example, you can hike to Thanh Gia Peak, the highest point of Con Son at 577 meters. Please contact us for more information.
Con Dao Island tours
Con Dao Island Tours is our collection of Vietnam best trips we arrange in Con Dao national park as well as in the entire archipelago of Con Dao. Options include jungle trek, mountain hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling, beach breaks, sightseeing, history, culture tours and more.
The following itineraries are only some inspirational tour packages. These package tours can be further customized to better fit individual requirements. Just follow it or contact us for a customization.
Read more: Con Dao Island tours