Con Son is the largest of 15 islands that make up the Con Dao Archipelago, 80km from the mainland Mekong Delta region and 230km from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The island’s remoteness and former use as a penal colony have kept it in relatively pristine condition: even today, 80% of Con Son is still forested. The thick canopy provides a habitat for all sorts of exotic-sounding animals endemic to the archipelago: the Con Dao bow-fingered gecko and Con Dao black giant squirrel are just two examples. The islands are rugged and mountainous, with the highest peak reaching 557m. The ocean is home to dugongs (sea cows) and sea turtles that lay their eggs on the beaches from March to August. The winter months on Con Son Island are generally dry, but rough seas and strong winds from the northeast make the island feel fantastically remote at this time of year. The summer months bring occasional monsoon rains, but the seas remain calm and clear, the bays beautiful and tranquil.
How to get there:
Flight from Saigon city. Just forty-five minutes after taking off from the dust and bustle of the city, the propeller aircraft glides between a few tiny green dots in the East Sea, heading towards the short runway squeezed in at the eastern point of Con Son Island. To the right, the island’s jagged, sea-beaten north shore stretches to its western tip. The glowing dawn light haloes around the edges of the forested mountains, and crashing rollers break near the end of the runway. Saigon is already a distant memory.
With the purpose of expanding our coverage of the ferry network in Vietnam, we are integrating sea routes to Con Dao islands in partnership with Phu Quoc Express and Superdong Speed Ferry. These are two leading speedboat companies in Southern Vietnam.
The number of flights connecting Co Ong Airport in Con Dao with Ho Chi Minh is limited to few days per week. The route is only flown by turboprop aircrafts operated by VASCO, a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines.
Con Dao is accessible by ferry from the port of Vung Tau with Phu Quoc Express in 3 hours 15 minutes. As well as from the port of Soc Trang with Superdong Speed Ferry in 2 hours 30 minutes. Passengers can combine bus + ferry routes if coming from Ho Chi Minh to Vung Tau and Soc Trang respectively.
Phu Quoc Express and Superdong Speed Ferry operate daily ferry services connecting the main ports of Vung Tau and Soc Trang with Con Dao islands.
The Con Dao Islands has a population of about 7,000, most of whom are fishermen or part of the Peoples’ Army of Vietnam. According to some locals, men outnumber women 7 to 1 on the island. However, you’re unlikely to encounter anyone, male or female, as you walk along the seafront promenade. On one side, the glass-like ocean stretches to the horizon, on the other, French colonial villas crumble on street corners beneath the shadows of tropical trees, their roots twisted around the brickwork. It feels like an abandoned outpost of French Indochina. I’ve travelled all over Vietnam, but the first time I arrived in Con Son town I felt I’d really made it to the ends of the nation. As late as 2002, the only link to the mainland was a helicopter, which ran three times a week, carrying 24 passengers, most of whom were army personnel.