Con Dao National Park is a must-come destinational when visiting Vietnam. Coming here, you have numerous options for hiking. while hiking, keep your eyes open for the island’s unique flora and fauna species such as Cao Dao nicobar pigeon, black squirrels, crab-eating macaques just to name a few.
On Con Son Island there are four hikes travellers can do on their own (without a guide). We don’t want to be overbearing and have to tell you things like “wear proper footwear, not flip flops”. But with very little solid information for travellers about these hikes, we literally did the legwork and before you get your hiking shoes on, there are a few things you need to know to ensure you have an awesome hike in Con Dao.
First established in 1993, Con Dao National Park covers just shy of 20,000 hectares, comprising nearly 6,000 hectares of forest and 14,000 hectares of marine protected area, plus another 20,000 or so hectares of marine buffer area.
Here are your options for hiking:
- Ong Dung Beach: Easy; total distance 1.4 km; paved trail and stairs.
- So Ray and Ong Dung Beach loop: Moderate; total distance 7.4 km; rugged trail, paved trail and stairs.
- Hang Duc Me cave shrine, Bang Beach and/or Dat Tham Beach: Moderate; total distance 5, 6.2 or 6.8 km; paved stone and concrete trail.
- Dam Tre Beach: Moderately challenging; total distance 11 km; mix of beach, paved stone and concrete trail, and rugged trail.
You must get a “ticket” from the national park office to enter the park. You need to do this every day you go into the park. This daily permit is absolutely free and you need to carry it 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.
The office is on Vo Thi Sau Street leading north out of town. We were told it is open daily 07:00-11:30 and 13:30-17:00 but we noticed it was locked up on the weekend with a sign on the door directing hikers to get a ticket at the ranger stations on the trail. It’s probably best to stop by the office regardless of the day to check.
Some notes when hiking in Con Dao National Park
It’s not a bad idea to also tell your hotel what hike you are doing. If they don’t speak English, write it down or point to the name on the map. If you’re solo hiking, perhaps you also want to send a message to a friend and tell them you’ll message them again once you’re back.
Think of how much water you’ll need – and then bring more. 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.
Be warned that monkeys can be a problem on the So Ray and Ong Dung hike. Over the years they have been fed by people and are now aggressive – they will try to snatch your bags and any other possessions. While hiking do not stop for monkeys or let them get close. If you see a lone monkey, there’s a whole troop nearby and you can quickly find yourself outnumbered. We are not joking.
So you really don’t want to see monkeys — but there’s other wildlife to keep your eyes peeled for while in the tropical evergreen and tropical semi-deciduous forest. You’ll see rare trees occupied by the black squirrel, one of three mammals endemic to Con Dao. Diving and snorkelling trips gives you a chance to see dugong (otherwise known as sea cows), dolphins, green turtles and hawksbill turtles.
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