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Con Dao Island

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CondaoIslandThe Con Dao Islands are an archipelago of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, in southeastern Vietnam, and a district of this province. Situated at about 185 km from Vung Tau and 230 km from Ho-Chi-Minh City, the islands comprise of 16 mountainous islands and islets. The total land area reaches 75,15 km² and the local population is about 5000 inhabitants.
In 16 June 1702, British East India Company founded a settlement on the island of Pulo Condor off the south coast of southern Vietnam , and in 2 March 1705 the garrison and settlement were destroyed. The largest island is Con Son Island (also known as Con Lon Island), famous for its prison built by the French colonial government.
Con Dao was recognized as a nature reserve in 1984 and a national park in 1993. The total protected area of the park is 20,000ha, including 14,000ha of sea and 6,000ha of forest on 14 islands. There is also a buffer zone that is 20,500ha wide. Con Dao National Park encompasses oceanic and coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea grasslands. Over 1,300 species of sea animals have been identified here. The park is the most important egg-laying area in Vietnam for sea turtles. The island also has many precious animals, the most important being dugong (called "sea cows" by locals). Between late 1996 and early 1997, officials at the park counted 10 dugong in the sea surrounding the island. With high oceanic biodiversity, Con Dao is classified as one of the areas given optimum priority in the world's system of oceanic reserves.
Some of those beaches include Dam Trau, Hang Duong and Phi Yen where visitors can relax and enjoy the warm temperature. The ocean around Con Dao Island is a heaven for sea life and the splendid forest cloaks the land. This is ecotourism at its best. Clean, smooth sand banks, blue sea, dolphins jumping and racing after boats, tropical almond trees swinging in a cool sea breeze, peaceful narrow roads, and forest covering most of the island, make Con Dao seem like heaven to visitors from far and wide.
Con Dao is one of the few places in Vietnam that is home to rare dugong, sea turtles, and dolphins, and to varieties of orchids found nowhere else in this country

Con Dao IslandsCondaoisland1


Teenage boys pulled up on Honda scooters, kicking off their shoes and rolling up their jeans to play soccer on the white sand; young mothers led small charges by the hand into the gently lapping aquamarine water; an elderly woman, her teeth lacquered black in the style of her ancestors, watched a group of children fly colorful, animal-shaped kites on the pier, built in 1873.
If not for the Communist slogans being piped out of the town’s loudspeakers, it would have been hard to believe this was Vietnam. Where, after all, were the motorbikes, the honking horns, the shiny high-rises, and the constant activity that has come to characterize this rapidly developing country?Condaoisland2
Until recently, the isolated 16-island archipelago of Con Dao (its largest island, Con Son, is commonly called Con Dao Island), 110 miles off the mainland’s southeastern coast, was a place most Vietnamese wanted to forget. For 113 years, this island was home to one of the country’s harshest prison systems, established by French colonists in 1862 and later ruled by South Vietnamese and American forces until Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, at which point the prisons were closed.
These days, officials on government-sponsored group tours make pilgrimages to the crumbling stone prisons, which have been turned into museums that depict the suffering endured by their comrades.
Other buildings constructed by the French have been converted into cafes and private homes in the main town, which consists of little more than a daily market, a few seafood restaurants and a couple of souvenir shops selling shells, carved wooden canes, and Ho Chi Minh paraphernalia. The few signs along the quiet streets lined with flame-trees and bougainvillea tout pearls of wisdom such as “With the party comes peace, comfort, and happiness.”


But despite, or perhaps because of, its ugly history, Con Dao is one of Southeast Asia’s most untouched and breathtaking getaways. Its past, coupled with its remoteness, have spared it from the million-plus hordes that descend on coastal boomtowns like Nha Trang and Danang every year. (According to government figures, in 2008 Con Dao received 20,000 visitors, only 2,600 of whom were foreign.)
A lack of development and, until recently, of access (the number of 45-minute flights from Ho Chi Minh City has gradually increased from a handful per week four years ago to three times a day now) has also helped to keep the islands’ beaches empty and immaculate. The azure waters are brimming with Vietnam’s best coral reefs, and the forests bustle with macaque monkeys and black squirrels, one of several species indigenous to Con Dao.
Indeed, efforts to preserve Con Dao’s natural beauty are unrivaled in the rest of Vietnam. Of the archipelago’s total area, 83 percent is protected by the Con Dao National Park, including over 50 square miles that make up the country’s first marine reserve.
With help from organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations Development Program, the park has just won approval for a $16.5 million development plan through 2020, which will finance natural resource protection, research and eco-tourism.
Though the government hopes to more than double the islands’ population to 13,500 by 2013 through a series of ambitious residential and tourism projects, for now, Con Dao’s slow, friendly rhythms and spectacular beauty remain largely undisturbed.
On a recent visit, except for a film crew shooting a coming season of “Koh-Lanta,” the French adaptation of “Survivor,” foreign tourists were scarce. One of them was Fred Burke, a 51-year-old managing partner of Baker & McKenzie, an international law firm with offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
“This feels like some sort of secret Tahiti,” he said, referring to the lush, rolling hills and sharp cliffs that abut the sea. “Most of the popular seaside destinations in Vietnam are being degraded with trash on the beach, inadequate waste-water treatment, noisy motorbikes and Jet Skis. It’s a complete surprise to find an amazingly beautiful place like Con Dao with almost nobody here.”
Despite its rich beauty, Con Dao is still far from being a luxury destination. Right now there is only a smattering of simple, Vietnamese-run lodgings and restaurants. But the much anticipated arrival late this year of a Six Senses resort, from the Bangkok-based company known for introducing eco-luxury to the region’s most unspoiled up-and-coming locales, suggests that Con Dao might soon become part of the international travel scene.
Though English is not widely spoken and most places cater to Vietnamese tour groups, independent travelers can still partake of the islands’ treasures. The Con Dao National Park arranges guided treks through dense tropical jungle and to remote beaches like Dam Tre Bay, a deep, sheltered cove that is home to golden fields of swaying seaweed and giant clams with electric blue lips. There are also snorkeling trips to Bay Canh islet, where fine sand lures endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles during the May to September nesting season.
But cruising the winding cliffside roads on a rented scooter might be the most memorable way to experience Con Dao, where the only traffic is the occasional black-haired goat or wild pig. Hidden down a sandy track marked “Mieu Cau,” about eight miles northeast of town, is Dam Trau Beach, a crescent-shaped expanse of golden sand and sapphire fringed by feathery casuarinas, the peace disrupted only by the arrival of flights from Ho Chi Minh City.
Head west to encounter rolling dunes and Con Dao’s main port, Ben Dam, where spearmint-green, sun-beaten fishing boats bob in the turquoise water. The island’s prettiest beach, the boulder-peppered Bai Nhat, emerges only with the low tide. If you’re lucky, that will happen in late afternoon when the sun drops behind the 1,000-foot-high Love Peak, so called because it looks like two heads nestled together.
How to get there
Getting to Con Dao involves a connection in Ho Chi Minh City. The round-trip flights in June from New York to Ho Chi Minh City, all with layovers, starting at about $1,500. And  round-trip airfare between Ho Chi Minh City and Con Dao on starting at $120; the Vietnam-based travel Web site http:///www.vietnamtodaytravel.com is a good place to book.

CondaoIslandThe Con Dao Islands are an archipelago of Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, in southeastern Vietnam, and a district of this province. Situated at about 185 km from Vung Tau and 230 km from Ho-Chi-Minh City, the islands comprise of 16 mountainous islands and islets. The total land area reaches 75,15 km² and the local population is about 5000 inhabitants.
In 16 June 1702, British East India Company founded a settlement on the island of Pulo Condor off the south coast of southern Vietnam , and in 2 March 1705 the garrison and settlement were destroyed. The largest island is Con Son Island (also known as Con Lon Island), famous for its prison built by the French colonial government.
Con Dao was recognized as a nature reserve in 1984 and a national park in 1993. The total protected area of the park is 20,000ha, including 14,000ha of sea and 6,000ha of forest on 14 islands. There is also a buffer zone that is 20,500ha wide. Con Dao National Park encompasses oceanic and coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea grasslands. Over 1,300 species of sea animals have been identified here. The park is the most important egg-laying area in Vietnam for sea turtles. The island also has many precious animals, the most important being dugong (called "sea cows" by locals). Between late 1996 and early 1997, officials at the park counted 10 dugong in the sea surrounding the island. With high oceanic biodiversity, Con Dao is classified as one of the areas given optimum priority in the world's system of oceanic reserves.
Some of those beaches include Dam Trau, Hang Duong and Phi Yen where visitors can relax and enjoy the warm temperature. The ocean around Con Dao Island is a heaven for sea life and the splendid forest cloaks the land. This is ecotourism at its best. Clean, smooth sand banks, blue sea, dolphins jumping and racing after boats, tropical almond trees swinging in a cool sea breeze, peaceful narrow roads, and forest covering most of the island, make Con Dao seem like heaven to visitors from far and wide.
Con Dao is one of the few places in Vietnam that is home to rare dugong, sea turtles, and dolphins, and to varieties of orchids found nowhere else in this country

Con Dao IslandsCondaoisland1


Teenage boys pulled up on Honda scooters, kicking off their shoes and rolling up their jeans to play soccer on the white sand; young mothers led small charges by the hand into the gently lapping aquamarine water; an elderly woman, her teeth lacquered black in the style of her ancestors, watched a group of children fly colorful, animal-shaped kites on the pier, built in 1873.
If not for the Communist slogans being piped out of the town’s loudspeakers, it would have been hard to believe this was Vietnam. Where, after all, were the motorbikes, the honking horns, the shiny high-rises, and the constant activity that has come to characterize this rapidly developing country?Condaoisland2
Until recently, the isolated 16-island archipelago of Con Dao (its largest island, Con Son, is commonly called Con Dao Island), 110 miles off the mainland’s southeastern coast, was a place most Vietnamese wanted to forget. For 113 years, this island was home to one of the country’s harshest prison systems, established by French colonists in 1862 and later ruled by South Vietnamese and American forces until Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, at which point the prisons were closed.
These days, officials on government-sponsored group tours make pilgrimages to the crumbling stone prisons, which have been turned into museums that depict the suffering endured by their comrades.
Other buildings constructed by the French have been converted into cafes and private homes in the main town, which consists of little more than a daily market, a few seafood restaurants and a couple of souvenir shops selling shells, carved wooden canes, and Ho Chi Minh paraphernalia. The few signs along the quiet streets lined with flame-trees and bougainvillea tout pearls of wisdom such as “With the party comes peace, comfort, and happiness.”


But despite, or perhaps because of, its ugly history, Con Dao is one of Southeast Asia’s most untouched and breathtaking getaways. Its past, coupled with its remoteness, have spared it from the million-plus hordes that descend on coastal boomtowns like Nha Trang and Danang every year. (According to government figures, in 2008 Con Dao received 20,000 visitors, only 2,600 of whom were foreign.)
A lack of development and, until recently, of access (the number of 45-minute flights from Ho Chi Minh City has gradually increased from a handful per week four years ago to three times a day now) has also helped to keep the islands’ beaches empty and immaculate. The azure waters are brimming with Vietnam’s best coral reefs, and the forests bustle with macaque monkeys and black squirrels, one of several species indigenous to Con Dao.
Indeed, efforts to preserve Con Dao’s natural beauty are unrivaled in the rest of Vietnam. Of the archipelago’s total area, 83 percent is protected by the Con Dao National Park, including over 50 square miles that make up the country’s first marine reserve.
With help from organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the United Nations Development Program, the park has just won approval for a $16.5 million development plan through 2020, which will finance natural resource protection, research and eco-tourism.
Though the government hopes to more than double the islands’ population to 13,500 by 2013 through a series of ambitious residential and tourism projects, for now, Con Dao’s slow, friendly rhythms and spectacular beauty remain largely undisturbed.
On a recent visit, except for a film crew shooting a coming season of “Koh-Lanta,” the French adaptation of “Survivor,” foreign tourists were scarce. One of them was Fred Burke, a 51-year-old managing partner of Baker & McKenzie, an international law firm with offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
“This feels like some sort of secret Tahiti,” he said, referring to the lush, rolling hills and sharp cliffs that abut the sea. “Most of the popular seaside destinations in Vietnam are being degraded with trash on the beach, inadequate waste-water treatment, noisy motorbikes and Jet Skis. It’s a complete surprise to find an amazingly beautiful place like Con Dao with almost nobody here.”
Despite its rich beauty, Con Dao is still far from being a luxury destination. Right now there is only a smattering of simple, Vietnamese-run lodgings and restaurants. But the much anticipated arrival late this year of a Six Senses resort, from the Bangkok-based company known for introducing eco-luxury to the region’s most unspoiled up-and-coming locales, suggests that Con Dao might soon become part of the international travel scene.
Though English is not widely spoken and most places cater to Vietnamese tour groups, independent travelers can still partake of the islands’ treasures. The Con Dao National Park arranges guided treks through dense tropical jungle and to remote beaches like Dam Tre Bay, a deep, sheltered cove that is home to golden fields of swaying seaweed and giant clams with electric blue lips. There are also snorkeling trips to Bay Canh islet, where fine sand lures endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles during the May to September nesting season.
But cruising the winding cliffside roads on a rented scooter might be the most memorable way to experience Con Dao, where the only traffic is the occasional black-haired goat or wild pig. Hidden down a sandy track marked “Mieu Cau,” about eight miles northeast of town, is Dam Trau Beach, a crescent-shaped expanse of golden sand and sapphire fringed by feathery casuarinas, the peace disrupted only by the arrival of flights from Ho Chi Minh City.
Head west to encounter rolling dunes and Con Dao’s main port, Ben Dam, where spearmint-green, sun-beaten fishing boats bob in the turquoise water. The island’s prettiest beach, the boulder-peppered Bai Nhat, emerges only with the low tide. If you’re lucky, that will happen in late afternoon when the sun drops behind the 1,000-foot-high Love Peak, so called because it looks like two heads nestled together.
How to get there
Getting to Con Dao involves a connection in Ho Chi Minh City. The round-trip flights in June from New York to Ho Chi Minh City, all with layovers, starting at about $1,500. And  round-trip airfare between Ho Chi Minh City and Con Dao on starting at $120; the Vietnam-based travel Web site http:///www.vietnamtodaytravel.com is a good place to book.
 




 

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