Located in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province, Con Dao islands are a group of 16 islands. The largest island is known as Con Son. These islands are now attracting many visitors because of both natural and historical scenes.
Con Dao islands overview
Con Dao served as a prison island for political prisoners during the French colonial era, when it was known as Poulo Condore, and in later years the Saigon regime imprisoned opponents of the regime in the infamous cells known as the “tiger cages”. The old prison buildings are still standing and are open to the public as is a small museum tracing the island’s history.
Besides having an interesting history, Con Dao is also an island of immense natural beauty with forested hills, deserted sandy beaches and extensive coral reefs making for some excellent diving.
Con Dao is another sad example of a National Park doing nothing to preserve the environment, however due its remote and little known location it has been preserved (So far) from the effects of development. 80% of the land area of the archipelago is a National park offering primary jungle teeming with interesting life such as the endemic black squirrel and the crab eating macaque. Beautiful beaches and hidden lagoons are also to be found here, with very few tourists Con Dao is a paradise off the beaten track. For now at least.
Most of the surrounding marine are is a no-take marine protected area (MPA). Sadly as in all of Vietnam the national park is a travesty. The national park is in no way responsible for the amazing health of the pristine reefs that surround the islands, home to a large variety of marine life incomparable to anywhere else in Vietnam.
Con Dao National Park is currently under going scrutiny of its operations by the World Wildlife Fund and The United Nations Development Program, both groups played a key role in the set up of the National park. Recently funding was withdrawn by another key aid organization DANIDA, as evidence was produced that they were operating in violation of their charter and that the Park was run for personal profit at the expense of the environment. Consider carefully and ask around on the island before using any of the National Park services. International oversight is desperately needed to be sure the environment abuses are halted. Recent reports to the National Park of the spotting of slaughtered turtle shells drying in the sun on the roof of the Anh Dao hotel have produced no inquiry, investigation or prosecution of the hotel.