Hiking to Dam Tre Bay, Con Son

The Đầm Tre Bay Hike

Hike Length – Roughly 11km round trip,
Hike Time – 5.5 hours including 1.5 hrs rest at the bay
Entry Fee – Free, but permission ticket required from National Park Office
Provisions – Take water and lunch/snack

Con Dao Hiking – The Đầm Tre Walk

Easily one of the most beautiful and secluded Con Dao Hiking options, it’s worth going up to the north side of the island for this walk, which will have you stomping along beaches, hiking through dense jungle with giant black squirrels and crab eating macaques, then finally rewarding you with a serene coral filled bay all to yourselves.

Dam Tre Bay , Con Dao Hiking - Adventure and Rambles
The reward – a beautiful shallow bay where you can relax and snorkel

Get an Entry Ticket at the National Park Office

You need to get a permission ticket in order to enter the hike to Đầm Tre. This is still the case at the time of writing in 2017. We went on this hike without one as we were incorrectly instructed by our guesthouse host that we did not need one, but upon arriving the ‘Ranger station’ at Đầm Tre, we were checked for the tickets. Fortunately, they took pity on us and let us go through, but we don’t recommend that you try your luck.

Grab the tickets for free at the office on Vo Thi Sau road just north of the main town. Search for ‘National Park Department’ on Google Maps.

Check the Tide

The timing of your walk will be dictated by the high tide. This is due to the airport’s runway, which struts out into the sea on Bãi biến Dong, the beach that you will be walking across before starting the hike into the jungle. At high tide this section of beach will need to be swum or waded across – not recommended especially in rough seas. Check this website for the tide times on Con Dao.

Aim to start an hour or so after the tide starts going out.

Where to Start The Dam Tre Hike

You can park your motorbike close to Poulo Condor Resort. If you are coming from town there is a right turn close to where the beach begins, it’s a dirt track that leads down to a rocky path to the beach on your right. We parked our bike at the top of this rocky path. It was safe here. See our map for reference:-

Bãi biến Dong Beach – 2.5km

Walk down the rocky path onto the start of your journey to Đầm Tre. You will have to cross a stream on your left to get onto the main beach. Walk along the beach for around 2.5km and take in the sea air, watch locals searching for shellfish, and you may even see a plane landing or taking off.

Con Dao Hiking - Hike to Dam Tre Bay
A moody Bãi biến Dong Beach

When you eventually get to the far north side of the beach, the entrance to the hike is on the top left side – look for the park singage.

Con Dao Walking
One of the signs at the entrance to the walk

The Jungle – 3km, roughly 2 hours

Now begins the steep upward climb up the hill and into the jungle. This route is paved all the way – watch your step on some of the stones, as it can be slippy. There’s only one path so it’s impossible to get lost.

Keep an eye out for giant black squirrels and lizards. There are also occasional jumping stinging insects on the walk. They bite through clothes – and hurt just as much as a mild wasp sting – so watch out.

Con Dao Hiking
Walking through the hot and damp jungle

Towards the end of this section of the walk, we came across a few shy crab eating macaques, but they weren’t disturbed by our presence.

Arriving at Đầm Tre

You eventually begin your descent, and when you see buildings, chickens and people you have arrived at the ‘ranger station’, though it looks a great deal like someone’s family home. Here you will have to present your tickets – they will ask for them. You can use the toilet facilities here, and the people are friendly.

Con Dao Hikes - We have arrived at Dam Tre Bay
We made it!

Walk through the ranger’s area and turn left before you get out into the field. If you start walking towards the cliff and into fisherman’s shacks you have gone too far!

Dam Tre Bay Entrance - Con Dao Walks
The entrance down to the bay – easy to miss

Swim and Snorkel to Your Heart’s Content

Setup on the rocky beach and go for a swim out in the corals. The water here is quite shallow at the low tide, make sure you bring some footwear as there is plenty of sharp coral and oyster shells to cut your feet. Get out towards the mouth of the bay to find the coral that is alive and teeming with fish!

We spent about 1hr 30 in the bay – though we were chased out by a storm so you may find yourselves there for longer.

Snorkeling at Dam Tre Bay - Con Dao
Just got back from a snorkel

Back – 2 hours again

Have your lunch, say goodbye to the rangers and chickens, and head back into the forest. If you have timed it right, you should arrive back in time to walk past the runway section of the beach. If not, then it’s time to get a little wet!

All done. Why not celebrate your adventure with a nice beer or some food at one of the restaurants on Bãi Đầm Trầu, which is the beach on the other side of the runway.

Con Dao Hikes - Bãi Đầm Trầu
Walking along Bãi Đầm Trầu, ready to enjoy a rest!

Find out more about our adventures on Con Dao, and also why you should visit Con Dao.

6 Reasons To Go To Con Dao, Vietnam

Why Go To Con Dao?

Found south of Ho Chi Minh City, this isolated yet highly accommodating island showcases some of Vietnam’s most pristine and untouched tropical waters, beaches and quiet roads – all steeped in hundreds of years of fascinating history. As a way of celebrating our recent visit to the island, we’ve put together a quick summary of why you should visit one of Vietnam’s final tourist frontiers.

1. It’s off the beaten track

With return airfares over the 4 Million VND (£126, $176USD) mark, flights going on small turboprop planes a handful of times a week, and the only alternative an infamously rough ferry, getting to Con Dao isn’t as convenient as most destinations in Vietnam.

Quiet beaches…

2. A relaxed way to get into motorbiking in Vietnam

Con Son’s roads are quite smooth and relatively free from potholes, and more importantly – quiet. A world away from the insanity of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, it’s a great place for those who want to get to grips with riding a motorbike in South East Asia. Just watch out for snakes! Make sure your insurance covers you, and it might be best to get an international driver’s license – our UK readers can find out more about that, here.

Con Son is a quiet island
Con Dao’s quiet and empty roads

3. The near-pristine wildlife and snorkelling

For those looking to go snorkeling in Vietnam, the main island of Con Son has an abundance of shore reefs which are still thriving. Just grab a snorkel and get out there – the left hand side of Dam Trau beach next to the airport is a good snorkeling spot. Dam Tre Bay, at the end of the Dam Tre Hike is another good and isolated area.

You can also see the giant black squirrel, crab eating macaques, turtles (which use some of Con Dao’s beaches to lay eggs), dolphins and sometimes dugongs. Make sure to only leave your footprints behind on the island – don’t leave waste and rubbish behind.

Snorkeling at Dam Tre Bay - Con Dao
Just got back from a snorkel

4. Beaches

If you want quiet tropical beaches, then Con Dao is your place. Not all are quite the quintessential, turquoise watered tropical beaches which you might find in Phu Quoc or South Thailand, but gorgeous ones none the less. Con Son has six accessible beaches. Our favourites are Bai Dam Trau in the north and Bai Lo Voi in the town.

Bai Dam Trau
The very beautiful Bai Dam Trau has just a couple of restaurants serving simple food, coconuts and beer

5. Local cuisine

There is street food to be found along the promenade (banh mis and vegetable fritters). There are plenty of restaurants in town, and lots of cheap, fresh fish.

Con Dao Street Food
Some delicious banana fritters being cooked up in Con Dao

6. The history

Like Phu Quoc, Con Son used to be a prison island. Hosting political prisoners during the French colonial era, and then North Vietnamese during the American (Vietnam) War, it was home to the infamous Tiger Cages, which you can still see today in the museum on the island (free admission).

All in all, Con Dao is a rare beauty, ideal for those who seek peace and quiet, wildlife with a fascinating lick of history. Its remoteness makes it all the more charming. So what are you waiting for?

Con Son Island, Vietnam

Week 2, Con Son Island

Con Son wasn’t originally part of our Vietnam itinerary.  After booking our flight to Thailand for the 17th October, we arranged to link up with friends in Vietnam 11 days later. This suited us, as we never intended to stay in Thailand for very long, but use it as a stepping stone for our onwards travel. We ended up spending days 1-4 in Bangkok before flying to Ho Chi Minh City. The plan was to find a nice beach south of the city for a mini holiday before our friends arrived.

Before doing much research we thought it would be easy to head to Vietnam’s south coast from Ho Chi Minh City. Unfortunately, we soon discovered that there were not any holiday style beaches south of the city. With our flights to Ho Chi Minh already booked and over a week there until our friends flew in to meet us, we needed to come up with a plan.

Looking at the map again I noticed Con Son. After a little research we were intrigued. However, at over 3.5million VND each for flights (GBP 120), it wasn’t looking like the cheapest option and this almost changed our mind. But, I’m definitely glad we went, as the extra bit of money we spent was definitely worth it, and I’d go again for longer next time.

We visited Con Son as the weather was beginning to become more changeable (the start of the low season), we had a mix of rain and sunshine on our visit.

As our tiny plane descended into Con Dao airport, it felt a bit like we were entering Tracey Park Island from the Thunderbirds!

The runway takes up the entire width of that section of the island and nothing but a concrete wall separates it from the beach. There were few western tourists, and most of these seemed to be staying at the Six Senses, which was way above our budget at £360 a night!

We had been told we could rent motorbikes from our hosts at the Airbandb homestay we had booked, but we hadn’t anticipated being picked up from the airport on a motorbike!

Our host, Hue, spoke very little English and her French husband Lionel was away on business when we arrived. She introduced herself as we came out of the tiny arrivals room and asked if we rode motorbikes.

“Errrrrr…” Alex looked at me, shrugged and said “Yes?!”.

She loaded my small carry on case onto her own bike and kindly carried my 36 litre rucksack on her back, Alex loaded his 65 litre rucksack onto his lap and I got on the back (after helmets were handed out). Luckily, their place was five minutes from the airport and our first motorbike journey was an easy ride.

Thus began our introduction to driving motorbikes. If you are planning your own trip, get your international driving licence before you go to avoid voiding any insurance you might have. UK residents can find out more about getting theirs, here.

Our rides from the airport

We didn’t know it at the time but Con Son would would turn out to be our highlight of Vietnam. The cheaper flights often sell fast and it is a popular destination of many Vietnamese holiday makers, keeping the island a path less travelled by western tourists. We discovered this is rare in Vietnam, especially if you head to any of the top destinations like Ha Long bay or Hoi An. I’m not sure if it will remain so, as we saw lots of roads being built to more secluded places.

After dropping our bags off and eating some of Hue’s amazing and very reasonably priced food I decided I needed to give driving the motorbike a go. Learning with someone on the back isn’t the easiest way to learn, however, I managed OK (apart from when I ran over a snake).

Con Son's quiet roads
Con Son’s quiet roads

We spent our days driving round the island, exploring local beaches and sampling local food. The main town has a long promenade with crumbling French-style streetlamps – where you can see turtles and rarely dugongs. You can also pick up some amazing street food here including Banh Mi.

Our first banh mis!

There’s also a lovely little beach that we swam in at dusk one evening.

Swimming at dusk at Bai Lo Voi

We did an epic trek one day which involved walking down the beach on the north side of the island. The walk to Đầm Tre needed timing correctly with the tide, or else we would be stuck wading through the sea around the airport’s runway wall. The walk along the beach took an hour or so, followed by a jungle trek. For more information about this walk, click here.

The wildlife on Con Son is amazing and included giant black squirrels, crab eating macaques, not to mention the turtles, and possibly dugongs and dolphins.

After a long slippy walk through the jungle, we arrived at a Rangers Station, and despite not having a ticket, they let us through and we swam out into the coral reef. We didn’t venture far out enough to the deeper reef that was in a healthier condition, but there was still some amazing snorkelling.

I sat on a rock and watched Alex swim out further as storm clouds began rolling in.

We made a dash for shore and got caught in the start of a wonderfully tropical rain shower. There was nothing for it but to recline in a hammock and see if it would pass, but as time ticked on we became increasingly aware that we needed to make it back along the beach before high tide, and that we had a two hour hike ahead of us.

So we slipped and slid back along the forest trail, through newly formed streams that cascaded across our paths, before eventually navigating along the beach and back onto the bike.

Driving along Con Son’s coastal paths was such a delight, and we were often joined by one or two white herons, who took flight as we passed.

On our second to last day Lionel arrived home and he recommended a good spot on the local beach to snorkel, which was wonderful, despite the poorer visibility due to the rain.

You know you’ve fallen in love with a place when you really don’t want to leave, and that’s how we felt on our last day, when we finally did have to say goodbye. In fact, we nearly didn’t leave as we almost missed our flight, only realising when we double checked our departure time during a leisurely lunch on the beach, and then having to make a mad dash back to pack and then rush to the airport, but maybe that’s another story!

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