As the trip progressed strangers became friends. Particularly special was the effortlessness: perfect logistics, never having to worry about anything, and, of course, the charming and thoughtful way you organised everything.
A tiny island off the coast of southern Vietnam, Con Dao was once a territory of the Cambodian Khmer Empire. With the advent of French colonial rule that Con Dao became known as the site of a notorious prison that utilized tiny, stifling tiger cages, and a practice that continued until the end of the Vietnam War.
Today, perhaps because of its seclusion and former role as a prison, Con Dao is a largely unspoiled area. The island sports virgin forests and tranquil beaches - perfect for eco-travelers who wish to enjoy nature in its truest form. The island was recently opened to tourism, and is now home to a new Six Senses resort.
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It’s difficult to believe that such a beautiful island had such a violent history. Formerly a prison camp, the Con Dao Museum's photographs, artwork, and relics depict the brutal conditions on the island before its liberation, when the French, Vietnamese, and Americans all used Con Dao as a place to keep “enemies.” Trai Phu Hai Prison, with its looming guard towers and thick, high walls, is one of many former prisons around the island.
Visit a “tiger cage,” where, from 1940 to 1955, prisoners were kept in open pits and monitored from above by their jailors --just like tigers at a zoo. Additionally, there is also a cemetery which honors the nearly 20,000 Vietnamese who perished in the struggles against the French and American governments.
National Park Wildlife
Con Dao's National Park extends from forested hills to vibrant coral reefs. Macaques and black squirrels abound, as do more exotic animals including the white-rumped shama, greater racket-tailed drongo, the rare pied imperial
pigeon, and the even rarer red-billed tropical bird.
Dive off Con Dao for a glimpse of its stunning coral reef - generally considered to be the best diving in Vietnam. Here, divers can find sea cows, once thought to be dolphins by the locals. There are rays, cobia, cuttlefish, turtles and giant barracuda, as well as a wide variety of tropical reef fish.
Enjoy a tour of the island via bicycle as you set your own pace over a mix of flat and hilly terrain.
Hike and trek your way through the jungle. Some of the longer hikes require guides, who can point out some of the indigenous wildlife. Pause for lunch as you breathe in the fresh air and enjoy this unspoiled corner of Southeast Asia.
A vital turtle breeding program can be found on Bay Canh Island, which lies near Con Dao Island. Watch the turtles as they hatch, and cheer them on in their subsequent race to the ocean. Overnight stays can be arranged.
Explore Vietnam’s South and Central region on this thrilling 12-day luxury journey. You’ll sample fresh and delicious Vietnamese cuisine, visit ancient, UNESCO-listed sites, take a cruise on the mighty Mekong Delta, and you’ll even get some time to relax beachside at the luxurious Six Senses Con Dao.
Six Senses Con Dao, set along a kilometer span of white sand beach, is comprised of 50 oceanside villas, each with its own private infinity pool and view of the South China Sea. Each ecologically designed villa is designed to blend harmoniously with the hotel’s natural surroundings. Villas range from one-bedroom, single-level villas to lofty duplexes with four bedrooms. The resort’s complex includes a typical Vietnamese “main street” recreation of a fishing village and local market replete with local vendors, an art gallery, activity center, spa and library. Guests can choose to dine at the Hotel’s traditional Vietnamese open kitchen, coffee house, deli, or at the beach-side Chef’s Table and wine cellar. Six Senses Con Dao is approximately 45 minutes by plane from Saigon.