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Diving in Vietnam

Vietnam makes for an unusual dive destination but its popularity is slowly growing with hidden gems like Con Dao and Phu Quoc as well as new divers playground Nha Trang.

Diving in Vietnam

Quick facts

From breathtaking natural beauty such as the idyllic beaches of the pristine coastline and islands, to thousands of motorbikes buzzing through one of the many vibrant metropolises such as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a land of staggering natural and cultural experiences. This unique country is also famed for its food, among the most flavorsome and healthy on the planet, and its friendly locals, who have helped Vietnam become a must-visit tourist destination. For the most part, Vietnam is a relative newcomer as a dedicated dive destination, however this adds to the element of adventure for those divers exploring this exciting destination. Divers are catered for with a dive center and resort infrastructure that has evolved steadily since the mid 1990s, and covers the best spots along Vietnam’s 3500-kilometre/2000-mile coastline. Nha Trang is the scuba diving hub in Vietnam, about an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City. Boasting more than 20 dive operators, Nha Trang is a popular place for budding divers looking to get certified in its calm and friendly waters. It is also known to have very competitive rates for multiple types of certification as well as boat dive packages. Water temperature is typically a balmy 82°F (28°C) and a 3mm wet suit will suffice. Top dive sites in Nha Trang include Hon Mun Island which is also known as The Black Island. Moray Beach and Madonna Rock are other favorite dive sites. Pelagic sea creatures do not frequent this area but there is plenty of macro life and cool caverns to explore at Madonna Rock. Maximum depth is typically 82ft (25m) and is suitable for all levels of divers. Travel 50miles (80km) up from Nha Trang to find the idyllic Whale Island, where the legendary Jacques Cousteau discovered his passion for the ocean. There is plenty of variety here with macro dives among lush soft corals and even exciting drift dives. Even further up north is Hoi An, a charming French colonial town. From Hoi An, one can access Cham Islands by a 40 minute boat ride. These dive sites boast towering pinnacles and divers will be able to find soft and hard corals teeming with pipe fish, seahorses and nudibranch as well as schooling fish. Diving here goes slightly deeper than other sites in Vietnam as the pinnacles reach to 131ft (40m). Next, head south towards the Gulf of Thailand to the exciting Con Dao archipelago. The group of 16 islands has the only diveable wreck Vietnam and is the key place to see pelagic animals like hawksbill turtles, sharks and rays. Diving can be light and easy or challenge yourself with drifts and deep dives for critter hunting. Last but not least is the little known Phu Quoc Island which lies close to Cambodia. Visibility may not always be great here because of the run-off from the Mekong River delta but the healthy waters has encouraged plenty of hard coral growth and ample fish life. Top dive sites here include Dry Island and Nudibranch Island.

Recommended training

Vietnam is a great place to learn and get your PADI with the PADI Open Water Diver course. For certified divers, its a macro and wide-angle photographer’s dream, so the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Specialty course is a good choice. Vietnam is also an ideal location to become aPADI Divemaster or PADI Instructor in a tropical paradise and live the dream life.

When to go

Best times to visit the mid to south west coast are between February and October, as the monsoon season kicks in from October to January and can be dangerous. The months of July and August could be too humid making spring time from February to June perfect for diving. However, for diving at Phu Quoc Island and Con Dao archipelago, the best diving season is from November to March thus making Vietnam a year round diving destination.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

  • Nha Trang

    As Vietnam’s premier scuba location, Nha Trang and nearby Hon Mun Marine Park give divers the opportunity to enjoy 350 species of coral and many quirky creatures in clear waters and calm currents.

  • Phú Quốc

    Only opened for diving in 2002, Phú Quốc’s best diving is still being discovered, but it’s already known to be perfect for beginners and, at the same time, offers challenges for macro-lovers.

Modonna Rocks, Nha Trang: Swim-throughs and caverns highlight a dive off this pair of pinnacles. Large moray eels and lionfish prowl the area, octopuses lurk under the ledges, and clouds of glassfish fill the caverns. This boat dive bottoms out at about 25 metres/80 feet. Moray Beach, Nha Trang: Copious amounts of corals harbor scorpionfish, clownfish, pipefish and razorfish at this site. With a maximum depth of about 18 metres/60 feet, Moray Beach is an ideal spot for new divers or those in training. Three Kings, Whale Island: Home to mantas, eagle rays and the occasional whale shark (from April through July), this site is named after three pinnacles, the bottoms of which are covered with a myriad of multicolored soft corals. This stunning site maxes out at more than 30 metres/100 feet. Fish Highway, Con Dao Islands: This coral-and-sponge festooned steel wreck lies at a depth of about 30 metres/100 feet. The wreck is about 60 metres/200 feet long and attracts large groupers, barracuda, moray eels, Moorish idols and well-camouflaged stonefish. Keep an eye out for turtles on this photogenic dive site. Hom Mo, Charm Islands: This is a truly spectacular site, expect to see stunning hard and soft corals, pipefish, clownfish, seahorses and nudibranchs. This dive site ranges in depths from around 4-35 metres/13-114 feet. Dry Island (Hon Ko), Phu Quoc: Recognizable above the surface by its rocks sticking up out of the water, this is an incredible site made up of a reef system that is home to mitre shells, rays, bamboo sharks, nudibranchs, catfish and scorpionfish.

What to see

Macro life is a big feature of diving in Vietnam. Hard and soft corals crowd the reefs off Nha Trang along with colorful reef fish, moray eels, lionfish, nudibranch, and anemone crabs. A closer look whilst exploring the reefs will reveal camouflaged scorpionfish, frogfish, cuttlefish and also hiding octopuses.
Further up north at Whale Island or Hoi An, you might be able to sneak up on resting nurse sharks and white tips. Frequently look out into the blue for potential sightings of eagle rays cruising by. Seahorses are also something to look out for along with their cousins, the pipefish at macro dive sites.
Down south at Con Dao and Phu Quoc, spot hawksbill turtles, passing sharks and rays in these rich waters. Bamboo sharks are a feature at Phu Quoc so be sure to work your dive master hard for a sighting. Sea grass meadows around the islands are also said to have the elusive and almost extinct dugongs.

Calendar

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Country

Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, bordering China, Laos and Cambodia. The country is a melting pot of influences stemming from its Imperial Chinese rule before AD900, French colonization in the 19th century, Japanese occupation in the 1940's and intervention by the United States which led to the Vietnam war that ended in 1975. Since then, Vietnam was unified under a communist government which started to open its doors to the world from 1986 onwards. The country blossomed starting year 2000 and is now one of the strongest growing nations of Southeast Asia.
Travel in Vietnam is rewarding with something for every type of traveller. Adventurers and sightseers will be delighted with Vietnam boasting two World Natural Heritage Sites – limestone wonders of Hạ Long Bay and Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park. 40% of Vietnam is covered with mountains and tropical forests cover another 42%.
For the culinary adventurist, Vietnam is heaven. Sip excellent Vietnamese coffee by quaint roadside stalls, slurp down a delightful bowl of beef noodles (Phở), chomp down on French Baguette or Bánh mì stuffed with porcine delights or indulge in delicate rice paper wrapped spring rolls. The choices are endless.

With a coastline spanning 2,026miles (3,620km), Vietnam has plenty to offer lovers of the sun and sea with its many marine protected parks. Popular destinations include Nha Trang, Whale Island, and also the coastal town of Hoi An. Slightly off the beaten track, there is also Con Dao archipelago and Phu Quoc at the southern tip in the Gulf of Thailand. Nha Trang is especially suitable for families and new divers, with many dive operators, land and sea activities and accommodation to suit all budgets.

Other attractions

Enjoy a multitude of culinary delights of Vietnam, long stretches of beach, relaxing spas and snorkelling activities. Interesting historical sites to visit include Po Nagar Cham Towers and family fun can be had at Vinpearl Amusement Park at Nha Trang. For the more adventurous, take a bike tour, visit waterfalls or slather yourself in mud at the Egg Mud Bath. In Con Dao or Phu Quoc, you can visit the old prisons used during the Vietnam War.

Getting there

Fly into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh international airports and take local flights to connect to coastal cities like Nha Trang and Hoi An or even islands like Phu Quoc and Con Dao. Local airlines Vietjet and Vietnam Airlines have frequent daily flights from Ho Chi Minh and Jetstar is also active in Vietnam. Alternatively, take overnight sleeper trains or busses directly into coastal cities from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and even Da Nang. Boat transfers will be typically arranged by dive operators and resorts to reach islands like Whale Island.

UTC+07:00

Time zone

VND

Currency

+84

Calling code

220 V

Electric volt

A, 

C, 

D

Plug type

SGN

Main airport
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