Con Dao National Park is centered on an archipelago of 14 islands, the largest of which is Con Son. The topography of Con Son Island is mountainous and dominated by a granite ridge which runs from south-west to north-east, sheltering the bays on both sides of the island from strong winds.
The highest points on the island are the summits of Mount Thanh Gia and Mount Chua, at 577 and 515 m respectively. The smaller islands reach a maximum elevation of 200 m.
There are no permanent watercourses on the Con Dao archipelago, only seasonal streams. In the rainy season, water is plentiful; however, there is a serious lack of water in the dry season. Three reservoirs collect water during the rainy season to supply the local population during the dry season.
Con Dao has various marine ecosystems with 285 species of hard coral, 84 species of sea weed, 202 species of fish, 153 species of mollusc, etc. What is more, aquiherbosa ecosystem, geophytes in sea estimate about 200ha, comprising of 9 species among 16 ones in the world. Con Dao’s sea is a home of tortoise-shell, turtle, black whale, and especially dugong, one of the extremely rare species in the world.
Although the number of species is relatively low, the density of individual species is often high such as black giant squirrel, catufa bicolor condorensis. The bird fauna of Con Dao National Park is diversified with nicobar pigeon caloenas nicobarica, red-billed tropicbird phaethon aethereus, pied imperial pigeon ducula bicolor and masked booby sula dactylatra.
The marine ecosystems at the national park include mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds. Mangroves cover a total of 15 ha, and are distributed around Ba Island and along the west coast of Bay Canh Island, and along the north and south coasts of Con Son Island. The coral reefs at Con Dao are among the most pristine in Vietnam, and are distributed in shallow waters around the islands, covering a total area of around 1,000 ha.
The World Wide Fund for Nature has been active in protecting sea turtles and dugong. in Con Dao National Park. Since 1995, more than 300,000 baby turtles have been released to the sea and nearly 1,000 mature turtles have been tagged.
Con Dao National Park is now considered one of the best examples of marine conservation in Vietnam with regulations to limit fishing activities and prohibit destructive fishing. There are plans for eco-friendly development within the park’s boundaries.
Fast boat or aeroplane?
A fast boat service linking with Con Lon was established last year while in May 2004. The national flag carrier - Vietnam Airlines - began operating six flights a week from Ho Chi Minh City to Con Dao. The aeroplane takes about 50 minutes while the boat takes twelve hours.
The Con Dao archipelago has already been developed for tourism which is now one of the most important sectors of the islands' economy. Coming to Con Dao, tourists are sure to have comfortable and relaxing holidays deeply sunk in wild nature and experience rare species in the world surviving in Con Dao National Park.
The Con Dao archipelago has historical significance as the site of several prisons used by the French colonial and South Vietnamese regime. Many famous revolutionaries were imprisoned on the island prior to 1975, and the site is considered a national memorial.
A 30 ha site incorporating the prisons have been formally recognized as a national heritage site. There is great potential to further develop ecotourism at the national park, in the form of hiking, bird watching, snorkeling, diving and watching nesting turtles.