To most visitors, the quiet and peaceful country of Vietnam conjures up images of small traditional villages set in stunning mountainous terrain, tropical rainforests and plenty of interesting cultural experiences. However, this long country boasts some fantastic scuba diving opportunities in the South China Sea that are not to be missed when in South East Asia.
In fact, Vietnam is now considered a diving hot spot. Thanks to the sport’s relatively recent rise to popularity, many of the diving sites are still in pristine condition, with many spots remaining unexplored even to this day! Stunning reefs, dramatic walls and plenty of underwater diversity await in Vietnam, including half of the world’s coral species! With the first ever dive shop still a relatively new venture – PADI only opened the shop in the mid-eighties – scuba diving is quite simply one of the fastest growing and most popular activities in Vietnam.
Vietnam offers something for every diver’s preference including wreck sites, drift dives, deep walls with impressive drop offs and gentle sloping reefs in pristine condition. Many of these dive sites are well-suited for beginners, intermediates and advanced divers. Many divers opt to further their diving qualifications during their stay in Vietnam as this is quite a cost-effective exercise.
Best Diving Destinations in Vietnam
Scuba diving in Vietnam offers divers the chance to experience some truly phenomenal underwater scenes in an area that has yet to be ruined by mass tourism and over-diving. The coral reefs are all in fantastic condition and the country boasts an abundance of diverse marine and coral life. The visibility in Vietnam is very often an exceptional experience in itself, reaching an impressive 40 metres in certain conditions. Divers can rest assured knowing that their Vietnamese diving adventure is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not many have had the joy of discovering just yet.
The main scuba diving hub is currently located in Nha Trang, but with the increase in popularity of the sport comes an increase in available dive sites too.
By far the most unique and sought-after dive location is the Black Tunnel. Although the name of the site is rather ominous, divers need not be afraid and will find themselves instantly in awe of this fantastic site. The site consists of three caves, which are found in an underwater setting that looks like it could be in outer space. Suitable for advanced divers only, the bottom of this volcanic site is home to shrimp, colourful nudibranchs and lobsters.
Known for a wide variety of manta rays and sting rays, Hon Trau Nam is another popular diving site in Vietnam. Divers will also have the chance to view the rare and odd-looking black coral in this location.
Whale Island is an ideal location for all diving levels and boasts regular sightings of whale sharks as well as eels and an array of tropical fish. Whale Island is actually a resort and close encounters with the phenomenal whale sharks can be arranged here. The colourful coral along this gently sloping reef is truly spectacular too. The site features a wall with an intimidatingly steep drop off and plenty more to see.
Getting to Vietnam
With over 13 airports in Vietnam, visitors are met with a number of travel options, however tourist facilities may be limited outside of large cities. Smaller hop flights between Vietnamese cities are available, and from a major airport to an island may cost in the region of $75-$150 in additional fares. Regardless of which entry point you choose, however, most visitors require a valid passport together with a pre-arranged visa or visa exemption document. These documents are of utmost importance to Vietnamese officials and can be obtained from the Vietnamese consulate or embassy in your home country before travelling to Vietnam. There are no set fees for the visa documents as the fees tend to vary from entry point to entry point.
It is recommended to thoroughly plan your Vietnamese adventure and to aim to stick to these plans as much as possible, as Vietnamese officials will frown upon those who change plans and especially those who visit border areas with the countries surrounding Vietnam.
Scuba divers should always take note of too-good-to-be-true diving prices from local dive shops. Many of these shops do not actually hold the certifications they may be advertising and may provide poor service and unsafe diving. If making use of an outside company to arrange your diving, ensure that the company is well-reviewed and well-established before booking. There are some dive shops owned by westerners which may offer easier communication and more trustworthy service.
As with every country, crime is a consideration for tourists and visitors should be aware of their surroundings and belongings at all times. For the most part, crime manifests itself in the form of pick-pockets, however there have been incidences of more violent crimes in the past.
Where to Stay in Vietnam
Vietnam is a country rich in natural beauty, and no matter where you choose to reside for the duration of your stay you are sure to be amazed by the welcoming and hospitable local people, the great food and culturally enriching experiences and of course the phenomenal diving.
Vietnam’s scuba diving hub is known as Nha Trang, where divers can find local dive shops and a host of dive sites to choose from. The recently-established Hon Mun Marine Park in Nha Trang is hugely popular with tourists, so it is highly recommended to book in advance should you want to explore the central coastline islands from under the water. Your local dive shop may be able to recommend off-peak times when the area is less busy and can be enjoyed by those looking to escape the crowds.
Another option for crowd-escaping is the Con Dao Islands: with only 5000 residents, visitors are unlikely to feel crowded and can enjoy the beautiful scenery here. Marine protection efforts are in full force in this area, specifically in the areas of Con Dao Archipelago where sea turtles and the odd-looking dugongs are being protected. Western-owned dive shops are all over these islands and the dive sites are truly great experiences spread out over 16 different islands where you might find wreck sites, reef dives and many diving students learning or progressing their diving skills.
When to Visit Vietnam
Although Vietnam is generally considered a tropical region, the climate can vary widely and visitors could experience everything from snow to monsoons to high levels of humidity depending on when they visit and whether they opt for the north of Vietnam or the south.
Vietnam experiences two distinct monsoon seasons: from May to October the weather is hot and humid and can reach 40°C in the southern part of the country, whereas the October to March monsoon brings much cooler weather and wet conditions. The best time to visit for those wishing to scuba dive would be between April to September, when the weather is more pleasant and the waters are warmer.