For several divers and dive guide I have met Con Dao is seen as the best dive site in Vietnam. Being away from the main land it helps to avoid some of the pollution caused by tourism and the incoming rivers along the coast.
There are currently three dive centres on the island: DIve!Dive!Dive!, Rainbow Divers and Con Dao Dive Center. The first two are based near the pier in Con Son town, while Con Dao Dive Center is in the centre of the town – near the market.
I only used Dive!Dive!Dive, and cannot comment on the other two.
Dive centre: Dive!Dive!Dive!
Dive!Dive!Dive! is located on the main road of Con Son Town, Nguyen Hue, only 2 minutes away from the pier. It is owned by American Larry and his partner. Both are lovely people who are happy to provide information beyond diving. They offer several packages, normal dives during the night or a special package, that includes 2 dives, diner on the boat while watching the sun set, and a night dive. Prices on Con Dao are higher than on the main land due to the limited numbers of tourists, and the costs to get supplies there.
They have a bespoke build diving boat – Quynh. It has no sun deck, but plenty of space on the main deck, and a spacious dive deck. It even has its own compressor to ensure there is always enough air available for a dive. WAter, fruits and cakes are provided throughout the day.
Their equipment is in very good condition. Larry is looking well after it, having a little workshop at the back of his dive centre to repair any damaged gear. Like in Hoi An no dive computers are provided, however he provides torches for the night dive – if you have a camera you get even two (one special lamp to take pictures)
In addition of the Larry I met two other dive guides. Amy, who is from Edinburgh (strange co-incident) and Son from Vietnam. I dived with Son and he is a very good guide, helping the divers and spotting fish everywhere.The briefing short and spot on.
The rest of the crew on board is very good, especially the chef, who serves some amazing dinner on board.
Groups are put together based on qualification: non-divers and OWD / AOWD. The small groups you will encounter here on Con Dao is actually a big advantage.
During each dive you will either dive until you have 50 bar left.
I cannot recommend Dive!Dive!Dive! enough, mainly because of the people here. Larry is a very interesting person, and I can easily talk to him for hours. And the dives were run so professional, I cannot find any problems. If you are in Con Dao, use them. And if you want to dive in Vietnam, go to Con Dao.
We visited three different dive sites during my diving day. The decision which sites to visit is made by one of Larry’s staff who knows the area and current very well.
The first dive site was Can Island. Visibility was a bit limited, around 7 metres, thanks to the rain the day before. But at least the water was warm, nearly 30 degrees. But Son clearly knows the area, and was able to show us the areas full of fish and corals. You can clearly see the different to Cham islands, the corals look healthy and not damaged. It was a great dive. As we only went down to 15 metres we were able to stay down fo nearly an hour.
The second spot was Bay Eanh. Visibility was a bit better, maybe around 10m. Corals and the underworld scenery was wonderful, the highlight was to see my first clownfish, and seeing some moonfish swimming around us during the our safety stop. I couldn’t have asked for more.
The first two dives were great, everyone had a great time. However, the highlight of the trip was the night dive. The spot was between two islands, closer to Con Son Island. You get a longer briefing about additional safety, and Larry provided everyone with strong torches, and in addition Freek and I got a second, weaker torch, which was better for taking pictures (a Go-Po is not the perfect choice for night dives). With three divers and three guides (Larry joining us with his camera) we were back in the water – and it felt strange diving into the dark (still pleasantly warm) water. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Everything looked so different. We spotted sea urchins everywhere, little fish were following me (swimming towards the light and into my shortie!!!). I even saw a sleeping kettle fish and a bamboo shark. Unfortunately I missed the little nurse shark. Still it was just amazing. After 50 minutes the dive was over. It was weird floating on the dark water, looking up into the stars and moon – it felt so relaxing. It is difficult to explain it to anyone who haven’t done it…except to say do it.
Overall I think that the dive sites near Con Dao are better than Cham Island near Hoi An.