The nation looks like it was designed for diving, with that long, long coast, and dive-shop operators have spread across the country from their nexus, Nha Trang
Vietnam has been a popular backpacking destination for decades. But with almost 20 years of scuba experience under its belt, the country is equally popular now with people pulling along dive bags. Nha Trang is the “capital” of the dive industry. Its 6 kilometre beach looks out toward dozens of islands, and dive operators count some 25 dive sites nearby. There's a marine park at Hon Mun, an easy 40 minute ride away. Another 80 kilometres north of town, Whale Island is a resort destination with both gentle slopes and exciting deep dropoffs. It gets its name from the whales and whale sharks that have been known to settle there between April and July to feast on the krill and plankton that bloom then. Around Vietnam, large species such as turtles, sharks and other pelagics are typically a rarity thanks to an extensive fishing industry. But the government embraced scuba as a sport more than a decade ago and is committed to establishing marine parks. There is another at Con Dao, a former penal colony off the south coast that now serves as a home to sea turtles and dugongs. The diving at Con Dao is seasonal. It is at its best from March to September. What Vietnam always offers in abundance is great macro life and a host of smaller creatures to keep divers, paticularly photographers, amused. Mantis shrimp and moray eels are popular subjects, and there can be a procession of nudibranchs. In central Vietnam, there are dive operations in the charming river town of Hoi An, with trips running out to the Cu Lao Cham marine park. Within sight of the Cambodian coast, Phu Quoc Island's dive sites share much in common with sites in the Gulf of Thailand. Since the winds can shift quickly, diving is best between Octoer and April. The country is easy to explore for travellers on various budgets. A number of new high-end resorts and spas bring a touch of luxury to the scene. From Nha Trang, there's a promising tech run out to the “Far Islands.” Your dive group will have the vertical walls, dipping well below 40 metres, to yourselves, with occasional drift dives too. Some of the wrecks off the Vietnamese coast have attracted attention from deep divers, too, with dives of as much as 80 metres conducted in attempts to recover ancient china and pottery that fishermen occasionally drag up in their nets.