Viet­nam

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

Action Asia - - FINAL FRAME -

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.

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