What would a trip to a country with over 2,000 miles of coastline be without a stop by the sea and an afternoon of diving? Whether you are an experienced diver or have yet to get your feet wet, Vietnam is a great place for everyone wanting to explore the marine world. A fairly new destination in terms of underwater activities, you’ll find dives here wonderfully peaceful and rich in natural beauty. Curious? Then read on to learn about the best diving spots in Vietnam, which schools to contact and what flora and fauna to expect while diving in Vietnam.
When to go diving in Vietnam
Unlike many other tropical countries, Vietnam has distinctive seasons travelers should be aware of. Generally, a good time to visit is in the spring or autumn, when the weather is mild, and the heavy rains have not yet begun or have already blown over.
For divers, the window is a bit larger and ranges from March to October. During this time the sea is warm so only light equipment is needed and the water is calm enough with good visibility, making it easy for beginners. If you come between June and August, you benefit from the low season which means lower costs for accommodation and great discounts on diving deals!
Be aware that the seasons are not consistent across the country. To avoid any disappointments, check each location separately before heading there. That way you can make sure you don’t arrive in the middle of rainy season and have to skip your dive.
Diving around Hoi An
A picturesque historical city known for its long rows of ancient houses, cute shops and colorful lanterns, Hoi An is worth a visit whether or not you want to go diving. Guests looking to stay on land during their time in Hoi An usually just spend a day or two there, but if you want to see this area’s gorgeous underwater world, tack on a few extra days!
The best diving spots close to Hoi An are around the Cham Islands, a small group of islets about forty minutes off the coast. The beautiful beaches and tranquil settlements make this the perfect place to leave the world behind for a few days and enjoy paradise.
Starting as shallow as four meters and going all the way down to 35, the area around Hon Mo is easy to explore for beginners but just as interesting to advanced divers due to its many different varieties of fish and other underwater residents. Get ready for a colorful array of pipefish, seahorses, clownfish, nudibranchs, and hard and soft corals.
Hon Mo, being only a short boat ride from Hoi An, is an ideal destination for a day of diving or it could be perfect to get acquainted with local waters before heading on to more challenging sites. After your day of exploring, the Cham Islands’ soft beaches are the perfect place to relax and have a beer while watching the sunset.
One spot to check out if you want to dive around the Cham Islands is Hon Nhan. Here you can go down as far as 40 meters, making this an interesting spot for intermediate divers. All around you, you will see thousands of colorful nudibranchs scattered across the seabed and huge schools of fish forming ever-changing patterns in the clear water.
The impressive coral skyline is home to plenty of pipefish, seahorses, triggerfish, ribbon eels, and barracudas. Apart from the wonderful marine life around Hon Nhan, the rock formations, sudden drop-offs, and mysterious caverns add to the beauty of this site.
Diving around Nha Trang – Vietnam’s scuba diving hub
A popular seaside resort city, Nha Trang is decidedly Vietnam’s diving hub. It’s home to some of the most popular dive sites in Vietnam, has a wealth of diving schools and offers plenty of things to do on dry land after you’ve had your fill of the underwater world.
Hon Mun, The Black Island
On the little island of Hon Mun, also known as the Black Island, Moray Beach awaits. Curious divers of all levels will have the time of their life exploring the rich underwater world teeming with clownfish, black frogfish, scorpionfish, flying gurnard, and countless species of beautiful nudibranchs. For an extra dose of excitement, swim over to Moray cave. It’s home to some amazing corals, pipefish, razorfish, and even the devil scorpion fish.
With an average depth of around 18 meters, this area is easy to navigate for beginners and advanced divers alike. If you have an underwater camera, bring it! The excellent visibility will make for wonderful photos you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Around Madonna Rock, a tiny speck of land northeast of Hon Mun, you’ll find several caverns at various depths of up to 25 meters. This offers both intermediate and experienced divers a challenge. Find your way around countless tunnels, caves and crazy rock formations and discover secret hideaways all around you.
These spots are home to lionfish, scorpionfish, giant moray octopus and millions of glassfish gently floating in the current. The most remarkable sights of all, however, are the two huge triangular rocks sticking out from the sea, making quite an impression on even the most seasoned divers.
A 90-minute drive north of Nha Trang, the serene Whale Island sits nestled in Van Phon Bay. Whether or not you want to dive, this is a must if you want to leave the crowds behind and enjoy a relaxing time on what could be one of Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches. Turquoise waters, white sands, and gentle waves await!
Once underwater, you’ll quickly see where this island got its name. Come between April and July to watch whales and whale sharks visit the archipelago to feast on krill and plankton before heading back out on their journey.
Ho Trau Nam
A true wonder of marine beauty and diversity, Ho Trau Nam or the Three Kings Island is a must if you want to see the colorful kaleidoscope of underwater life. Named after the three large stone pinnacles protruding from the water, Ho Trau Nam is beautiful both above and below the sea.
Brace yourself for a sight of yellow, purple and white carpets of coral and gorgonians covering the seabed as far as the eye can see. They are accompanied by colorful sea slugs and majestic manta, sting and eagle rays gliding through the water around you.
At between 25 and 30 meters in depth, Ho Trau Nam is great for divers who already have some experience or for beginners looking for a challenge.
Whale Island Bay
If you’re still getting started with this whole diving thing, Whale Island Bay is a great place to begin. Starting at around 15 meters in depth, this bay is a wonderful spot to practice your skills and explore sea life at the same time. More experienced divers can go as far as 50 meters!
Whale Island Bay is a fun spot, offering amazing views of trevally, groupers and snappers as well as colorful anemones and friendly clownfish. Take your time exploring this area, meet Nemo’s relatives and marvel at the unending colors and shapes you’ll find here.
While it takes the longest to reach the diving destinations on Whale Island, White Rock is absolutely worth the journey. The ocean floor drops down by 40 meters and impressive pinnacles protrude from the seabed.
Black coral stretches as far as the eye can see and there are plenty of gorgonians to add to the already breathtaking natural beauty of this dive spot. The highlights of White Rock are undoubtedly the huge black rays who gently swim below you and add a sense of eeriness and wonder.
Diving around Vung Tau
Off the coast of Vung Tau, a popular weekend destination for people living in Saigon, the archipelago of Con Dao greets travelers and divers with exceptional landmarks and beautiful dive sites. Of the 16 islands in the area, most of them are part of the Con Dao National Park. This means they are protected and only limited development and boat traffic can take place here. Spread around these magnificent islands are 20 unique dive sites.
One of them features Vietnam’s only diveable wreck which is overgrown with coral and sponges and has become the new home of countless species of marine life. Another highlight of diving in Con Dao is the chance to see hawksbill turtles, rays, and sharks. Check with local diving schools to make sure you’re there at the right time of year to increase your chances of meeting one of these gentle giants.
Diving around Phu Quoc
The entire island of Phu Quoc has only been experiencing development in recent years. Today you will see many new hotels springing up as it has become a popular weekend destination thanks to its beautiful beaches and clear waters. Local foods are also delicious and make the island a haven for seafood lovers. Also, try the pepper grown only here! Its unique flavor makes every dish a yummy experience.
But apart from the beautiful beaches and great food, Phu Quoc also has amazing dive sites to offer. Only having opened to diving in 2002, this destination is still lesser known, so you can avoid crowds and have the wonderful underwater landscape all to yourself.
Hon Kho or Dry Island
Hon Kho, the Dry Island, gets its name from having literally no vegetation. Don’t let that fool you though. The underwater world is teeming with life here! Among the interesting rock formations, you’ll see amazing reef systems with crowds of rays, bamboo sharks, nudibranchs and scorpionfish coming here to feed. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot butterfly and parrot fish!
Diving in Hon Kho is a completely different experience from diving in most other places in Vietnam. It’s much quieter here as the crowds are out enjoying a rich seafood buffet, not knowing what they’re missing beneath the water’s surface.
At the northern end of Phu Quoc island, you’ll find the Nudibranch Gardens, a dive site unlike any other. Although this site’s maximum depth is only twelve meters, the coral and rock formations are impressive and create the perfect habitat for bamboo sharks and the like. What makes this area most special though is its abundance in smaller marine life such as outstanding numbers of multicolored nudibranchs (hence the name). Keep a lookout for the Godiva nudibranch, a local species which is sure to attract your attention thanks to its deep purple color.
Recommended Diving Schools
The best way to explore Vietnam’s beautiful underwater world is to go with a qualified, experienced instructor. To make it easier to find one, here’s a list of certified diving schools in the country’s major dive spots:
- Rainbow Divers (represented in all major diving locations around Vietnam)
- Blue Coral Diving (Hoi An)
- Cham Island Diving Center (Hoi An)
- Sailing Club Divers (Nha Trang)
- Flipper Diving Club (Phu Quoc)
What to Look Out for When Booking and Going on a Dive
While diving is a wonderful activity, it does have risks. When looking for a dive school, be sure to keep the following things in mind so everything goes well, and you can have a carefree time under water.
Certification and experience
Which certifications does the diving club have? Are they all up to date? How long have they been operating and how much experience do the instructors have? These are some simple questions you can ask or research online. Checking out TripAdvisor reviews is also a good idea to see what people liked and disliked about a diving school.
Quality of equipment
If you already have your open divers certification, you’ll know how to examine equipment and determine whether or not it’s in good condition. Even if you’re not that experienced though, have a careful look at the material and check for obvious signs of wear and tear. If you don’t feel comfortable, speak up before you head out. It would be a shame to spend your dive worrying about your equipment instead of enjoying your surroundings.
Language ability of your guide
Especially if you’re a newbie diver, this is important. Even if you have the best and most qualified teacher, if you can’t communicate, that can lead to problems. Larger diving schools will likely have teachers who speak Vietnamese and English and possibly some other languages as well. Calling or visiting beforehand is a good idea so you can avoid surprises, ensure you’re comfortable, and can make the most of every moment of your dive.
Even though it’s not yet known as a top diving destination, Vietnam is well on the way to becoming one. This means the time is now to explore the country’s hidden spots and enjoy them in peace and quiet before the crowds start encroaching. Not going to all the cities we outlined above? Don’t worry! Pick the one that best matches your itinerary, add an extra day (or even half a day if you’re pressed for time) to your stay and be rewarded with a beautiful underwater excursion you will never forget.