Vietnam is an astonishing mix of natural landscapes and human culture. For those who prefer natural scenery, its winding mountains, verdant paddy fields, stunning caves and spectacular karst seascape will amaze; for exercise enthusiasts, Vietnam also provides good geographical and climatic conditions for activities such as trekking, cycling, and diving.
Diving in Vietnam
Besides its natural highlights, cultural diversity, and pleasant climate, Vietnam has a coastline of 3,260 kilometers facing the East Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, which offers diving enthusiasts excellent opportunities for scuba diving and snorkeling.
What to Expect
Good marine environment and suitable climatic conditions, as well as shipwrecks and ruins caused by naval warfare, all add to the attraction and biodiversity of the coastal waters of Vietnam.
Nearly half of the earth's known coral species can be found here. The most common marine life is from Indo-Pacific species.
When you dive down into this mysterious underwater world, you might see dugongs, bamboo sharks, basslets, scorpion-fish, barracuda, pipe-fish, lion-fish, sea slugs, mitre shells, anemones, seahorses and a variety of nudibranchs. Besides, some small colorful tropical fish (butterfly, box, moray eels, puffer-fish, clown-fish, frog-fish) also await your inspection.
Certain species, however, can only be found in particular areas. Pipe-fish, devil scorpion-fish and razor-fish can easily be found in Moray Cave in Nha Trang, while in Phu Quoc Island, you will have a chance to swim with bamboo sharks, mitre shells, cat-fish and nudibranchs.
When to Dive
Although Vietnam is home to a tropical monsoon climate, the distance from north to south is large, and the rainy season is different in different areas. This influences the best time to dive.
The best diving sites are distributed in the southeast and southern areas. On the southeast coastline, Nha Trang and Hoi An are the traditional homes of diving. Their serene beaches and speed of development make them constitute a mini version of Australia's Gold Coast.
Diving takes place from February to September but the best time for diving in Nha Trang and Hoi An is from June to August, when the rainy season is still hitting the north and the south of Vietnam, but the weather here in the southeast is good and the water is peaceful and warm.
If, however, you plan to dive from November to March, then the best diving sites are in the south rather than the southeast, and Phu Quoc Island is highly recommended.
How to Choose a Diving Center and How Much It Costs
If you are planning a diving holiday in Vietnam, then choosing a good diving center will be your most important decision, since the center you choose may have a bearing on your experience and indeed your safety.
The price is important but don't necessarily go for the cheapest option. Sometimes a cheap price means poor equipment. If you're on a tight budget, you can negotiate discounts with the diving centers but do not try to save money on equipment, since doing so may jeopardize your safety.
Not every diving center can offer you a complete range of dives. If you are planning specific types of dive, conduct a search and choose specific diving centers that can offer the type of service you need.
In addition you should ask yourself whether you are happy in a large group or would prefer a smaller group, and what languages you would like to use to complete your course.
Comments from former guests are important in evaluating different diving centers. Nowadays, more and more websites provide evaluation functions, so before you choose a diving center, you may be able to compare it with other centers using customer evaluations from the internet.
Are they professional enough? Do all the instructors at a given center hold a training certificate and are they certified for first aid?.
It is better to choose centers with instructors who have many years of teaching experience, for such instructors are likely to be more professional, more careful, and more knowledgeable, which will improve your experience.
Compared to Australia and other well-known western diving places, the price in Vietnam is really reasonable. A discovery scuba-diving trip of 45 minutes (two dives) costs about $65 to $80; a PADI Open Water Diver course costs about $280 to $350; and a snorkeling session costs about $25.
Top Places to Dive in Vietnam
Vietnam is growing rapidly as a tourist destination. Gradual improvement of the diving infrastructure opens the door to a lot of diving sites along its eastern coastline. Vietnam has a long coastline, but the top sites are concentrated around Nha Trang, Hoi An and Phu Quoc Island.
These places attract travelers every year from all over the world. They come here with curiosity about the underwater world and courage to challenge themselves
Hoi An is on the eastern coastline of central Vietnam, with a dry season from June to September and a rainy season from September to December. The rainy season witnesses incessant rains, strong winds and sometimes typhoons, so it is not appropriate for diving.
The best time to dive in Hoi An is from June to August when the sea is calm, the water is warm and visibility is high.
Cham Island, the best site for diving in Hoi An, is only 40 minutes from the town by boat. Although the area is not large enough for pelagic (open sea) diving, abundant corals and a variety of fish species are enough to dazzle you.
Barracudas, clown-fish, crabs, lion-fish, pipe-fish, seahorses, and trigger-fish are the common species found in the underwater world of Hoi An.
Besides, what makes Hoi An more popular for diving is its underwater cleaning program, undertaken to preserve the biodiversity of the marine life in this sea area. Divers take the initiative to urge tourists to protect the marine environment.
When using the sea, we should strive to protect it, so as to maintain a good balance between man and nature.
Diving Center Recommendations for Hoi An
Cham Island Diving Center: Open since 2002, Cham Island Diving Center offers a variety of scuba diving courses and is certified to give diving courses for complete beginners, with English, French, Italian, Spanish or Vietnamese guides.
Blue Coral Diving: Blue Coral Diving was set up with the goal of providing a first-rate service and high safety standards, and after 5 years of hard work, the center is now a very proud 5-Star PADI diving center.
Nha Trang is one of the best-known diving sites in Vietnam. It has many off-shore islands offering decent diving and snorkeling. Like Hoi An, Nha Trang's best diving season is from June to August. A rainy season from October to early January brings heavy rains and sometimes typhoons, unsuitable for diving.
Nha Trang has over 20 diving sites to choose from. Below are 2 of the most popular and most highly recommended sites.
Madonna Rock: This site got its name from two large triangle-shaped rocks sticking out of the water, making people think of Madonna. Caves here are home to millions of small glass fish, as well as many unusual flatworms and shrimp species. It is a good location for observing ornate ghost pipe-fish.
Moray Beach: This site is the most popular and busiest in Nha Trang, since almost all possible courses are taught at this site. It really deserves its good reputation.
In the shallows, the coral density is vast, with colorful soft and hard corals where most tropical fish hide. In addition to the corals and tropical fish species, angler fish, devil scorpion fish, gobies, ribbon eels, and saddleback anemone fish are frequent inhabitants of this sea area.
Diving Center Recommendations for Nha Trang
Rainbow Divers: Rainbow Divers are the premier PADI scuba diving company in Vietnam. They offer the full range of PADI courses and daily diving opportunities in Nha Trang as well as other diving locations.
Mark Scott's Diving Vietnam: Mark Scott, the owner of this center, might be the best diving master and teacher you have ever encountered. He walks and talks you through everything, with extraordinary detail that only comes from a man with a lot of experience.
If you choose him, he will take care of all your concerns and you can just enjoy the mysterious underwater world.
Phu Quoc Island is a large tropical island off the coast of Cambodia, only accessible from Vietnam. Tourism on the island is still in the process of development, so you can imagine how amazing it can to dive in this relatively unspoiled sea area.
Unlike Hoi An and Nha Trang, the best time to dive in Phu Quoc is from November to January. From March to September, when Nha Trang and Hoi An are enjoying their peak diving season, monsoon rains are hitting Phu Quoc Island, so these months are not suitable for diving here.
The South Island is considered one of Vietnam's best diving sites. You will have an opportunity in a few places to see bamboo sharks, and a wide array of other macro life which is not easy to find at diving sites in Nha Trang and Hoi An.
Diving Center Recommendations for Phu Quoc
Rainbow Divers: Rainbow Divers (see above) offer the full range of PADI courses and daily diving opportunities at Phu Quoc.
Flipper Diving Club: Established in 2009, Flipper Diving Club is the longest-established PADI 5-star Instructor Development Diving Resort in Phu Quoc.
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