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Con Dao, Vietnam
Vietnam is blessed by being next to the ocean and having a coastline that stretches over 3,260 km along with offshore islands. Some of these northern and southern islands have habitats that attract sea turtles. This page is dedicated to covering sea turtles in Vietnam and their migratory routes.
The two most abundant species of turtles, but also endangered, that are found in Vietnam are the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), both of which are classified as endangered in the Vietnam Red Data Book ad listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals.
The remote Con Dao Islands, most of which is classified as a National Park, has the largest population of marine turtles in Vietnam and the island archipelago is home to many protected breeding sites for them. Every year these sea turtles travel from the Philippines to Con Dao just to nest.
Once the turtles arrive in Con Dao, the female turtle lays about 100 eggs at a time, with each egg being roughly the same size as a ping pong ball.
After 45 to 60 days 80% of these eggs will hatch and the baby turtles will crawl out of their shell and head towards the sea. Darker sands have higher residual temperature which decrease incubation time and also increase the likelihood of female hatchling's. Only a very small proportion of these baby sea turtles will survive as they have many predators. Those that do survive can live for more than a 100 years and reach maturity after 30 years in which they come to shore to nest.
Marine biologists have observed that female green sea turtles usually return to nest at locations where they were born and return to the same place each year to lay eggs.
The Con Dao turtle nesting season is from May to October peaking between June to September. Every year there are around 400 sea turtles, tracked via GPS, that come to the beaches of Con Dao and lay eggs. Only the females come to shore to lay eggs as male sea turtles spend their lives at sea, . Females crawl on the various beaches around the Con Dao archipelago and dig a hole with their hind flippers to lay eggs and then cover them up. Once they have finished laying eggs, they return back to sea.
14 out 16 Con Dao islands have been observed to be turtle nesting sites however the most popular islands are Bay Canh Island, Tre Lon Island, Cau Island, and Tai Island. Bay Canh Island, the large island directly across from Con Son Island, is the most popular island accounting for 90 percent of female turtles coming to lay eggs and it is the largest turtle sanctuary in Vietnam.
The Con Dao National Park has ranger stations setup on these islands in order to protect and to prevent the illegal exploitation and trade of sea turtles.
If you want to watch sea turtles lay eggs in Con Dao, then you must join a Con Dao Turtle Tour, which is arranged through the Con Dao National Park office (address: 29 Võ Thị Sáu, Côn Đảo district, Bà Rịa Vũng Tàu province | Tel: +84 (64) 3830 669 or +84 (64) 3830 650). You can either contact them directly or ask your hotel/resort to arrange it for you. The Con Dao National Park organizes tours to visit Bay Canh Island and the turtle tour begins at 5:30 PM, just after dinner. If you are planning on watching the sea turtles lay eggs on Bay Cahn Island then you will most likely stop at the opposite side of the island, hike down to the beach, and setup camp. Sea turtles are very sensitive and will not come to shore to lay eggs if they are frightened. Observers are asked not to talk or make noises and also be aware that not all turtles that come to shore will lay eggs.
Timing is everything as to see the sea turtles laying eggs in Con Dao requires time, patience and of course a bit of good luck. The most popular months to see sea turtles on Con Dao are June and July at around 2:00am, so you will have to stay up all night to get a glimpse of these majestic creatures.
An overnight trip to Bay Cahn Island to watch the sea turtles laying eggs cost at bare minimum 1,200,000VND ($60US) per person, assuming the boat is full. Prices are subject to group size.
If the cost of seeing sea turtle lay eggs on Con Dao is too high, you can also see preserved turtles at the Con Dao National Park office, the Con Dao Museum, and even a live juvenile Con Dao green turtle at an aquarium located at the base of Ong dung Beach.
What Happens After The Con Dao Sea Turtles Have Nested?
Once the sea turtles have nested, the park rangers will take the eggs to an incubation site. Half of the eggs are put in an incubator with more light and a higher temperature to hatch males, while the others receive less light and a lower temperature to hatch females. Once the eggs have been successfully hatched, the rangers will release them onto the beach and the baby turtles will swim out to sea.
Illegal Trafficking Of Con Dao's Turtles
It is illegal to trade, sell, or buy sea turtles in Vietnam but unfortunately this does occur as female turtles are valued at $1,000US and a turtle egg is valued at up to $7.00US each. Considering that rangers on Con Dao earn much less in salary, there have been reports that some rangers are involved in the illegal trade. Most scuba diving shops in Con Dao do not support Con Dao turtle tours because of this.
Have a safe & comfortable time on the Con Dao Island with the following Con Dao hotel & resort recommendations and deals.
Traveler recommended & last minute deals.