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Can Gio (Huyện Cần Giờ) is one of the 24 districts of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is a suburban coastal district adjacent to Dong Nai, Vung Tau province to the east, Long An and Tien Giang province to the west. The coastal district is 35 km in length and 30 km in width covering approximately 72,000 hectares in area and located just 50 kilometers south of Saigon. The district is a Mekong Delta confluence of the rivers of Saigon, Dong Nai and Vam Co, which drain into the Eastern Ocean. In January of the year 2000 Cần Giờ was designated as the first Mangrove Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Vietnam under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program of the Unite Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural organization. (UNESCO).
The township of Cần Thạnh and six communes of Bình Khánh, An Thới Đông, Tam Thôn Hiệp, Thạnh An, Lý Nhơn, and Long Hòa form the communities of Cần Giờ. The Cần Giờ district has a population of roughly 71,000 people. Within the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve there are approximately 58,000 people living within its boundaries. The local people are of different origins and there is a mixture of cultures and ways of life.
Aquaculture (shrimp farming etc.), near shore fishing, and salt production are the main drivers of economic activity in the area which attracts about 70% of the commune's workforce. The Vietnam government has recently announced that they will enhance the ecotourism and beach resort opportunities in the area as well.
The tropical climate of Cần Giờ is typically monsoonal with 2 distinct seasons – a dry season and a wet season. The dry season lasts from from November to May and the rainy season lasts from June to October. During the rainy season the wind directions are southwest with the strongest velocity occurring in July and August while during the dry season the wind direction is from the northeast with strong winds in February and March. Rainfall, humidity, temperature and sunshine hours vary between the two seasons. Annual average rainfall ranges from 1,300 mm to 1,400 mm with September being the highest monthly average (~300-400 m). The rainfall that occurs in Can Gio is less than the rainfall that occurs in Ho Chi Minh City. The humidity ranges from 79% to 83% during the rainy season and from 74% to 77% during the dry season. The mean annual relative humidity is 80% which decreases to less than 60% during the dry season. The annual mean temperature is 25.8 ºC with monthly averages ranging from 25.5 ºC to 29.0 ºC.
Can Gio Topography and Hydrology
The topography of Cần Giờ is generally flat and low lying with the highest elevation at Giong Chua (~10 m elevation) in compartment 14. The terrain is formed by alluvial deposits from the estuaries of six rivers, namely, Nga Bay, Cai Mep, Go Gia, Thi Vai, Soai Rap and Dong Tranh. Accretion of mud flats can be seen between the estuaries of Soai Rap and Dong Tranh, and between the estuaries of Dong Tranh and Nga Bay. Elsewhere, erosion is occurring along the banks of the Go Gia estuary.
Water salinity in the mangroves is highest in March when it reaches 19 to 20 ppt in the north and 26 to 30 ppt in the south. During the rainy season, water salinity is only 4 to 8 ppt. Soil can be classified as: saline soil, saline soil with low aluminum content, saline soil with high aluminum content, and soft mud with sandy soil deposits at the sea front. The semi-diurnal tides range between 2 to 4 m in amplitude depending on the lunar calendar and distance from the sea.
The Can Gio UNESCO biosphere reserve is dominated by mangrove trees, including both salt water and brackish water species. The mangroves in Can Gio have a high biodiversity with more than 200 species of fauna and 52 species of flora. The Can Gio's vast mangrove forests is often regarded as the “green lungs” of the Ho Chi Minh City.
In Can Gio you can comfortably discover the fragile mangrove forest ecosystem and UNESCO biosphere reserve at two managed parks: Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Center and the Dần Xây Cần Giờ Mangrove Park.
The Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Center (Khu du lịch sinh thái Vàm Sát), also referred to as “Vam Sat Salt-Marsh Forest Ecological Tourist Zone”, is an ecotourism park located approximately 35 kilometers from the Can Gio Ferry Terminal. Here Can Gio Tour groups and independent tourists can discover the mangrove ecosystem, get an aerial view of the Can Gio UNESCO Biosphere Reserve by climbing the 26 meter tall Tam Bong tower, see wild monkeys, feed saltwater crocodiles, discover how salt is made, go fishing, and see the flying fox bat (khu Đầm Dơi) as well as many bird species such as storks, kingfishers, and even the endangered Sarus Crane (rainy season only). The cost of the park varies depending on the season (200,000VND during the dry season and 250,000VND during the wet season).
After visiting Dan Xay Mangrove Park (see below), Vam Sat was a bit overwhelming. We paid 200,000VND for an all inclusive access pass to the park however the highlight of the park was the boat trip to the Flying Fox habitat (khu Đầm Dơi). If you are pressed for time, we recommend opting to see on this attraction which costs 100,000VND.
Flying Fox Bat Habitat At Can Gio:
The trip to see the flying foxes at Vam Sat involves taking a motorboat to the Bat Swamp entrance and then taking a smaller boat to where the bats are sleeping. After visiting the bat habitat you can explore the mini on-site bat information center as well as participate in a fishing activity.
Opened in 2014 the Dan Xay Mangrove Park (khu du lịch dần xây cần giờ) is managed by the Can Gio Mangrove Management Board and provides visitors a direct look at the core of the protected mangrove forest. With a spanning system of natural rivers, Dan Xay Mangrove Park is an ideal place for visiting the scenery of the first Vietnam Mangrove Forest Biosphere Reserve, discovering various typical and exceptional fauna and flora species.
The beauty of this place lies in the wilderness and greatness of the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve and hugging saline rivers. Here you can climb up a 30 meter high tower for a panoramic view of the mangrove forest, interact with wild monkeys, camp, see floating houses, go fishing, go bird watching, kayaking, fishing, motorboat through the river system, visit an aquaculture farm, hike through the mangroves, and you can even stay at their Japanese style guesthouse. The Dan Xay Mangrove Park is about 23 kilometers from the Can Gio Ferry Terminal and the entrance is free. The boat trips and guided excursions, however, are not free.
This is the best tourist attraction on Can Gio by far. You can see wild monkeys, the mangrove forest, and see the entire Can Gio Biosphere reserve from an aerial view for free!
The southern side of the Cần Giờ island faces the open sea creating a beach front nearly 10 kilometers long. The water here is extremely shallow. From the beach, the hills of Vung Tau Peninsula are visible on most days. Unlike the white and yellow sand beaches found on Phu Quoc, the sand and sea at the beaches found in Can Gio is black due to alluvium, which is a deposit of clay, silt, sand, and gravel left by the flowing Mekong Delta streams. Regardless of this black color, the sea is perfectly safe to swim in.
Can Gio has 3 public beaches, 30/4 Beach, Can Thanh Beach, and Thot Not Beach, all of which are easily accessible and are a great place to enjoy cool sea breeze, go for a swim, fly a kite or kite surf on the sea, forage for clams, or enjoy fresh beach side seafood and drinks.
30/4 Beach (Bãi 30/4) is the most popular beach in Can Gio. When most people refer to “Can Gio Beach” they are talking about 30/4 Beach. This beach has a wide sandy shoreline, lifeguards, beach side restaurants, and a few accommodation options.
Cần Thạnh Beach (Bãi Biển Cần Thạnh) is the beach located in Cần Thạnh Town. The beach here is not as wide as the more popular 30/4 Beach but it is much more cleaner and less crowded. There are a few places to eat at the beach and some accommodation options as well. Can Thanh Beach is Can Gio's best beach.
Thốt Nốt Beach (Bãi Biển Cần Thạnh) is the beach located along the coast of Long Hòa commune. It is the least picturesque beach among the three beaches found in Can Gio, however it is made famous by the Phương Nam Cần Giờ Resort, a full service resort that has 2 swimming pools, tennis courts, upscale bar and restaurant and a hotel directly above the sea (see below).
There is a major beach resort complex that is currently under development at 30/4 Beach called Saigon Sunbay, Vietnam’s largest seaside eco-town project. Construction began in late 2007 and project has been developing very slowly. Saigon Sunbay would cover 600 hectares including 200 hectares and is divided into four zones: HeartBay (high-end resorts and hotels, diverse commercial, tourist and entertainment activities); LifeBay (high-end residential areas); EcoBay (floating resorts, green park, bungalow, spa, etc.) and BlueBay (beach and marina).
Monkey Island (đảo Khỉ) is part of Can Gio Forest Park (Monkey Island Cần Giờ Ho Chi Minh Vietnam) where thousands of monkeys roam free. The area is not an island per se and “Monkey Island” is a reference made by locals to describe Can Gio Island and its local monkey population.
At the Can Gio Forest Park you can not only observe and feed wild monkeys, but also visit the Can Gio Museum, visit the Rung Sac Guerrilla Base, observe salt water crocodiles, and observe the unique mangrove forest.
Can Gio Museum is a museum found near the entrance of the “Monkey Island Can Gio Park” that displays antiques dating back 2,000 years, a collection of preserved animals found in the region, and also highlights the area’s significance during the Vietnam – American war. Entrance is free.
During the American – Vietnam War, Cần Giờ Island had been sprayed with millions of liters of defoliants such as Agent Orange, Agent White, and Agent Blue by the American Army in order to drive out the Viet Cong who had setup a guerrilla base (Rung Sac Guerrilla Base) within the mangroves. This chemical bombardment devastated the area for many years but has since recovered. Today you can visit a recreation of this base which is located deep in the Monkey Island Can Gio Forest Park and you can only reach there by taking a motorboat (600,000VND per boat for 1-8 people, boats can be shared to split the cost). The motorboat ride through the mangrove forest is often cited as the highlight of a trip to Can Gio.
At the reconstructed Rung Sac guerrilla base (khu du lịch rừng sác), dummies portray the Viet Cong cadres re-purposing American bombs, treating their wounds, foraging off the mangrove forest, etc. There is a restaurant on site and the base is constantly expanding.
At the Monkey Island Can Gio Eco Forest Park you can visit a semi-wild salt water crocodile sanctuary, one of two places in Can Gio where this is possible with the other being the Vam Sat Ecological Tourist Center (Khu du lịch sinh thái Vàm Sát). You can observe these crocodiles swimming or for a fee feed them pieces of eel.
Often overshadowed by the wild monkeys and the VC base, the real beauty of this Can Gio Forest Park is the mangrove forest – the “green lungs” of Ho Chi Minh City. There is a nice path through the forest where you can have an up close and personal view of the mangrove trees.
In Can Gio Island there are 3 Cao Dai Temples, the largest just 200 meters from the Binh Khanh Can Gio Ferry Terminal, one in Can Thanh town, and one in Long Hoa commune. Cao Dai is a syncretic Vietnamese religious movement hat incorporates aspects of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and even Catholicism. It is said that the Cao Dai roots started on Phu Quoc Island.
In Cần Thạnh Town at the end of Duyen Hai Street you will find Lăng Ông Thủy Tướng (Ong Fish), a temple dedicated to a 12 foot whale that washed up on shore in 1971. The skeletal remains of this whale were placed behind a glass showcase and the local people pray to his remains to ensure that fishermen out at sea have good luck and come home safe. Every 17th day of August there is a festival to honor this whale. There is also a formal celebration called “Nghinh Ong Festival” that takes place on the 16th day of the eighth lunar month.
Can Gio Island is blessed with numerous rivers teeming with life. This is one of the best places to go fishing in Vietnam. Not only can you catch fish but also crab, shrimp, and even mud skippers. You can also forage Can Gio Beach for a variety of shellfish in the morning when the tide has gone out. Locals can be seen dredging the beach collecting a variety of mollusk species by the bag full.
Can Gio Market (Chợ Cần Giờ) located in Can Thanh Town is a great place to sample the local produce as well as seafood. The action begins before sunrise and slowly dissipates throughout the day.
Feast on the cheapest fresh seafood in all of Vietnam at the Hang Duong Market (cho Hàng Dương), which is just 50m from 30/4 beach. At the Can Gio Hàng Dương market vendors sell fresh seafood and they will cook it for you as well.
The shallow sea and abundant wind make Can Gio one of the best places in all of Vietnam to Kite Surf, followed by Phu Quoc's Sao Beach, and then Mui Ne Beach.
The Phuong Nam Resort Can Gio (Hòn Ngọc Phương Nam Resort or Phương Nam Resort Cần Giờ) is a resort located in Long Hoa Commune. For only 75,000VND you can enjoy their beach side swimming pools and beach loungers. You do not have stay at the resort in order to use Phuong Nam's swimming pools.
Salt water pool:
Fresh water pool:
Take an up close and personal look at one of the many still houses found along the stretch of Can Gio Beach during low tide.
Thanh An (Đảo Thạnh An) is a small island that is part of Can Gio Island and it is only accessible by boat. A trip to Thanh An is more of a cultural experience trip than scenic and you will get to observe how the local people live. You can catch a boat to Thanh An from Cần Thạnh Town from the ferry terminal located next to the Co-op mart. This is the same ferry terminal that will take you to Vung Tau.
Near Can Gio Beach there are many hotels and even a few resorts which can all be seen by clicking here. Hotel prices vary starting from 150,000VND and up. The two famous resorts in Can Gio are 1) The Can Gio Resort, which is located at 30/4 Beach and 2) Hon Ngoc Phuong Nam resort, which is located at Thốt Nốt Beach.
1. Tam Ngoc hotel in Dong Hoa – Can Gio, tel: +84 8 3874 4200
2. Hon Ngoc Phuong Nam resort near Tam Ngoc hotel, tel +84 8 3874 3404
3. Thai Duong hotel on road No.1, tel +848.3874.3985.
4. Tam Tam hotel on road No.1, Tel +848.2214.4899.
5. Bao Hung motel is also on road No.1, tel: +848.3874.4122
Since Can Gio is an Island, one which has no airport, the only way to get here is to cross the Nha Be River via ferry, take speed boat via Bach Dang Wharf (tour groups) or to travel by boat from Vung Tau or Tien Giang. Most people visit Can Gio from Saigon and below we have outlined this travel route:
From Saigon travel along Huynh Tan Phat road to the Binh Khanh Ferry Terminal in Nha Be. Take the ferry to cross the Nha Be River, which takes about 30 minutes, and then just go straight down Run Sac Road in Can Gio all the way down to the beach. This road is paved, flat, and new.
You can also get Can Gio by public bus 75. The bus will go through the streets: 23/9 Park – Le Lai – Tran Hung Dao – Pham Ngu Lao – Yersin – Ham Nghi – Ho Tung Mau – Nguyen Tat Thanh – Huynh Tan Phat – Rung Sat – Duyen Hai – Dao Cu and finally, stop at Can Thanh Bus Station (in Can Gio).
From Can Gio you can travel to 2 other places by ferry: Vung Tau and Tiền Giang.
From Can Thanh Town you can take a ferry to Vung Tau. The ferry terminal, known as Tac Suat dock (bến Tắc Suất), is located next to the Co-Op mart and boats depart at 6:00am and 10:00am daily, depending on the weather. The journey to Vung Tau (Ben Dinh dock – bến Đình) only takes 1 hour. The fare chart can be seen below:
Tiền Giang is a province in southern Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta and you can also reach here by taking a ferry from Long Hoa Commune. The fare schedule can be seen below:
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