The Nam Du archipelago in Kiên Giang Province consists of over 20 islands, islets and rocky outcroppings. VNS Photo Văn Châu
If you are too familiar with the famous beaches or islands of Việt Nam, like Mỹ Khê Beach in Đà Nẵng City, Nha Trang Bay and Phú Quốc Island, and are looking for a wholly new place, then try Nam Du and the Hòn Sơn islands in Kiên Giang Province.
Near Phú Quốc Island in the southeastern province, Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands, with their blue sea and unique and delicious seafood, are attracting more and more tourists to come to admire their beauty. The islands give you the chance to do things freely, enjoy and explore them in your own way without any modern facilities. It is surely the most special experience that you could ever have.
Nam Du is a beautiful archipelago consisting of 21 large and small islands in the Gulf of Thailand, of which Củ Tron is the largest. In the distance are Dầu, Ông, Ngang, and Mấu Islands, forming a charming area. The wild beauty and unexplored tourism services attract tourists to this archipelago.
With beautiful pristine beaches such as Chướng Beach and Đá Đen Beach, with shallow water levels and coconut trees, Nam Du will bring you an extremely comfortable summer trip and freedom with nature.
Currently, there are also a variety of motels, hostels and even homestays. You can also set up camping tents right at the beaches on the island.
Diving is a popular activity among foreign tourists in Nam Du Islands.
Snorkelling in coral reefs is an unforgettable experience in the Nam Du archipelago. VNS Photo Văn Châu
A favourite destination for diving is pristine Hòn Mấu Island. Visitors hire diving suits and fins as well as diving tanks to start training. They learn signs to communicate under water and tips to deal with tough situations.
They then go underwater in their diving suits in a shallow area. Each guest is accompanied by one coach who gives instructions. Finally, guests dive further into the sea. Those without prior experience will dive no deeper than 10 metres.
Due to water pressure, tourists might have symptoms of tinnitus or find it difficult to breathe. But after a few minutes, people get used to it.
In the past few years, the island residents have developed community tourism models, making contributions to socio-economic development for Nam Du Commune.
Visitor Trần Thị Trung from HCM City said, “While diving, you will have a chance to catch sea urchins. They are often eaten raw with a bit of mustard after being caught. The meat has a light yellow hue and a creamy taste.”
Trần Chí Trung, a local guide, shared that one of the favourite experiences of tourists when coming to Nam Du is diving to catch sea urchins. They usually spawn in the third to sixth month of the lunar calendar, and reside in cliffs, so you have to know how to catch them properly, otherwise they will prick with their thorns. Despite their thorny shape, urchins are one of the most nutritious and fattiest seafoods.
Coming to the Nam Du archipelago, visitors will be conquered by the charming scenery and fresh air. VNS Photo Văn Châu
Tourists are swimming in Nam Du seas. – VNS Photo Văn Châu
Trần Hương Ly, from Bình Dương Province, said: “My friends and I really enjoyed diving to catch urchins when we had the opportunity to travel to Nam Du in early August.”
She shared her impression of the unspoiled and peaceful beauty of the islands.
“We spent half a day diving to catch urchins and enjoyed preparing many delicious dishes. Joining this experience is also a way to help relax after stressful working days.”
Untouched beauty of Hòn Sơn
Hòn Sơn Island, located between Hòn Tre Island and Nam Du Islands, is one of the newest destinations for a summer retreat, with beautiful white sandy beaches and imposing mountains.
Considered one of the most beautiful islands in Kiên Giang, Hòn Sơn is a new hidden gem for nature-loving tourists. With its pristine beauty and graceful beaches reflecting the vast ocean, Hòn Sơn appears as a sparkling jewel surrounded by coconut groves, with a wild look.
Hòn Sơn is a new destination that tourists should not miss when coming to Kiên Giang. VNS Photo Văn Châu
Hòn Sơn boasts beautiful beaches like Bãi Nhà, Bãi Giếng, Bãi Bấc, and Bãi Bàng, lined with endless coconut palm groves.
Tourists can trek 450m above sea level to the peak of Ma Thiên Lãnh Mountain, which may take at least half a day both ways, made worthwhile by the panoramic view of the island.
With limited infrastructure, islanders are highly sensitive to the environment, employing eco-friendly paper straws at coffee houses.
Surrounded by the deep blue sea, the most distinctive characteristic of Hòn Sơn is the gorgeous beaches and bays. The water quality there is the best and clearest among the many islands of Việt Nam.
Coconut trees with strange shapes are common in Hòn Sơn Islands. VNS Photo Văn Châu
Bãi Nhà lies in the southwest of the island and can be accessed via a steep and grassy path from the main road. This spot is not perfect for swimming but it’s good for hiking along the rugged cliffs that stretch on both sides of the beach.
Bãi Bàng is one of the most beautiful beaches of Hòn Sơn with a crescent shape hemmed in by rock outcroppings. The soft sand beach is small but very good for swimming. The sea here is blue year around. This is an ideal place for tourists who want to immerse themselves in nature.
There is a large cliff facing the sea, with waves hitting the cliff creating majestic scenery.
Bãi Bấc is another great swimming spot where you can spend a whole day. It boasts a long, wide stretch of white sand backed by casuarina trees. Their shade is perfect for indulging in a lazy, peaceful picnic.
To enjoy more sparkling seas and soft sands, arrange a boat trip to some of the small islets around Hòn Sơn. For an all-round memorable ‘sea experience’, get your host to arrange a tour where you catch fish to eat on a raft house for lunch.
In addition to seascapes on the island, there are now a number of long-standing spiritual tourist sites that visitors can combine to visit such as: Bà Cố Chủ Temple, Nam Hải Tomb, Lại Sơn Temple and Hải Sơn Pagoda.
Going to the island, the famous dish that no one can ignore is seafood. Visitors can easily find famous Kiên Giang specialties such as mantis shrimp with garlic, grilled sea urchin, steamed crab with ginger and lemongrass, sea cucumbers, etc. are on offer at restaurants at Bãi Nhà wharf.
Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands are a paradise for seafood lovers. VNS Photo Văn Châu
Kiên Giang develops island tourism
With the advantage of having many islands with beautiful scenery and the U Minh Thượng Forest, the Mekong Delta province of Kiên Giang welcomed nearly 2.3 million visitors in the first quarter of this year, up 44.7 per cent year-on-year, according to the provincial tourism authority.
In the first quarter of the year, more than 207,000 international tourists visited the province, up ninefold over the same period last year.
Tourism revenue totalled more than VNĐ5.36 trillion (US$229 billion), a year-on-year increase of 263 per cent.
Phú Quốc Island received more than 1.55 million tourists in the first three months, up 43 per cent year-on-year.
The province will put more investment in tourism infrastructure development to improve the quality of tourism products and services, according to Bùi Quốc Thái, director of the provincial Tourism Department.
It has strengthened tourism linkages with other cities and provinces and boosted promotion and marketing activities at home and abroad to attract more domestic and foreign tourists, Thái said.
To date, the province has attracted investments worth VNĐ380 trillion in 328 tourism projects.
Of that figure, 75 projects worth more than VNĐ19.2 trillion are on stream and 84 projects worth VNĐ197.5 trillion are under construction. The remaining 169 projects have been approved and are undergoing investment preparation procedures.
The province’s master plan on tourism development for the 2021-30 period outlines four key areas: Phú Quốc, Hà Tiên Kiên Lương, Rạch Giá Kiên Hải, and U Minh Thượng.
Its target is to receive 8.3 million tourists this year, a year-on-year increase of 9.7 per cent. VNS
How to get to Nam Du, Hòn Sơn
The only way to go to Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands is by speed boat. So you need to get to the port in Rạch Giá City to catch a boat to the island. Depending on the type of boat, the journey will take 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
Visitors can fly from HCM City or Hà Nội to Rạch Giá Airport.
Travellers prone to getting seasick are advised to take motion-sickness medication beforehand. On the island, you can rent a bicycle or motorbike with a cost of only about VNĐ150,000-200,000 (US$6.4-8.5) per day.
The best time of the year to explore Nam Du and Hòn Sơn islands are during the dry season, between December and June. But the ideal swimming months are March through April, when the seas are calm.
On the islands, there are currently no high-class accommodations, only motels, inns and hotels.
For regular days, you can comfortably book a hostel or homestay. But if you come here during Vietnamese holiday season, you should book in advance. Also, staying in a homestay is the most interesting option.
The price of hotels and motels is only from VNĐ100,000 to VNĐ800,000 (US$4-34) per night.