Being afraid of riding a motorbike, especially under the rain, lead me no option but explore Con Dao on foot which implied not exploring much of the island. Maybe for that reason, I will have to come back as I feel like the island is very untouched and adventurous to travel. I know that Con Dao island is home to some native species that come originally from here to the rest of the world therefore, I decided to visit Con Dao National Park.
The entrance to Con Dao National Park is still a bit far from the center of the island, but I have all day and I don’t mind walking. On my way there I bought some food and fruit at the local market because I’m expecting to spend the day in the park and I’m not sure if there will be any place near where to buy food or drinks. As far as I know the island, the chance of having a vendor is very low.
The walk from the center to Con Dao National Park is peaceful and beautiful. I came across a very beautiful place with a lake with mountains in the background and huge spiders around. The streets are almost empty, so the walk is very pleasant. It’s also a good way to meet the island deeply. But the last few minutes of the walk is through a steep street that got me tired. One water bottle to spend the day here was not enough. Mine wasn’t enough, which made a little inconvenience…
There is an entrance fee to the park. I’m sure the lady selling the tickets on that counter has not much to do all day. But, I saw two Vietnamese getting out.
Once in Con Dao National Park, and just a few minutes after entering, I saw a beautiful, beautiful bird with a long tail. I was so excited about seeing it. I have never seen such a bird flying around and the park was already promising. I was already very excited and I haven’t seen anything just yet.
Ong Dung Beach
Trekking in Con Dao National Park is a great activity but I have some places as a goal to visit. My first stop was Bãi Ông Đụng or Ong Dung Beach, a beach not so far from the entrance. There are some security guards sleeping on the hammocks so nobody checked my ticket. I think the park is in severe mutation. Not far from the entrance trees are cut down and a path to a future street is being dug. I suppose that in the near future there will be a wide street among the trees which actually doesn’t sound like a cool idea. I was sad about this view. This construction is clearly messing up with the nature around and beauty of the place. But no works were happening so I was able to enjoy the wonderful exotic sounds of birds flying among the trees and the thousands of insects living in the forest. How I wished to see all those birds!!! But I was able to see one of the species native to Con Dao: the giant black squirrel. I saw it almost at the beginning and it was delightful. It is bigger than usual squirrels and its colors can be distinguished either. It was so awesome to stare at it for large minutes, not moving and almost trying not to breathe so I wouldn’t make any sound. Eventually, I lose him among the tree leaves.
There is a staircase to the Ong Dung beach. The forest is pretty dense and it’s beautiful to walk here. This was the beach where I was expecting to find someone or some vendor. I knew that if there is no one here, I will surely not be able to buy something anywhere else.
The beach is empty initially. It has a swing and clear waters. I can see some big crabs and beautiful seashells just near the sand, but I decided to not pick it up and disturb the balance of this place although that shell was huge and pretty and surely expensive. I put all my belongings on the swing and enter the water. The weather is shitty and the beach has no sand, so besides being a chilled place so far, I don’t see how I can enjoy much of it.
But, all of a sudden the peace was destroyed. A group of many macaques appeared and destroyed the mood. They headed fast to my stuff and managed to steal my bananas! I was basically counting on those bananas for the day as I didn’t buy that much food to bring with me.
I was really pissed and these monkeys were terrible. They were frightening, aggressive, and loud. I confess I was scared. It was a big group of at least 10 individuals.
They started to walk in my direction so I skipped in the water where they couldn’t reach me. As I grab a stone from the sea they appear to be fearful and head back a little. Still, they tried for a while to get closer to me walking on the shallow waters. Fortunately, I had time to grab my bag while they were stealing the bananas. I was seriously scared and thinking of a plan on how to escape this situation.
Thankfully, a Vietnamese man shows up out of a house that I would swear was empty. He and his dog headed to me and the monkeys and scared the monkeys away. I was truly relieved!! I thought I would end up being attacked by monkeys and being bitten. As much as I would like to stay there and enjoy the place, as soon as this opportunity happened, I went out of there pitying I didn’t stay as long as I wished to.
At least things ended up well, but I headed back very stressed and anxious fearing the monkeys would follow. I hate these common monkeys! Sooner than I thought, I needed to trace another place to go and explore. But I’m glad it happened this way cause the next beach was so much nicer.
Hang Da Duc Me cave
My next destination in Con Dao National Park was Hang Da Duc Me one of the few Christian caves I have ever seen in Southeast Asia. I was totally not expecting it! Instead of a Buddha statue, I face holy mary. Maybe this is still here since the French occupation. The cave is very small but ended up being a lifesaver later. Holy Mary was there for me!
The sounds around the cave are awful, the cicadas are so loud that is annoying to be there. I proceed with my path.
I’m heading to Bãi Bàng or Bang beach, a very long trek through the forest. I have walked from the center so I basically walked from one side of the island to the other. Still, from the cave, it took me almost one hour to reach this beach. Finally paradise!
Trekking in Con Dao National Park to reach Bang beach is a very beautiful sight. There are trees with wonderful and mystic shapes and the sounds are truly amazing. There is a good path to walk in. I was not expecting to spot so many different animals here so I was totally amazed by this trek. Another, and the most exciting animal I saw, I have no idea what it is. I have never seen it on BBC programs (and I see many) and still today I have no clue what animal was that. Occasionally, I saw it staring at me and I immediately petrified. We looked at each other for a minute and then he ran to a tree. It looked like a fox, with a long tail and a fur pattern that resembles hyenas. It was able to climb a tree which was even more confusing to me. I have no idea what animal was that, but it was so exciting to face it that I could barely fit inside myself such was the joy. He was so close! He wasn’t further than 5 meters from me. Finally, I was very excited again about this trek in Con Dao National Park.
Unexpectedly, I saw two people walking in Con Dao National Park! They were two Vietnamese and were coming from Bang beach. I asked if it was far because I totally lost my GPS sign. Maybe it is not reachable in this dense forest so I had no idea how long I walked and how much more did I still need to walk, and I was already tired. They tell me I’m not far, but I ended up not being so near.
The rain is threatening again just like all morning. It had rain when I was trekking in the forest but the trees are so dense that I was barely feeling it. It is when I’m about to reach Bang beach that it really starts to rain severely. I take off my clothes immediately in a hope that they won’t get very wet and try to hide them under some tree branches but it wasn’t very effective.
The beach is so beautiful! Unlike Ong Dung beach, this one has blue water in a mesmerizing tone that delights me. Bang beach is completely empty. There are no houses or whatsoever here. Like I was expecting, food and drinks can’t be bought.
As the rain falls, I enter the water. It is so warm and cozy in there. I stayed in the water while it was raining. I have an additional problem with rain because I wear eyeglasses and somehow the rain was disturbing my view severely.
I have a beach for me, myself, and I! Luckily I had the idea of bringing some food, but the water was not enough. I ended up leaving the place sooner also because I was lacking water. Still, I managed to spend 1 hour in here totally alone, watching the skies getting darker and the raindrops meeting the seawater. I loved this place! It was my own heaven. I could jump and run and do whatever I felt like because no living soul was around all the time. Not even monkeys, thank the Lord! But I confess I was a bit stressed while on the water as, besides no signs of monkeys, my things were next to the trees, so a thief could snatch them. Maybe the previous monkey episode traumatized me haha
Trekking Con Dao National Park under heavy rain
I was hoping for the rain to stop so I would head back, but it didn’t. Once I thought it was enough of being in my own paradise and realized the weather is looking pretty ugly, I decided to walk all the way back. I wanted to visit a nearby beach, but I thought it was risky so I didn’t.
Half of the way back was made under heavy rain! No trees at Con Dao National Park could save me from getting wet from head to toe. I was trekking in a bikini as I knew I would see no one else in there and I couldn’t avoid my clothes getting wet.
At some point the rain was so heavy, I was so wet. I had the stupid idea of having my passport and important things with me and they weren’t being able to keep dry too. Plus, as I told before, I wear glasses so I could barely see things in front of me how foggy the glasses were. In despair, I take them off, I take my flipflops off too (they were too slippery and I thought I would fall anytime) and started to run barefoot in the jungle without even seeing what is in front of me. I had to run fast because I needed to save my passport and as I’m walking for so long, I must be near the cave. If a tiger was looking at me at that moment that I would never notice it. It was a stupid thing to do cause there are many insects on the forest floor and I could step something bad. In fact, my feet were itchy and peeling off the following days and I think it was related.
So I was basically running in the middle of a jungle in Vietnam on a bikini covered by a towel under severe rain, barefoot, and without glasses. For a moment I thought about that and felt very adventurous haha. What a stupid thing am I doing so far from home- were my thoughts. Mostly because I knew it would rain heavily but still, I decided to lay on the beach instead of going back.
Finally, I see(barely) the staircase to the cave. I was running in those conditions for a while already. As I look at the stairs so I know where I’m putting my feet, I see orange spots running with me. They were crabs. Dozens of crabs running under that heavy rain with me and my only goal was to not step one of them. The staircase was looking almost like a cascade which made things even more difficult.
Finally, I reach the cave and the safety of a dry place. There I was in front of the Holy Mary in a bikini! In a sacred place in a bikini… I said my apologies to the catholic images and thanked them for being there. It’s funny it was the only catholic cave I saw that managed to be a safe port for me when I was badly needing.
The crabs were also there, sheltering from the rain. My passport got wet on the tips but luckily no bigger damages were done. I also had a ticket with me that got wet but I managed to save it. All other things were so wet that I could twist them until no water for long minutes. Heavy rain in this part of the globe is really heavy. That type of rain that hurts when it touches your skin.
I waited in the cave until things got better. I thanked the Lord once more for that shelter and wrap myself in my towel that at that moment was the most comfortable thing to wear. I was cold and wet clothes were not an option. I know I still have a big walk ahead of me from Con Dao National Park to the hostel and that I will walk like that on the streets, but nevermind. People will think I’m just another stupid foreigner walking soaked wet and barely having clothes…
A ride home
To leave Con Dao National Park I crossed a few workers but didn’t even look at them. I can hear them laugh. I think they pity me as one of them came from behind me on a motorbike and stopped next to me. They saw me coming out of the forest and they knew how heavy it was raining…
He makes a sign as if asking me to hop on his motorbike. I have no intention of denying his help. I was so happy with his gesture. He asked me: “Hotel name” – and I showed him the way. I couldn’t be happier at that moment as that was all I could wish for: a ride home.
Here’s a video of my stay in Con Dao: