CON DAO ISLAND, Vietnam—In celebration of its 30th year of its establishment, Con Dao National Park was launched as the 55th Asean Heritage Park (AHP).
Besides its pristine beaches, diverse ecosystems and abundant flora and fauna, Con Dao is known for its historical value as it witnessed the bravery and selflessness of thousands of heroes who fought for Vietnam during the colonial period.
With its rich natural and cultural heritage, Con Dao National Park was declared as the newest addition to the growing number of AHPs—a network of effectively managed protected areas and nature reserves in the Asean region.
“Of the 55 Asean Heritage Parks, 12 can be found in Viet Nam—making it the Asean member state with the highest number of declared AHPs,” said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).
“This only reaffirms Vietnam’s commitment in ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of its ecosystems and biodiversity through the effective and participatory management of its protected areas,” Lim said after handing over the AHP certificate to the park management of Con Dao. The ACB serves as the secretariat of the AHP Programme.
A nature reserve or a protected area goes through a rigorous selection process before being recognised as an AHP in order to ensure that it meets the stringent standards of ecological completeness, naturalness, uniqueness, and having a high conservation importance, to name a few.
As an AHP, the park can avail for itself various program support in the form of capacity development, technical assistance, livelihood projects, joint conservation initiatives, and other opportunities for promoting the park in different regional and global fora.
Con Dao National Park Director Nguyen Khac Pho thanked all government, nongovernment and international organizations for supporting the conservation initiatives in the park that contributed to its current achievements and its national, regional and global recognitions.
Besides being an AHP, the Park is also recognised as a Wetland of International Importance, or a Ramsar Site in 2014.
Prof. Dr. Dang Huy Huynh, Vietnam’s 2017 Asean Biodiversity Hero, said at the ceremony: “Now that Con Dao is declared as an AHP, it is not just an important conservation site in Vietnam—it is also recognised as a vital conservation area in the world,” Huynh said.
From ‘hell’ to ‘heaven’ on Earth
Con Dao Island was once tagged as “hell on Earth” as it was once a prison to an estimated 20,000 fallen Vietnamese soldiers and patriots during the war period.
Classified as a Special National Monument, Con Dao’s historical features include the Hang Duong Cemetery and the Con Dao Prison where the “Tiger Cage” can be found. The Tiger Cage symbolises one of the worst means of solitary confinement during the colonial era.
Beyond its gloomy past, Con Dao National Park is now known as an ecotourism paradise as its 14 islands serve as haven for both terrestrial and marine biodiversity.
The geographic isolation of the park resulted in high species endemism. Species that can only be found in the park include Dipterocarpus condorensis, Ilex condorensis, Pavetta condorensis, Psychotria condorensis, Con Son’s black giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolor condorensis) and long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis condorensis).
The park’s marine habitat is also home to seven critically endangered species and 67 endangered and vulnerable species.
Located in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province in southeastern Vietnam, tourists may visit Con Dao National Park by land, air and water.
The park is a popular site for ecotourism activities, such as hiking, trekking, camping, birdwatching, swimming, diving and snorkeling for coral-watching, visiting turtle laying grounds, releasing baby turtles and other nature-based activities.
Hotels, resorts, guesthouses, cabins, and other accommodation facilities are available in the area.
Tourists are strictly prohibited from bringing single-use plastic items in the park.
The popular spots in the island include the Ong Dung Beach, Soray Plantation, Tre Lon and Tre Nho Island, Nhat Beach, Shectaresrk Cape, Trung Islet, Dam Tre Bay, Cau Island and Bay Canh Island.
Image credits: Con Dao National Park