Jessica Morelock

Vietnam's long coastline offers many opportunities for snorkeling.
Vietnam's rich history, distinctive culture and reputation for warm and inviting inhabitants draw travelers looking for an exotic warm weather vacation destination in Southeast Asia. The country is bordered by the South China Sea on the east and the Gulf of Thailand on its small western shore. With more than 2,000 miles of coastline, Vietnam offers ample opportunities for snorkeling.

Vietnam's primary snorkeling destinations are in the central and southern portions of the country. Central Vietnam is home to the popular beach town, Nha Trang, which is a starting-off point for several snorkel sites in the South China Sea. Southern Vietnam includes the Mekong River Delta and offers easy access to snorkeling areas such as the protected Con Dao Islands and Phu Quoc Island. Con Dao, which comprises 15 islands and islets located less than 50 miles from Vietnam's southeastern coast, remains unspoiled because the majority of the islands are protected by Con Dao National Park. Phu Quoc Island, in the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 10 miles from Cambodia, offers snorkeling on the northwestern side of the island.

Climate and Water Conditions
Vietnam's long coastline weaves through various climate zones. If you snorkel along the central coast near Danang and Nha Trang, expect a more temperate climate with water temperatures that range between 72 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit with the coolest temperatures occurring between November to March. Southern Vietnam, located in the tropical climate zone, offers slightly warmer water temperatures that range between 74 and almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Water visibility while snorkeling in Vietnam varies based on the season, but you can expect to be able to see at least 20 feet. During the dry season you may be able to see more than 60 feet.

Marine Life
The marine life in Vietnam is not as rich as other Southeast Asian destinations such as Malaysia and the Philippines, but enough biodiversity exists to make snorkeling worthwhile. The central coast, including Nha Trang and the Whale Islands, offers the chance to view rare species of fish such as frogfish, paperfish and cowfish. Nahtrang also has a selection of soft and hard corals. The Con Dao Islands are the only snorkeling location where you have the opportunity to see sharks, rays, turtles and dugongs, also called sea cows. Phu Quoc Island offers a variety of marine life, but it is best-known for having the best hard coral growth in Vietnam.

Do not touch the marine life while you are snorkeling in Vietnam. Many of the snorkel sites are protected areas, such as national parks. Cham Island, a popular snorkeling tour that originates from the central coast, is a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Not only can you possibly injure yourself, but you may damage the ecosystem. Vietnam's post-war growth has included promoting tourism, especially in regard to beach destinations offering snorkeling, diving and other water sports. You will find numerous resorts along the coast and several dive shops offering tours and equipment rental. Check with the concierge or front desk at your hotel for a recommendation.