Story: Lam Le
Photos: Tonkin, Ba Ngoc
Secluded islands surrounded by emerald waters. Whimsical yet eye-catching rock formations. Colorful coral reefs full of fish. A striking tombolo resembling an elegant strip of white silk and much more… All of these features comprise the alluring landscapes of Van Phong Bay.
Though it’s long been a popular tourist attraction, Van Phong Bay still retains its pristine and poetic beauty, charming visitors and inviting them to return.
Having crossed many provinces in all sorts of vehicles along National Route 1A, the stretch of coastal road I find the most beautiful starts from Ninh Thuan and passes through Nha Trang, Phu Yen, and Quy Nhon. With panoramic views of the endless ocean, this seaside route offers some of Vietnam’s most breathtaking scenery. From Vinh Hy Bay, bordered by Nui Chua National Park on one side and a marvelous, Mediterranean-like beach on the other, continue to serene Nha Trang Bay, pass through the city, and continue north for 60-80km and you will reach Van Phong Bay. It is considered an “enclosed strait” with 28 islands and many smaller bays, a unique landscape that cannot be fully explored in just one or two visits. Perhaps that’s why people love to return to Van Phong, to explore the other lesser-known islands and destinations.
There are many ways to explore Van Phong Bay, but for me, the best way to discover this area is by motorbike. I rented a motorbike in Nha Trang and rode to Van Phong Bay. My journey started in Van Gia fishing village, home to a quay of the same name. From there I explored the islets scattered around the bay.
Unlike Ninh Van Bay, which has no local villages and is home to secluded luxury resorts located on offshore islets, Van Phong Bay has many peninsulas connected to the mainland. It’s home to fishing villages and seafood rafts. The islets here are close to one another, which makes it easy to travel between them using public transport, or by fishing boats, if you want to experience the local lifestyle. This gives you more freedom in terms of time and activities.
Dam Mon, the largest peninsula in Van Phong Bay, is a cluster of islands with primeval forests, pristine beaches, and peaceful fishing villages.
At Dam Mon Port, I bought a ticket and travelled to Son Dung, the most famous and largest beach in this area. Because the boat could not dock close to shore, we had to go ashore on a small raft. There are only a few households in Son Dung, mainly fishermen. A small fishing village lies near the serene beach where small waves caress the white sand. At noon, it was so quiet I could hear the casuarina leaves rustling in the wind. In the late afternoon, I stopped at a seafood raft and enjoyed local delicacies while watching the golden sun sink into the honey-colored bay.
Not too far from Son Dung Beach lies Whale Island, also known as Ong Island. Apart from enjoying tranquil activities like swimming, bathing in the crystal clear water, and diving in coral reefs, you can hike to a nearby hill to explore the island’s natural beauty and admire Whale Island from above.
My trip was short. It’s hard to explore the whole bay in just three days. To avoid the “deja-vu” of going from beach to beach and island to island, I chose Diep Son Island (locally called Bip Island) as my last stop. I boarded a local fishing boat and enjoyed drifting on the sea on the hour-plus ride to the island. As the tide receded, a tombolo of white sand emerged from beneath the blue water. This tombolo is about 700m-long and winds like a strip of white silk to link three small islands: Bip, Qua, and O. Walking barefoot toward the end of this soft sandy path, where the seawater had yet to recede, was a one-of-a-kind experience, hard to find at any beach in Vietnam or even in the world.
Diep Son Island is uninhabited and offers no tourism services, but you can ask local authorities for permission to camp overnight and wait for sunrise to truly experience the island’s pristine and magical natural beauty.