Visit Con Dao Islands, Vietnam

Located off the south-east coast of mainland Vietnam, the Con Dao archipelago has stunning natural beauty with more than 80% of the islands forming part of a marine and national park.

The World Wildlife Foundation has been based in the area for the past decade establishing a long-term programme for protecting and monitoring the country's most significant sea turtle nesting grounds. Other sea life includes the rare dugong.

The largest of the islands is Con Son, also known by its colonised name of Iles Poulo Condore. Settled as early as the 16th century by Europeans and then the British East India Company two centuries later, the island has gone on to have a culturally rich and politically intense history.

Under French rule Con Son was a penal colony for opponents of French colonialism and saw the imprisonment of many Vietnamese revolutionary heroes. Right up until the American War when US troops joined the South Vietnamese government who had captured the island from the French, Con Son had become infamous for its mistreatment and torture of its detainee's. The many prisons, now desolate shells, scatter the island along with manicured gardens and photogenic French villas.

Today Con Son has a sleepy and tranquil atmosphere with several lovely beaches and a beautiful untouched interior. The island can be reached by a regular 45 minute flight from Saigon.