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Vietnam: Coral Reefs, Culture, and Cuisine

Explore Vietnam’s beautiful coastal habitats and immerse yourself in its fascinating history and vibrant culture on this custom designed expedition.

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Overview

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Custom itinerary combines visits to important marine areas and parks with an exploration of Vietnam’s history and culture.
  • Snorkel off the pristine and rarely visited Con Dao islands.
  • Explore the historic cities of Hue and Hoi An, as well as bustling Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi as we learn about Vietnamese culture.
  • See the striking red-shanked douc langur in its natural habitat in Danang.

We’re delighted to introduce this all-new itinerary that combines an exploration of Vietnam’s beautiful coastline and diverse marine life with the chance to immerse yourself in its fascinating history and vibrant culture.

We’ll go snorkeling off the pristine and rarely visited Con Dao islands, we’ll visit Nha Trang’s historic marine museum, and we’ll explore the unique Marine Protected Area of Cu Lao Cham, meeting with local experts along the way. We’ll also experience the vibrancy and energy of Vietnam today through guided tours, lectures, and free time for exploration in Ho Chi Minh City (ex-Saigon), the imperial capital of Hue, spectacular Ha Long Bay, and the capital of Hanoi.

Don’t miss this unique experience!

Trip Dates & Cost

2019: April 5–15 | $3,945 / person. Single supplement fee: $750. Group limit: 12.

2020: Dates to be announced, please inquire.

* Trip prices do not include international airfare. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival HCMC

Upon arrival to Ho Chi Minh City Airport you will be transferred to the iconic Hotel Majestic, a French Colonial hotel on the river built in 1925. In the afternoon we'll have a city tour, visiting the History Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, the monumental Central Post Office built in the late 19th century, and Thien Hậu Temple. In the evening we will have a presentation from Tim Doling, who has lived in Vietnam since the early 1990s and is the author of many books including "The Railways and Tramways of Vietnam," "Exploring Hue," and "Exploring Ho Chi Minh City." We finish the day with a typical Vietnamese dinner. Overnight in HCMC.

Day 2: HCMC - Con Dao Islands

We'll have breakfast at the hotel and then depart for a flight to Con Dao, renowned for its pristine natural beauty, and notorious for its tiger cage prisons dating from colonial times. We will be met and transferred to the Con Dao Resort Hotel by the beach. In the afternoon we drive from the hotel to enjoy snorkeling in Vietnam’s prime snorkeling and diving area on the main island of Con Son, the only inhabited island of the 16 that make up the Con Dao National Park. Overnight in Con Dao.

Day 3: Con Dao

Today we'll enjoy a full day out on the water, with snorkeling as well as optional scuba diving. Overnight in Con Dao.

Day 4: Con Dao – Ho Chi Minh City

Late morning we fly back to HCMC, and check back in to the Hotel Majestic. After a light lunch, the afternoon is free to relax and enjoy the city. In the evening we’ll visit the traditional Truc Mai music house, where you can buy instruments without fear of counterfeits! We’ll finish the day with a traditional Vietnamese dinner at the acclaimed old Ngon restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. Overnight in HCMC.

Day 5: HCMC - Nha Trang

After breakfast, depart HCMC for the direct flight to Nha Trang, where we will be met and transferred to Hotel Novotel. We’ll see the famous beaches and visit the old French Oceanographic Institute and Museum where we will meet and hear from the Director. There will be time for optional snorkeling on the offshore islands and in the late afternoon we will be picked up for a sunset boat ride to the Con Se Tre resort on Hon Tre Island. We will have dinner there on the beach, with guitars under the stars. Overnight in Nha Trang.

Day 6: Nha Trang – Danang - Hoi An

Following an early breakfast at the hotel, there could be time to stroll down the main street and visit the fascinating Yersin Museum, dedicated to the bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. After a short flight to Da Nang we will be met and driven by the city’s long beach front to visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture, the world’s largest collection of art from the ancient Kingdom of Champa.

As we leave Danang by car in the late afternoon for our drive to Hoi An we will be meeting up with members of Viet Green, winner of Vietnam’s Environmental Award, who will accompany us to see the red-shanked douc langurs in their natural habitat, at the time of day when they are most active. We arrive in the charming ancient city of Hoi An in the late afternoon, check in at either the Emm Hotel or the Central Boutique Hoi An Hotel, both in the center of the old town, then enjoy a local dinner. Overnight in Hoi An.

Day 7: Hoi An – Cu Lao Cham

After breakfast we will be driven to the pier for the boat to the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, recognized by UNESCO, and meet with marine biologists. After lunch on the island, we return to Hoi An in the afternoon to enjoy strolling in the ancient city and dinner at a quaint local restaurant. Overnight in Hoi An.

Day 8: Hoi An - Hue

After breakfast at the hotel we have a three-hour drive to Hue via the scenic Hai Van Pass, stopping to see the panorama of the spectacular central coastline. We check in to the Hotel Emm in Hue and take in a sightseeing tour of Hue including the Imperial Citadel, Royal Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc and others, and if time permits Thien Mu Pagoda. In the evening we can enjoy a professional cooking class in Thuy Bieu village, a quiet area located on the bank of the Huong (Perfume) River to learn to prepare some of the most famous of Hue’s dishes, and enjoy the results afterwards! Overnight in Hue.

Day 9: Hue - Hanoi

After breakfast and before our flight to Hanoi we will have time to walk around the old Dong Ba Market in Hue. On arrival in Hanoi we will drive straight to the Koto Restaurant for lunch – an excellent restaurant run by a social enterprise that employs and trains disadvantaged children from the streets. We then check into the elegant Hotel de l’Opera and have the rest of the day free to explore the city, including a tour of the Literature Temple, Hoan Kieu Lake and Ngoc Son Pagoda. After an optional water puppet show, at the end of the day we’ll experience a typical Northern Vietnamese dinner. Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 10: Hanoi – Halong Bay

We'll have breakfast at the hotel before driving about two hours to the harbor city of Hai Phong via the longest bridge in Southeast Asia, where we take a tender to the Orchid Cruise, board the ship and set off over lunch to Da Chong Islet. Here we’ll see the old French lighthouse and cruise along the spectacular Halong Bay. We will take a short bus ride to the Trung Tang Cave in a beautiful valley. The cruise continues to Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay. We’ll see the sunset and join a traditional cooking class with the chef before dinner. Overnight on board in Ha Long.

Day 11: Halong – Hanoi – Optional departure for airport

If interested, start the day with a Tai Chi class before breakfast. In the morning we cruise Halong Bay and explore the Ao Ech area by kayak, return to the ship and disembark in Hai Phong again about noon. After a quick lunch we’ll drive back to Hanoi, where we will meet with local NGO representatives for a wrap-up. For those with return flights home that afternoon, a separate car will meet us about an hour and a half from Hai Phong to drive you directly to Noi Bai airport, just north of Hanoi. Expedition concludes!

Accommodations

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