I’ve never thought of diving in Vietnam. When conversations on beautiful dive sites (that’s near to Malaysia) come about, it’s hardly ever mentioned. However, on my recent trip to the seaside town of Nha Trang (and I later discovered, is the hub of Vietnam’s diving scene), I just couldn’t miss out a chance to experience its underwater. It’d be a tick off another place on my dive list… even if it was just for a day!
About Nha Trang
The city of Nha Trang is located on the south central coast of Vietnam. I’ve never heard of the city until Air Asia started flying there a couple of years ago — and I remember thinking to myself that it sounds like another fun Vietnamese city to explore! With a lovely coastline that stretches about 6 kilometers, the city is known as a seaside town. It can get touristy with the influx of Chinese and Russian visitors during the peak season.
Nha Trang is famous for its gorgeous sunrise, the array of delicious Vietnamese cuisine and seafood, the pampering mud spas and hot springs, as well as the beautiful ancient structures dating back to the Champa kingdom. Will write about it soon — but for now, let’s talk about the marine life and reefs off the coast of Nha Trang!
Nha Trang Diving & Accommodations
When one talks about Vietnam, it’s hardly ever about the dives (and more about the motorcycles). The country is relatively unknown (and new) as a dive destination — though that doesn’t take out the fact that its underwater is just as beautiful. I wouldn’t say that many divers I know would flock to Nha Trang to dive, but with over 20 dive operators in the city, there is definitely a demand for it. The waters off the coast of Nha Trang is great for beginners as it is calm and friendly with an average depth of about 25 meters. Though it does not offer sightings of the larger pelagic creatures, it is filled with colorful corals, macro life (nudibranch galore!), rocks and caverns, and lots of sightings of my favorite sea creature, the moray eel.
During my visit to Nha Trang, I based myself at the Golden Sea Hotel (book with AGODA), a small basic hotel that is right in the middle of the action, and just down the road from the beach. It was also just a couple of meters away from my dive centre — so the location was fantastic, price was cheap and affordable, and it had all the basic necessities I needed for my stay. However, the hotel doesn’t offer good views of the beach, so I shifted to a beachfront hotel with a balcony on the last day of my trip (just to watch the sunrise)!
Diving with Rainbow Divers Nha Trang
I was a little sceptical about diving in Nha Trang at first, after reading several horror stories about local dive operators that did not adhere to the diving guidelines and had faulty equipment. However, there are a couple of operators that did have rave reviews, and I finally made the decision to dive with Rainbow Divers Nha Trang after liking what I read about them online.
A day before my intended dive, I walked over to Rainbow Divers Nha Trang’s dive centre and was immediately greeted at the front entrance by Michael. He was extremely friendly and helpful, and within seconds had already convinced (and assured) me that I should dive with them. I paid US$75 for 2 boat dives (with equipment), and was given instructions to be at the dive centre the next day before 7am. Comparatively, the price at Rainbow Divers is just a little more expensive compared to the other dive centres around Nha Trang — but considering the service, the equipment, the dive masters, the boat, and especially the feeling of being safe diving with them; I’d say it was a price I am willing to pay.
Dive Sites at the Hon Mun Marine Park
One of the top dive locations in Nha Trang is the Hon Mun Marine Park, which boasts many beautiful dive sites. After congregating at the Rainbow Divers’ dive centre at 7am, we were ferried in a small bus to the Nha Trang Jetty, where we made our way on a big wooden boat to Hon Mun Island, also known as the Black Island. The journey took a little less than 45 minutes — and we were briefed, assigned our dive masters, and given our equipment en route to our first dive site, Madonna Rock.
1) Madonna Rock
I really enjoyed my dive at Madonna Rock. It was an introduction to diving in Vietnam; and honestly, while I wasn’t expecting much, I was fairly surprised. This dive site has a maximum depth of 25 meters, but since my group of 5 fun divers (with 2 dive masters – Bruce and Shawn) were all Open Water divers, we only descended to a maximum depth of 15 meters.
The reefs at Madonna Rock were lush and colorful — though there were very little fishes around, and I only spotted an eel and a few nudibranch. My favourite part of this dive though, was the cavern that we swam through (there are a few caverns at various depths but we only went through one). It was filled with corals, with a huge fan coral hovering above; and I finally discovered, was where all the fishes were! The caverns provide shelters for the fishes, and swimming through it felt like I was in an aquarium.
After the required surface time (with some refreshments of delicious local fruits), it was time for the second dive of the day. We moved a couple of meters from Madonna Rock to the Mama Hahn Beach. There were many other boats around the area as well (because the Hon Mun Marine Park is also a popular snorkeling spot), but thankfully, the crowd didn’t get in the way of our dives.
2) Mama Hahn Beach
After the beautiful caverns of Madonna Rock, the Mama Hahn Beach dive was just alright. I used the opportunity (while admiring the lush corals) to practice my buoyancy and breathing — and I’m proud to say that it’s been pretty good the last few dives. On this dive, I spotted many moray eels swimming around (the best part of this dive) of various colors — a yellow one, a honeycomb one, and a black one. I also saw a few lion fish, the common pipefish, and many huge nudibranch. The Mama Hahn Beach dive site is closer to the island, so there are many rocks, and we only went to a maximum depth of 13 meters.
My Experience Diving in Nha Trang
After our dives, we had lunch (self-assembled Bahn Mi – Vietnamese baguettes) and chilled on the boat deck while waiting for those who were taking their certifications (Open Water and Advanced Open Water) to complete their dives. I took the opportunity to jump off the boat a couple of times, because who wouldn’t want to be in the sea when you’re at sea?
We got back to the dive center at about 2pm. I had 2 great dives with Rainbow Divers, and I really wished I had more days to explore more dive sites in Nha Trang. Though the diving here was not as exciting as many other places I’ve been to and the water was a little cold for me at 28 degrees (I was only in a rashguard and really should have worn my 3mm wetsuit); but I loved that the current was mild, the visibility was acceptable at about 10 meters during my dives, and most importantly, I felt safe and relaxed during my dives. And yes, the dive count is now at 66!