On the side of Ho Chi Minh City, there is still a forest which is covered by the green color of thousands of mangroves. Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, also known as Can Gio Monkey Island, is a must-visit destination for all tourists coming to Ho Chi Minh City. This area is divided by a network of canals and rivers. Not only is Can Gio Island a place of interest, it is also the stopover of many scientists around the world to study the biodiversity of the flora and fauna system there.
- Alternative site name(s): Lam vien Can Gio (Can Gio forest park)
Location: Can Gio District, Ho Chi Minh City
Area: 75,740 ha
Coordinates: 10o22’ – 10o40’N, 106o46’ – 107o01’E
Opening hours: 7.00 to 17.00 daily
Suitable for: going solo, traveling in groups, families with children
1. Overview of Can Gio Island & Biosphere Reserve
Located about 60 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City Center, Can Gio Island is not a separated island but a part of Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve. The island was recognized as a global biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2000, which has promoted the tourism activities there for the last two decades.
Can Gio Biosphere Reserve is located in Can Gio district (previously Duyen Hai district), in the coastal zone of Ho Chi Minh City.
One year in Ho Chi Minh City has two seasons: a dry season and a rainy season. The rainy season starts in April and ends in November; however, the showers in Can Gio Island do not last too long and it cannot interrupt your journey. The average temperature there is from 26 to 32 Celsius degrees, which is much cooler than the temperature in Ho Chi Minh City Center.
1. Topography and Hydrology of Can Gio Biosphere Reserve
The area is situated in a recently formed estuary complex of tidal flats, where the Vam Co, Saigon and Dong Nai rivers discharge into the sea. The topography of Can Gio is low-lying and dynamic. The site is divided by a network of canals and rivers.
With an area of 80,000 hectares, Can Gio Biosphere Reserve includes mangrove forest, wetland area, monkey island and beach. Can Gio Island is the home of more than 2000 monkeys, which makes this reserve one of the largest monkey islands in Vietnam.
2. Estimated Visiting Duration
Depending on your itinerary, the necessary time to visit can range from several hours to one day. You are advised to spend your whole day in Can Gio Island to participate in all the interesting activities there as well as explore the entire Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve. However, if you do not have much time to stay there for so long, there are some experiences that are suggested for you.
II. Highlights of Can Gio Island
Can Gio is the only district of Ho Chi Minh City that is adjacent to the East Sea. Can Gio is the intersection of three major rivers in Southeast Vietnam, including Saigon, Vam Co and Dong Nai rivers. Thanks to the dense system of rivers and canals, the flora and fauna in Can Gio Island, especially Can Gio Mangrove Forest, has the most favorable condition to flourish.
2. Biodiversity Values
The major habitat types found at Can Gio are plantation mangrove, of which there is about 20,000 ha, and naturally regenerating mangrove, of which there is about 7,000 ha. The principal mangrove species used for replantation has been Rhizophora apiculata, although R. mucronata has also been used in smaller amounts. In addition to the mangroves, the site also supports seagrass beds dominated by Halophyla sp., Halodule sp. and Thalassia sp.
A total of 18 mollusc, 27 crustacean, 45 fish and three amphibian species have been recorded at the site. There are anecdotal reports of local farmers shooting an Estuarine Crocodile Crocodylus porosus at the site in around 1990, although there have been no records since then. Also, Dugong has been reported to occur seasonally in seagrass beds at the site, although these reports have not been confirmed.
The intertidal mudflats and sandbanks at the biosphere reserve are an important habitat for migratory shorebirds. ADB (1999) reports that Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola, Common Redshank T. totanus, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus occur at the site. In addition, several globally threatened and near-threatened waterbird species have been recorded at the IBA, including Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer, Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus, Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis and Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala. Consequently, Can Gio qualifies as an important bird area.
III. What to See and Do in Can Gio Biosphere Reserve?
1. Can Gio Mangrove Forest
Mangrove is the most popular plant in Can Gio Island. This kind of plant is found only in the brackish water like in the estuaries. Due to the specific living environment, the stilt root structure of mangrove helps the plant to absorb oxygen as well as nutrition from the tide. Not only does mangrove help to protect soil at shorelines from landslides but the mangrove forest is also the home of many sea creatures, some of which bring great economic values to the locals.
There are two ways for you to discover the mangrove forest: on road and on boat. You can walk along the curving roads, under the shades of thousands of mangroves, or you can sit on a small boat to follow the canals to every corner of the forest. A peaceful atmosphere with fresh air is the feeling that all tourists will have when discovering Can Gio Mangrove Forest.
2. Monkey Island
Monkey Island is the next thing that you should explore in Can Gio Biosphere Reserve. Most monkeys on this island are quite friendly and cute. The monkeys agilely move on the trees, run on the ground, move toward visitors and look at them with curious eyes.
The monkeys there are strictly preserved, so you should obey some rules when interacting with these monkeys such as keeping the suitable distance and not feeding the monkey. Some monkeys might be quite aggressive, so you should not try to touch them.
3. Crocodile in Vam Sat Forest
Vam Sat Forest is a preservation area which is the home of monkeys, crocodiles and even bats. There you will have an opportunity to feed the crocodiles from a safe distance. The crocodiles that live in brackish water may make you feel a little bit scared, but that feeling will immediately disappear when you join the intriguing activities with your friends in Vam Sat Forest.
4. Guerrilla Base in Sac Forest
During the Vietnam War, Can Gio Island was a revolutionary base of the North Vietnam soldiers. They utilized the potential obstacles of the forest to protect themselves from the American army as well as prepare for the jungle battles. Being seriously destroyed during the war time, the base still exists today as a witness for the fierce but resilient war of the Vietnamese.
5. Can Gio Beach
Can Gio Beach is one of the most attractive destinations on Can Gio Island. Unlike most beaches in Vietnam with white sand beaches, the color of sand there is black due to the alluvium from the river’s current.
In the afternoon, you can swim, fly kites with local children and admire the glorious sunset on Can Gio Beach. What would be more satisfying than enjoying the last tranquil moments of the day on a wonderful beach?
6. Enjoying Local Foods
After a long trip to discover Can Gio Island, you might feel hungry and want to find a restaurant to have dinner with your friends or family. Coming to Can Gio, don’t forget to have a try on fresh seafood there. The seafood is exploited on the local beach which contains all the flavor of nature in Can Gio Island.
The dishes that you should try in Can Gio Island include cuttle-fish, grilled oysters, steamed shrimp, seafood noodles, jellyfish salad and many kinds of shellfish.
IV. How to Get to Can Gio Island?
1. By motorbike
Travelling by motorbike allows you to take the initiative to arrange your time. You can hire a motorbike near your hotels, prepare a map and start your journey to Can Gio Island.
From the center of Ho Chi Minh City, you drive to Tan Thuan Bridge in District 7, turn to Nguyen Van Linh then Huynh Tan Phat streets to reach Binh Khanh Ferry. Cross the ferry then follow the road leading to Can Thanh Commune. Along the road, you can stop by some other attractive places such as Can Gio Beach or Vam Sat.
It takes you about one hour and a half to get to Can Gio Island by motorbike.
2. By bus
From Ben Thanh Market, you catch the bus No.20 and get off at Binh Khanh Ferry. Cross the ferry then continue to take the bus No.90 to Can Gio Island. Remember to announce the driver your next stop, because there is no bus stop in Can Gio Island.
Besides, from 23/9 Park, you can take the bus No.75 and stop at Can Thanh Bus Station in Can Gio District. This bus also takes you to some famous attractions in Can Gio Island.
You have to spend about three hours reaching Can Gio Island.
3. By car
Travelling by car is the most convenient way to get to Can Gio Island. You can book a Grab car from Ho Chi Minh City Center and reach Can Gio Island in about one hour and a half. The price to go by car is much more expensive than to go by bus or by motorbike, but it is still affordable, only from 400,000 VND.
V. Extra Tips
- A sunny day is the most ideal condition to explore Can Gio Island. On rainy days, you cannot take part in some outdoor activities here.
- If your family has children, keep an eye on them all the time.
- You are not allowed to bring food or drink from outside into the preservation area.
- Do not arbitrarily feed the monkeys or the crocodiles without the permission of the caretakers.
- Be aware of your belongings or the monkeys might steal some when you let your guard down.
- Follow all the instructions of the guide during your trip.
- Keep the environment of the biosphere reserve clean.
- There are some other attractions near Can Gio Island such as Can Gio Museum, Hang Duong Market and Whale Temple. If you have time, don’t forget to pay a visit to these places to know more about the culture of local residents.
Can Gio Island is a familiar destination for both domestic and foreign tourists coming to Ho Chi Minh City. The pristine beauty of nature in Can Gio Island is waiting for you to discover. What are you waiting for? Let’s take your backpack and go on a trip to this wonderful island to explore a new interesting world.