Photo: Con Dao beach scenes.

Hike to Ong Dung Beach and So Ray Plantation

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Whether you want snorkelling or want a hike with an ocean swim as a reward, Ong Dung Beach will satisfy both. It is a relatively easy hike through Con Dao National Park, 700 metres one way on paved trail taking you to the unspoiled western coast of the island. You can make it a more challenging by doing a loop that includes So Ray Plantation.



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Peak hour at Ong Dung Beach.

Like all hikes in the national park, you’ll first need to get a ticket at the park office and pack lots of water. You need to obtain the ticket every day you go into the park – a formality, but it’s free. Carry this ticket with you as you may have to show it at the ranger station.

To get to the national park office, head north out of town on Vo Thi Sau Street. It will be on your left. We were told it is open daily 07:00-11:30 and 13:30-17:00 but it was closed on the weekend when we were there, with a sign on the door directing hikers to get a ticket at the ranger stations on the trail.

Back on Vo Thi Sau heading north, veer left at the intersection and continue until you see a paved road that splits off on your right hand side. There will be a large sign for Bai Ong Dung. This is also the same road that leads to the Bai Bang and Bai Dat Tham beaches hike.

Right for Ong Dung hike, stay on main road to reach So Ray trailhead.

Right for Ong Dung hike, stay on main road to reach So Ray trailhead.

Follow this road up. You’ll come across the ruins and a memorial plaque of Ma Thien Lanh Bridge, which French colonialists had forced prisoners to construct. By the time the project was abandoned in August 1945, 356 prisoners had lost their lives in the construction. Close to the memorial is a booth, usually with someone you have to show your ticket to. Continue on until you see the green sign marking “Ong Dung Beach 700m”. Simply park your motorbike to the side and head down the stairs.

Ong Dung Beach is in a protected bay, which means water is calm and quite shallow even in the windy season. During high tide the reef is great for snorkelling. Bring your own gear or rent it from a dive shop in town. A map at the ranger station will show you where the reef is and how deep the water is. Don’t touch the sea urchins, coral or anything for that matter, it is protected park waters. A sign tells the story about how Ong Dung got its name, a woeful tale about a man who murdered his wife, lost all his fortune and confessed his crime – he was exiled to this bay and lived with deep pain and regret.

Ong Dung is wonderfully low key: just a ranger station, a few picnic tables and rubbish bins. If you’re there just for a swim, we’d recommend you wear shoes or sandals into the water as there are sharp stones or coral fragments. Signs at the ranger station also indicate that (weather permitting) you can hire a speed boat to visit nearby Tre Nho Island and Tre Lon Island, where turtles can be spotted during nesting season from May to August.

Returning to nature at So Ray.

Returning to nature at So Ray.

If you want to make this a longer hike, you can do a 7.4 kilometre loop by linking it with the challenging hike to So Ray, a French colonial plantation worked by the prisoners. Instead of turning right onto the small road to Ong Dung, Bai Bang and Bai Dat Tham, continue on the main road for another couple of kilometres. You will see a pink house and a small green sign for So Ray Plantation. Park your motorbike off to the side.

It’s a steady climb up a dirt trail (not paved), 1.3 kilometres to the top of the 260 metre high ridge where ruins are beautifully being overtaken by trees and vines. At the T-junction, to the right is a short walk to an old observation tower. Left takes you steeply down another 1.3 kilometres to a coral beach that is not great for swimming. But it’s just another 500 metres north along the coast to Ong Dung. Bai Ong Cau, the beach south along the coast, is off limits unless you go on a guided trip arranged through the park.

The only draw back to doing this So Ray loop is having to walk along the main road back to your motorbike. From the ticket booth/Ma Thien Lanh Bridge, it’s three kilometres to return to the trailhead where you started.

Beware.

Beware.

A word of warning: MONKEYS. There are monkeys on the So Ray hike and they can be very aggressive. Over the years they have been fed and they are unafraid of humans. They will try to steal your bag and anything else you may be carrying. We were told the monkeys were active around 09:00 in the morning so we set out around noon. But as we were hiking we encountered a couple who thought the monkeys were cute and let a troop surround them which proved to be a big mistake. The monkeys continued to follow us up to So Ray and aggressively surrounded us while we were in the observation tower. They are intimidating and they know it.

Warning: Monkeys may take your possessions…and your dignity.

Warning: Monkeys may take your possessions… and your dignity.

Do not stop for them, do you not unzip your bag – the sound of the zipper makes them go berserk. If you see one, assume there is a group nearby. Don’t stop for monkeys or allow them to get close. Unattended bags at Ong Dung may be snatched.


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Location map for Hike to Ong Dung Beach and So Ray Plantation


What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Con Dao Islands.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Con Dao Islands.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Con Dao Islands.
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