Also known as Monkey Island, Can Gio Island is actually a series of small islands just jutting out from the mainland near HCMC. This nature reserve comprises of 80,000 hectares of mangroves and water coconut forests. During the Vietnam-American war, this area was severely deforested by agent orange, resulting in a vast decline of native flora and fauna. Today, a UNESCO recognized biosphere, this swampy mangrove forest is home to hundreds of monkeys and crocodiles. Inside the nature reserve is Lam Vien Can Gio, the crocodile sanctuary where the island’s crocodiles live together. Although this area is fenced so that the crocodiles can’t escape, the barriers don’t keep the monkeys out. The interaction between the native crocodiles and monkeys can be quite unique; naturally, these creatures are this area’s main attraction as well.
The monkeys here are comical at times, but quite mischievous. They steal anything from anyone if they can, and they enjoy taunting the local salt-water crocodiles. In the forest reserve, you can feed the crocodiles with eels or small snakes which may sound creepy but ends up being an interesting experience. You can also fish for crabs, watch bats, and feed monkeys. Can Gio island is also a historical site, as the mangrove forest was an important guerrilla base. Many life-size models are dispersed throughout that show you some of the activities that were performed there during the war. Finally, though there are beaches and a few beach resorts there, they are not especially noteworthy. They may be worth a visit if you want to relax and get away from the heat, but they are hardly the best beaches that Vietnam has to offer. Be sure to take plenty of insect repellent and sunscreen, and be careful not to have food or drinks as the monkeys may be tempted to snatch them away from you.
Details: Can Gio island can be done as a tour, but it is fairly straightforward so it can be easily visited on your own, as long as you are comfortable with the idea of public transportation in Vietnam. To get there by public transportation, you need to take bus #20 at the Ben Thanh bus station (in front of Ben Thanh Market) to Nha Be district. After about 45-50 minutes, you will arrive at the Binh Khanh ferry terminal. This ferry ride across the Nha Be river will bring you to Can Gio district. From there, in order to enter Monkey Island and the mangrove forest, you need to take bus #90 to Can Thanh. The bus will pass mangrove forests on both sides and you will need to get down at Lam Vien Can Gio. This is the entrance for the main attractions. The entrance fee is 30-35,000 VND per person. In order to visit the guerilla base, you can take a canoe ride which goes down the mangrove forest canals and takes about 10 minutes. It will cost around 500,000-600,000 VND for 6 people.