Nha Trang Bay boasts 12,000 hectares of reef-filled waters known as Hon Mun Marine Protected Area. The majority of diving and snorkelling in Nha Trang is done here, and its shallow waters are one of the best places for beginners to learn how to dive in Vietnam. During the best diving months of April to October – especially during the optimal months of July to August – you can expect fair visibility and a wide variety of small colourful tropical fish (butterfly, box, moray eels, pufferfish) as well as beautiful coral. Advanced divers may be disappointed as there are no coveted creatures and features like reef sharks, turtles or wrecks but for certified divers, there is a cave and swim-through tunnels at Octopus Rock off Hon Rom.
The average visibility is 10 metres; on a really good day during peak months it’s 15 to 20 metres. The worst time of year to dive is mid-December to February/March and though most dive centres in Nha Trang remain open, this period of time is really not for learning.
For those looking for more than just a fun dive, there are a few PADI 5 Star Dive Centres that offer full PADI certification courses. Extremely professional Sailing Club Divers was first established in 1999, making it one of the longest running dive centres in Vietnam. Instruction is available in English, German, French, Vietnamese and Russian, with a ratio of two divers per one instructor. Their three-day PADI Open Water Diver (minimum age 10 years old) includes the requisite classroom, pool sessions and four Open Water dives, and costs 6,500,000 VND.
For those who just want to give it a try, a discover scuba diving trip of 45 minutes, which includes the basics and up to 12 metres in depth, cost 1,250,000 VND. At the end of the session, continuing on to do the full course is an option. Daily trips start at 07:50 and end at 13:00, including all equipment lunch, transfers and the marine park fee.
Rainbow Divers, which has centres in Ho Chi Minh, Con Dao and Phu Quoc, does dives in both Hon Mun Marine Protected Area and Whale Island (Hon Ong or Ile de la Baleine), two hours northeast of Nha Trang (by road then a short boat trip). Hon Mun is the best place to dive in Nha Trang, but Whale Island offers a spectacular secluded resort setting, so when you’re not underwater finding Nemo or exploring the mini-wreck, you’ll be unwinding on a jaw-droppingly beautiful beach. It’s best to stay overnight at Whale Island Resort so you have time to enjoy paradise. Diving here is seasonal, from around January to October only. See Whale Island Resort’s website for descriptions of the island’s dive sites.
For those keen on snorkelling, it is well worth spending the extra money to join a scuba diving boat rather than one of the cheap island boat tours that include snorkelling. Those boat tours are more about drinking like a fish than seeing fish. Equipment will likely be rubbish and the boat will not go into the Marine Protected Area because it would require paying the US$3 per person park fees and drive up tour prices. Dive centres offer snorkelling for around US$25 per person and you get what you pay for.
Rainbow Divers offers a day trip to Whale Island for both divers and snorkellers. It’s a long, packed day but well worth it if you don’t have the time or money to stay at Whale Island Resort. Pick up is at 05:30, you arrive at 07:30 and have the day there before setting off at 16:00. With two to four divers, cost is 3,750,000 VND per person. Snorkelling (subject to availability) is 2,000,000 VND per person.