Voted as the best resort in South East Asia by Travel + Leisure readers, Six Senses Con Dao is a hideaway in its true senses. The resort nestles in a quiet area of Con Dao, a windswept island just off the southeastern coast of Vietnam. Here, guests can sleep deeply to the sound of waves and wake up in a strikingly lush landscape.
It had been a full year since I set foot on a plane. The summer outbreak canceled all my travel plans in 2021. As things started to re-open again, I craved a trip to get away from the concrete jungle of Saigon. After back and forth consideration, Con Dao – a group of islands just southwest of the city – was the desired destination. Even though this trip was limited to just a part of the island, it somewhat relieved me from my current wanderlust.
That December morning was crisp and a bit windy. I felt slightly nervous as our turbo propeller ascended to the air. It has been forever since I board such a small aircraft. My anxiety still lingered as we flew past the vast land of the Mekong Delta, and then toward the East Sea. Yet it was replaced by excitement when I spotted Con Dao. A group of forested islets started appearing amidst the sapphire ocean. They surround a larger island where the airport is located.
Brief Introduction of Con Dao
Situated 185 kilometers from Vietnam’s mainland, Con Dao is an archipelago consisting of 16 islets. Most of them are uninhabited, except for Con Son – the largest island. Under the French and later the American-backed regime, Con Son was a notorious prison. But these days, foreign and domestic tourists flock here for the deserted beaches, the scenic bays, and the turquoise water brimming with marine life.
Stretching along a crescent of golden sand, with the dramatic backdrop of Lo Voi Mountain, Six Senses Con Dao feels invitingly secluded. The color of fresh green leaves dominates here, most notably octopus bushes whose long roots stabilize the soil, preventing them from eroding. Even the entrance is hardly visible, concealed behind lines of tropical plants.
With a deep sense of the place, the resort itself is designed to resemble a traditional fishing village. It comprises 50 odd private, ocean-facing villas and residences built from reclaimed teak. There is a rustic marketplace near the entrance that is home to the reception, two restaurants, two bars, and an outdoor cinema. In some way, the spirit of a Vietnamese village is delightfully reproduced in Six Senses Con Dao.
From bamboo fences, recycled antique wooden panels to butterfly-style roofs which minimize air-conditioning and maximize airflow, Six Senses’ villas are designed to reduce environmental impact. The buildings are the creation of AW2, a Paris-based architect firm known for its bioclimate approach. But that does not necessarily compromise guests’ comfortability.
My sun-bleached villa features two spacious floors infused with contemporary design flair. The upper-level bedroom boasts natural wooden furniture and decor, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows. Downstairs, I found myself idling in an-open plan bathroom, with a lounge, an oversized bathtub, and even an outdoor shower. There is a sun terrace set by the infinity-edge pool which offers a magnificent view of the ocean. All of these are embraced by a luxuriant garden, ensuring the utmost privacy.
Sustainability plays the central stage here. My GEM (Guest Experience Maker) told me that not a single large tree was cut down during the construction, as the resort is part of a national park. All the streams, boulders, and the beach are also kept intact, including the crushed seashells. Plastic bottles are virtually banned (except brought in by guests), while only non-toxic biodegradable cleaning products and amenities are applied in the resort. They also recycle towels into planters or crushed wine bottles into elegant paving stones.
Preservation of the critically endangered green sea turtles.
However, what comes at the top of the sustainable activities list is the preservation of the critically endangered green sea turtles. In cooperation with the national park authorities, Six Senses Con Dao has restored the beach to make it an appealing place for egg-laying by these picky turtles. The staff strives to provide the best hatching condition and protect them from poaching and predators. Thanks to this initiative, the local hatching success rate has increased to over 90%.
Due to the travel restrictions, I missed the main hatching season which is in summer. But I was shown some of the late-hatching eggs. Hiding in a quaint section of the resort, each clutch is placed in a pre-burrowed nest in the sand. It is then safeguarded by a wooden frame and shaded by coconut leaves. There are signs indicating the date and number of eggs per clutch. The incubation usually takes up to 50 it 60 days, and after that, the baby turtles will be released to the ocean. One remarkable thing about these green sea turtles is their ability to memorize. They will return hundreds of kilometers to lay eggs in the same spots, even after 30 or 40 years.
I would say Six Senses Con Dao is a great example of slow food. They have an extensive locally-based menu, with dishes that can represent Con Dao, and Vietnam in general. Many of the ingredients come from the vicinity or directly from the resort’s organic gardens.
In total, I could count three, including a hidden herb garden that grows atop the beach-front restaurant. The dishes, therefore, always taste fresh and are imbued with unique flavors. Even now, I am still impressed by their xôi mặn (savory sticky rice), or the grilled chicken with home-grown mushroom sauce.
This post is written based on my personal experience. It was neither sponsored nor solicited by Six Senses Con Dao or any third party. All texts and pictures reflect my own opinions. They are provided solely for informational purposes. I will not be liable for any errors or damages by making use of this information.