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After our amazing dives in underrated Cambodia, we were pretty excited to check out the similarly reviewed scuba spot of Nha Trang, Vietnam. Granted, Vietnam is well and firmly on the diving scene, mostly due to its rock-bottom certification prices. But it’s certainly not making any “Top Ten Dive Spots”  list and experienced divers tend to give diving in Vietnam mediocre reviews.

Diving in Vietnam

Nha Trang also has a pretty poor reputation for dive safety standards. Several dive shops have been removed from PADI (the Professional Association of Dive Instructors) and on a party boat trip around the islands, we observed first-hand why. As we were snorkeling in a bay, we observed what was easily the most reckless and ridiculous diving practice we’d ever seen (and we’ve done some fairly reckless stuff ourselves!) A “divemaster” (who I highly doubt was licensed) was taking a student on a DSD (a Discover Scuba Dive, or a try dive for uncertified prospective divers) with one set of gear and one tank of air between them.  The student was wearing the BCD (inflatable buoyancy vest), regulator (thing you breath out of) and tank, and the divemaster was wearing the fins and dragging the student by the tank around the reef. Let me count the ways in which this is dangerous:

1. There was no backup for breathing. Every diver goes down with two hoses attached to their tank so that if their buddy’s air runs out or their regulator fails, they can offer their second hose and provide air to their buddy. The divemaster was breathing out of the students alternate, meaning both hoses were being used, and in effect there was no backup should the air or either hose fail.

2. The student had a weight belt and no fins. If he ran out of air and was unable to inflate his BCD at the surface, he could easily be unable to tread water with the heavy weight belt and air tank and no fins, and drown.

3. With only one set of equipment between them and the student being dragged around rather than swimming on his own, the pair was constantly bashing into the reef and killing the coral in the process.

Diving in Vietnam

Basically, we couldn’t believe our own eyes. So when we decided to go diving a few days later, we chose our dive operator with great care. There are several reliable operators in town such as Rainbow Divers (super pricey), the shop next to Rainbow Divers (can’t remember the name, but our second choice), Angel Divers (we liked the instructor here) and our winner: Sailing Club. We chose them based on a combination of gut instinct, great price, and promises of a top-notch boat, excellent service, and access to faraway dive sites.

Diving in Vietnam

Our first dive site was South Beach. We knew that we had come at the worst time of the year for visibility due to rainy season run-off from nearby mountains, but we had high hopes. Unfortunately the water was pretty murky, (and pretty cold!) but by sticking mainly to close-up shots we were able get a few great photos from the dive, including the fantastic clownfish shot Mark snapped below.

Diving in Vietnam

These little Nemos and friends were abundant at this dive site. Clownfish are so territorial and have such prominent personalities, they are fascinating to observe.

Diving in Vietnam

One thing I love about diving is seeing the regional variations between the same species of fish. Below are some of the “cousins” of the tropical fish that I am so accustomed to seeing in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand. They are abundant here in Nha Trang, but seemed new and exotic to us.

Diving in Vietnam

Diving in Vietnam

Diving in Vietnam

It’s also nice to see lionfish in South East Asia where they belong, and you can appreciate their beauty without all the doom-and-gloom that comes with seeing them on the other side of the world. Lionfish were accidentally introduced to the Caribbean where they are now an invasive species and more accurately, a sign of the underwater apocalypse.

Diving in Vietnam

The following photos amaze me, not because they are great photography examples, sadly, but because of the subjects. On the left is what we assume is bubble coral, while on the right is the ribbon-like eggsac of a nudibranch. It looks so much like fabric that I truly thought that somehow a bit of silk had gotten entangled with the coral.

Diving in Vietnam

This cuttlefish was probably our best find of the day. Cuttlefish change colors to blend in with their surroundings and communicate with each other, making them difficult photography subjects.

Diving in Vietnam

I absolutely love this shot of a crab hanging out in an anemone. As you can see, this was a “small fish” dive which meant we were training our eyes for surprises on the reef rather than looking out to the blue for huge schools of fish, sharks, manta rays, and whale sharks. But sometimes those “small fish” dives are just as rewarding.

Diving in Vietnam

Our second stop of the day was at Moray Beach dive site, known for it’s healthy hard and soft corals.

Diving in Vietnam

Moray Beach deserves it’s reputation as these were some of the healthiest and most colorful corals I’ve seen in a while.

Diving in Vietnam

Look at the size of the table coral Mark is swimming over! Oh, and I just couldn’t get enough of the moorish idol on the right, my favorite fish of the day.

Diving in Vietnam

Diving in Vietnam

Just as we were about to ascend at the end of the dive, our divemaster spotted a shy octopus hiding out in the coral. Though we could only see a bit of him, we could tell he was huge! It was a great rare daytime find to end the dive on.

Diving in Vietnam

In the end I was happy with Sailing Club. We were a bit disappointed with the dive sites as they were crowded and we didn’t “leave the dive site if it was crowded with other boats already” as promised, probably because there were uncertified divers on-board who needed to be catered to. However, the boat was the best one I saw out on the water, the lunch was fantastic, and the service was amazing: my gear was set up for me and stripped off me the second I exited the water. And from the logo-emblazoned mini-bus that transported us to the dock to the super thorough dive briefing, this was one of the most professional organizations I’ve dove with. And all for the rock-bottom price of $40, all-inclusive.

Diving in Vietnam

At that price, if you come to Nha Trang, you must try diving in Vietnam. What have you got to lose?

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21 Comments...
  • Olivia
    January 18 2012

    OOO I love the octopus!

  • Roy
    January 19 2012

    Amazing shots Alex!

  • Mark
    July 12 2012

    Just got say that was really interest read and you touch on some really good points . next time your back in Vietnam check out my new dive centre ….

  • Wayan
    March 19 2013

    Wonderful shots! Wondering when you will visit Bali and dive in Amed, Palau, etc. It would be awesome. 🙂

    • Alex
      March 19 2013

      I’m heading to Bali on April 1st! Can’t wait to dive there!

  • Tina
    January 16 2014

    We are planing to go to Nha Trang for diving in April this year. Is it the good time to do that or not. Normally we dive in Gili island Indonesia. This time, we want to try something different. The dives that my husband had in Phu Quoc weren’t great. Hope nha trang is better. Thanks for your information 🙂

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      Hey Tina! From March to end of July is high season, so it should be a nice time! I haven’t dove in Nha Trang but I am siting next to someone who worked in both, and they say that the visibility is better in Nha Trang but there is less life than in Phu Quoc. To be totally honest I think if you are going purely for diving you will be disappointed compared to Gili, I’m sorry to say.

  • Jake
    July 16 2014

    Thank you Alex I am going to nha trang tomorrow and have never dived before I think I am going to dive with angel dive and try and do my PADI OW good to here you think they sound good, I was a little worried by the cheap price but from what I here that seems normal in vietnam. 😉

    • Alex
      July 18 2014

      Hey Jake, I highly recommend the company I dove with in the end — they had good prices but were also very professional and reputable. Might want to check them out as well 🙂

      • Mark R
        October 16 2014

        Hi Alex – thank you for the excellent report on your dive in Nha Trang. We are just starting to plan our trip there in May next year and I am so glad I stumbled on your site as I now know who to go with. I’m certified but would not say advanced, so good to get an objective perspective – I’ll definitely checkout Sailing Club.

        Cheers

        Mark R
        Canberra, Aust

        • Alex
          October 17 2014

          Glad to help, Mark! I still think back on what a great diving experience I had with Sailing Club. I’m sure you’ll love them!

  • Solveig
    May 6 2015

    Hi! I was just in Nha Trang and did two dives with Sailing Club after reading your blog post. It was great, thanks for the tip! We went to Moray Beach and Octopus Rock, the last one was a really nice site with several tunnels, some of them with fish schools in them.

    • Alex
      May 7 2015

      I’m so glad to hear that Solveig! I had such a wonderful experience with Sailing Club, glad to hear they have kept up the quality after all these years.

  • Mark R
    May 30 2015

    Hi Alex

    Well, add “very credible reviewer” to your list of accolades! We have just returned from 7 days in Nha Trang (at 37C and very humid it was much warmer than Canberra!) While there I took up your advice and went out on 2 consecutive days with the gang from Sailing Club Divers. I found the crew and dive sites to be exactly as you described – crew AAA+, dive sites OK. Given it’s the start of the slow season our diving was restricted to the sites around Hon Mun Island, but on both days I saw enough to make it a very enjoyable experience. Of particular note was the fact that on both days, each “group” on the boat were assigned their own diving instructor. Being a loner I had my own dive buddy for all 4 dives. This mob are truly safety conscious but they also know how to have fun – not to mention that the chicken and vegie stir fry and rice for lunch on both days was definitely a plus!
    Thank you again for your excellent on honest advice on diving in Nha Trang.

    Cảm ơn – Tạm Biệt

    Mark R
    Canberra

    • Alex
      May 31 2015

      This makes me really happy to hear, Mark! So glad you had such a great experience and that you shared it — now anyone checking out this post will know the recommendation is still relevant 🙂 And YUM I still remember the yellow curry they served us for lunch.

  • Catherine
    January 12 2016

    Thanks for this review Alex. I really want to learn to dive and I was trying to decide whether to do it in Nha Trang when I’m in Vietnam next month, or fly over to Thailand instead. You’ve helped me decide and I’m going to check out the Sailing Club too.

    • Alex
      January 13 2016

      Sailing Club was great and diving with them was a super positive experience. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did, Catherine!

  • Laura
    August 31 2016

    Love all the photos!
    I snorkel. Many times good dive destinations are not good snorkel sites. Do you think Nha Trang has good sites for shallow snorkeling? Phu Quoc? Neither????? Thailand instead?
    Thanks,
    Laura

    • Alex
      August 31 2016

      Hey Laura, I’ve never been to Phu Quoc so I’m not sure there. In Nha Trang I went on a “snorkel tour” that was more like a booze cruise, ha. I’m not sure if there are high quality snorkeling sites elsewhere but the ones we saw were nothing to write home about.

  • ThuongDaLat
    April 6 2017

    Thank so much, Thank you for bringing Vietnam to the world.

    • Alex
      April 9 2017

      You are so welcome!

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