. It was formed from silt washing downstream from the river, so don’t expect any white-sand beaches. A few hopeful resorts have sprung up along the murky 10km shoreline and more are planned, although it’s hard to imagine them appealing to international visitors.
Of more interest is the forest. This listed Unesco Biosphere Reserve contains a high degree of biodiversity, with more than 200 species of fauna and 150 species of flora. If you’re looking for a relatively traffic-free route to explore by motorbike, it’s a great day trip.
(www.cangioresort.com.vn; admission 30,000d) As with many ‘ecotourism’ activities in Vietnam, Saigon Tourist has got in on the act and turned the experience into a bit of an event. While this is the most interesting and accessible part of the forest to visit, it’s hard to stomach the cruel conditions in which the stars of their animal circus (including bears and monkeys) are kept.
The island is also home to a monkey sanctuary, which houses at least a hundred wild but unafraid simians. Take care: like monkeys everywhere, the line between cheeky charmer, thieving pest and dangerous beast is very fine. Keep a firm hold on your possessions.
The motorboat ride (about 150,000d) through the waterways to the VC’s Rung Sac base is the highlight of a visit. At the reconstructed base, dummies portray VC cadres sawing open unexploded American bombs in order to salvage the explosives and wrestling with crocodiles, which were once common here but are now confined to crocodile farms like the one by the entrance. A small museum has wildlife displays, along with exhibits relating to local war history and archaeological finds.
Coming from HCMC, Monkey Island is to the right of the main road, about 34km past the ferry.
This section of the forest is noted for crab-angling, a crocodile farm and Dam Doi (Bat Swamp), an area where fruit bats nest. Boats to Vam Sat (around 150,000d) depart from under Dan Xay Bridge, which is on the main road, 22km south of the ferry and 12km north of Monkey Island.
Facing Vung Tau at the southeastern tip of Can Gio district, this small town has a Cao Dai temple and a large market, which is made very conspicuous by some rather powerful odours. Seafood and salt are the local specialities; the vegetables, rice and fruit are all imported by boat from around HCMC. Adjacent to the local shrimp hatchery is a vast cemetery and war memorial (Nghia Trang Liet Si Rung Sac), 2km from Can Gio Market.
Car & Motorbike
Can Gio is about 60km southeast of central HCMC, and the fastest way to make the journey is by car or motorbike (about two hours). There’s a ferry crossing (motorbike/car 2000/10,000d) 15km from HCMC at Binh Khanh (Cat Lai), a former US naval base. Once you get past the ferry, there is little traffic and the sides of the road are lined with mangrove forests. The motorbike ride is an excellent day out in itself.
There are day trips from HCMC offered by Cafe Kim Tourist (US$25) and Saigon Tourist (from US$56). A boat trip to Can Gio is also offered by Les Rives, which departs at 7.30am and takes a total of seven to nine hours. The trip includes hotel pick-up, meals, refreshments, guide and admission fees. Saigon Riders operates a fun motorbike trip to Can Gio, costing US$109 per person (all-inclusive, minimum two people), kicking off at 8am.