By Andreas Ambarchian
Located in Quang Ninh Province on the north east coast of Vietnam, the UNESCO Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay is a unique archipelago made up of some 1,969 islands. There are a number of ways to visit the Ha Long Bay land masses, which are a major attraction in the region.
Much of Ha Long Bay is protected from commercial development by law, allowing the natural wonders of the region to flourish. Some of the most biologically diverse areas of Ha Long Bay are on the uninhabited islands, such as Ban Sen, which is thickly covered with a tropical forest.
The more densely populated islands also have their own draws. The biggest island in the region is Cat Ba, on which is located the Cat Ba National Park. Here, visitors can take a walking tour in hopes of seeing the critically endangered golden headed langur.
One of the most visited islands in the area is Bo Hon, which has two large caves featuring unusual rock formations that appear particularly eerie in moonlight. The Dau Go Island also has some spectacular caves, though the natural essence of the grottos has been compromised somewhat with the addition of concrete restructuring and unnatural lighting.
Junk Boat Ride
This is the traditional way to explore Ha Long Bay. Boats of varying classes take passengers on voyages lasting from a few hours to a couple of nights. Trips can be booked beforehand at travel agents in Hanoi, the capital city, located around 100 miles east of Ha Long.
If booking in situ, it’s best to make reservations at Bai Chay Wharf in the town of Ha Long. The best voyages take passengers around the hidden corners of the lagoons, while providing a cooked meal. Some overnight cruises may even include onboard entertainment.
The myriad waterways between the hundreds of islands make for scenic kayaking and allow almost unimpeded access to the most remote areas of the bay. Kayaking tours can last up to several hours and can be booked from travel companies on the mainland. It’s important to make sure the tour company provides your safety equipment, as water currents can be strong around the islands.
Although the route to the top can be a challenge, once a rock face has been conquered, the view from the summit offers a unique vista of the bay. Rock climbing at Ha Long Bay is available for people of all experience, abilities and fitness levels. All equipment should be provided for by the tour company. Guides are compulsory even for experienced climbers, a measure required by local law.
Have you explored Ha Long Bay? Tell us about it!
Andreas Ambarchian is a freelance journalist from England. He writes about a variety of subjects including travel, wildlife and sport. He wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel, specialists in adventure tours all over Southeast Asia.