Ha Long Bay - Ha Long Cruise

Ha Long bay Vietnam - Halong Bay is a beautiful natural wonder in northern Vietnam. The Bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sqkm. This extraordinary area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. For many tourists, this place is like something right out of a movie. The fact is that Halong Bay features a wide range of biodiversity, while the surrealistic scenery has indeed featured in endless movies.
  • Halong Bay
  • Halong Bay

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay is one of Mother Earth’s most amazing natural wonders and one of Vietnam’s most prized treasures. A comfortable 3 hours drive from Hanoi, Halong Bay is in Northeastern Vietnam on the shores of the Gulf of Tonkin. The bay is dominated by more than 1,600 limestone karsts and islets which rise out of the waters of the bay to heights of up to 100 meters (330 feet) and the numerous caves and grottos spread throughout the bay. Abundant scenic beauty, archeological and geological significance, cultural and historical connections, fresh seafood and proximity to international gateways make Halong Bay one of Vietnam’s most popular places to visit.
Such is the significance of Halong Bay that in 1994, UNESCO recognized the heart of Halong Bay as being a site of natural World Heritage and stated that "Apart from Halong Bay there are no equivalent sites on the World Heritage List..."

Geographical Location/Distribution
Halong Bay is located on the Western side of the Gulf of Tonkin in Northeastern Vietnam. The bay is approximately 35 km (21 miles) Northeast of the port city of Hai Phong and approximately 170 km (105 miles) by road from the capital Hanoi. The town of Halong is situated on the coast to the North of the bay. The journey from Hanoi to Halong takes approximately 3.5 hours.
Halong Bay is formed by Cat Ba island to the South, Ngoc Hung and Van Canh islands to the East and the Vietnamese coastline to the North and West. The bay covers a total area of 1,553 square kilometers (600 square miles). Occupying the heart of the bay between Halong town and Cat Ba island, the central World Heritage area stretches for 434 square kilometers (167 square miles).
Natural Features
Islands and Karsts
The most outstanding feature of Halong Bay and undoubtedly its greatest attraction are the 1,696 islands, islets and rocky karst outcrops. 989 of these islets and rocky outcrops have been been given imaginative names by the locals over the years. These have been derived from their perceived shapes and include names such as Man’s Head, Fighting Cocks, Wading Ox and Wallowing Buffalo.
With heights ranging from 50-100 meters (160-330 feet) and a height-to-width ratio of about 6:1, the majority of these karst pinnacles and islets have sheer, vertical cliffs. They are uninhabited and unaffected by human activities. The pure size and numbers of these outcrops provide a stunning contrast and backdrop to the turquoise waters of the bay when viewed from sea level.
Caves and Grottos
Another exceptional geological feature of Halong Bay is the number of limestone islands which have caves and grottoes within them. The total number of caves has never been determined and there are almost certainly more which are yet to be discovered. In order to preserve the natural state and integrity of the large number of caves and grottos in the World Heritage Area, only some are open to visitors. The most commonly visited are Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace) cave, Dau Go (Wood Tip) grotto, Sung Sot (Surprise) cave and Trinh Nu (Virgin) grotto.
The shapes and formations on the sides and rooves of the caves, many now being part of local folklore and legends, bear witness to the different stages of formation over the ages. Some cave features, such as calcified shell-beds, are the direct result of ancient human activity.
Sea and Lakes
The lower chambers of some caves and grottos are below sea level. Due to the porous nature of limestone, these chambers are often partially filled to form tidal lakes and pools. Although most of these are shallow, the depths of some have never been determined. The geomorphology of Halong Bay indicates that it is almost certain that there are undiscovered and fully entombed lakes within many of the islands. Dau Be (Goat’s Head island) alone has 6 different tidal lakes.
The sea in Halong Bay is generally less than 10 meters (33 feet) deep and boasts a rich biodiversity of about 1,000 species of marine animals. Over 160 species of coral have been identified. Coral reefs make up 30% of the seabed and in some areas as much as 80% of the seabed is covered in coral reefs. Most coral reefs are at a depth of 4-6 meters.
The majority smaller islets and karsts are capped with a low shrubby ’crown’ The larger islands are home to dense tropical forests featuring abundant bird life. The island of Cat Ba on the Southern flank of Halong Bay is a rich treasure trove for nature lovers. The National Park which occupies much of the island, and some of the surrounding waters, ranges in diversity from double-tiered primeval tropical rainforest on the slopes of the hills, down to tidal mangrove forests and inshore coral reefs. The island is home to several plant and tree species highly prized for their medicinal properties, and one of the rarest primate species on earth, the Cat Ba (Golden-headed) Langur. There may be as few as 50 of these animals between here and extinction.

Attractions and Activities
Undoubtedly Halong Bay’s greatest attraction is its natural scenery. The towering limestone outcrops jutting skywards from the emerald-blue waters. The sheer numbers and size of the islands, islets and karsts within the bay serve to humble even the most jaded traveler.
Swimming, kayaking, hiking and of course photography are favorite pastimes for visitors to Halong Bay - one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Vietnam. Abundant fresh local seafood is another delight.
Floating fishing villages are the most popular human attraction. Entire village populations live, work and die on these ’floating islands’ in Halong Bay. The villagers are mainly fisherfolk and ply the waters around their villages selling their fresh produce to the passing tourist trade.

Cat Ba Island

“Rugged, craggy and jungle-clad, Cat Ba is straight out of Jurassic Park.” That’s how Lonely Planet introduces this incredible island which neighbours the Halong Bay World Heritage site. Sparsely populated Cat Ba Island is the largest of the 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago. Almost half of the Island’s 140 square kilometres, along with 90 square kilometres of the adjacent waters, were declared a National Park in 1986 to protect its diverse eco-systems. 

Both Cat Ba Island and its National Park have a variety of land cover including bushes and woodland, limestone karst, limestone forest, agricultural areas, bamboo forest, mangrove and sea grass beds.
It is also home to the highly endangered Cat Ba golden-headed langur, one of the ten rarest species in the world, as well as other rare mammals.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Located immediately east of Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay stretches all the way to the Chinese border, encompassing a massive area, which includes a long string of islands and a national park.
According to the legend, after descending to Halong Bay millions of years ago, and dropping numerous eggs which hatched forming thousands of rocks and islands, the dragon returned to heaven. As she did, she said goodbye to her offspring at Bai Tu Long Bay (which means “The dragon parts the offspring’’).
Bai Tu Long Bay is every bit as beautiful as its more famous neighbour, Halong Bay. Indeed in some ways it is even more beautiful as it has scarcely seen any tourist development.




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