Vietnam has many islands, yet only one of them is listed in the famous old “silk road” on the east sea. It is Cu Lao Cham or Cham Island, which has been recognised by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve. Here, tourists can partake in sight-seeing or just enjoy the under-sea beauty.
Cu Lao Cham belonging to Hoi An town in Quang Nam province comprises of several islets including the Lao, Lui, Dai, Mo, Kho, La, Tai and Nom, of which Lao is the biggest. On this islet, there are the beaches of the Ong, Lang and Huong with about 3,000 inhabitants who earn their living by fishing and farming. Lao islet has primeval forests, streams and beautiful beaches with clear, blue water.
Ten years ago, due to loose management, the local forest and sea resources were over exploited by man. In the past, visitors f-rom the mainland used to pillage the local coral to keep as a souvenir, but now, this practice is strictly prohibited.
Around Cu Lao Cham there are 135 species of coral, of which 6 have been recognised as unique to Vietnam’s sea., 500 species of coralline and seaweed, 202 species of fish, 4 species of lobsters and 84 species of mollusks. The coral reefs around Cu Lao Cham are highly valued by scientists and listed in the book for special protection. In October 2003, Cu Lao Cham Nature Reserve was established and become one ofVietnam’s 15 marine reserves.
Cu Lao Cham has a rocky abrupt shoreline whe-re the sea waves crash, creating magnificent views. In the large open caves, like the To Vo and Kho, swifts build their nests on the high cliffs. The swifts nest is a tonic food. Each year, about 400kg of swift nests are exported, bringing a turnover of US$2 million to the locals.
About 4 meters under the water around Cu Lao Cham’s islet is an incredible world if wonders. When the sea is calm and it is sunny, tourists can travel across it in a glass bottom boat to see the coral. Adventure-loving tourists can don diving gear provided by the Sea Reserve Management Board and experience the underwater world and the marvelous world of coral. All around them, there are sea cucumbers and colorful fish dining on the coral parasites.
To raise local people and tourists’ awareness of Cu Lao Cham forest and sea resources, the authorities in Hoi An City launched a campaign to inform the public of the importance of protecting this natural wonderland. In addition, they have made it easier for the local people to stabilize their life by fishing, farming and supplying tourist services.