Ha Long Bay

Vietnam

Where Is It?

Ha Long Bay is located in the Gulf of Tonkin, in the Northeast of Vietnam. It covers an area of 43,400 ha and includes over 1600 islands and islets, most of which are unaffected and untouched by humans.


Why is it a popular tourist destination?

Ha Long Bay is a popular destination because of its exceptional scenic beauty. It is well known for it's spectacular limestone pillars with a variety of coastal erosional features, such as arches and caves that lead people to say is a seaside sculpted by nature. It is also a World Heritage Site. It isn't just a World Heritage Site because of its beauty, but it also provides a unique and extensive collection of data for the future understanding of geo-climatic history. Even despite the long history of human use in the area, the landform values, cultural heritage and key features such as islands and caves remain intact and the area retains a high level of naturalness.


Social Factors

Ha Long Bay hasn't been affected by the high level of tourism, marine transport, fisheries, and the daily activities of people living and conducting their business in Ha Long Bay. This is because of it's strict control of activities and management of the area in an attempt to minimize impacts on the integrity of the area. What if it were to be affected by these things though?
To minimize these impacts, they have regulations on operation of tourist boats, land filling, fisherman and floating house management. The people in control of Ha Long Bay's management also provide an education and promote to the community about awareness of heritage values and their protection.


Ha Long Bay's History

Ha Long Bay has many legends and stories of its history that defines its name and creation. The local people have an interesting story about the creation of the bay.
"It is said that when the Chinese were fighting with the Vietnamese, the Gods sent dragons to help the Vietnamese warriors. Trying to make a barrier, the dragons split precious stones that turned into islands. These islands created a wall that protected the Vietnamese people. The dragons liked the islands and so decided to stay after the war." The people named the place Ha-Long, which means, "a place where the dragon descended into the sea." It wasn't called Ha Long Bay until the late 19th century when crew of a ship reported seeing a huge sea snake in Ha Long Bay. What if this sighting was the reason for the area's name?
Whether the appearance of a strange animal representing a dragon resulted in the name of the bay, is not known.

Why Is The Environment The Way It Is?

As Ha Long Bay is a Karst environment (a landscape underlain by limestone which has been eroded to provide ridges, towers, sinkholes and other characteristic landforms), it has a long geological history. The limestone in this bay has gone through 500 million years of formation in different conditions and environments. The mountains are caused by rain water working its way through the limestone. Year after year, heavy tropical rains washed out the limestone, carving amazing shapes and creating caves.

Ha Long Bay is also home to great biodiversity with eco-systems like mangrove forests, coral and tropical forests. It is also home to many plants and animals of numerous species, for example shrimp, fish and squid. Some species are particularly rare and can be found no where else, being home to 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic animal species.



How has a World Heritage listing affected the economy?

Since becoming a World Heritage listing, the visitor numbers have increased. There are many websites that promote Ha Long Bay and numerous tours. Since it is impossible to photograph the bay from the shore, visitors and tourists are pushed to hire boat tours. There are several travel agencies who offer boat tours in the bay but Ha Long Bay and the islanders have privatised these companies. Meaning the businesses are no longer public ownership but controlled by private enterprise. This means the locals are able to make money from the tourists that visit.


What if the tourists destroy the bay though? Well, although an increase in tourism provides the area with a supply of money, the environment is also being disrupted by this. Local government and businesses are aware of the problems though and many measures have been taken to minimize tourism affects to the environment for sustainable economic growth.

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