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CATBA ISLAND - VIETNAM

Cat Ba is the largest of the 366 islands spanning 260km2 that comprise the Cat Ba Archipelago, which makes up the southeastern edge of Ha Long Bay in Northern Vietnam. Cat Ba island has a surface area of 285 km2 and maintains the dramatic and rugged features of Ha Long Bay. It is commonly used as an overnight hotel stop on tours to Ha Long Bay run by travel agents from Hanoi. Cat Ba is the largest island in the Bay and approximately half of its area is covered by a National Park, which is home to the highly endangered Cat Ba Langur. The island has a wide variety of natural ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial, leading to incredibly high rates of biodiversity. Types of natural habitats found on Cat Ba Archipelago include limestone karsts, tropical limestone forests, coral reefs, mangrove and sea grass beds, lagoons, beaches, caves, and willow swamp forests. Cat Ba Island is one of the only populated islands in Ha Long Bay, with roughly 13,000 inhabitants living in six different communes, and 4,000 more inhabitants living on floating fishing villages off the coast. The large majority of the population can be found in Cat Ba Town which is located at the southern tip of the Island (15 km south of the national park) and is the commercial center on the Island. Since 1997, Cat Ba Town has grown rapidly and has become a tourist hub for both the Island and greater Ha Long Bay.

CAT BA ISLAND – THE PEARL OF VIETNAM
A trip to Cat Ba island can done separately or in combination with a visit to Halong Bay. Cat Ba Island is the largest island in the Cat Ba Archipelago that consists of 350 limestone outcrops adjacent to Halong Bay. This is an oasis where you can be gone for one or for several days. If you start from the Halong Bay Wharf, it will take you four hours by boat, with stopovers for swimming, visiting spectacular karst and eating fresh seafood. You can contemplate the beautiful scenery of Halong Bay before reaching the island. There is an alternative way of getting to Cat Ba Island if you are pressed for time and cannot take in Halong Bay on your tour. You can take an hydrofoil from the Hai Phong Seaport.

With an area of 356 square km, Cat Ba encompasses forested zones, coastal mangroves, freshwater swamps, beaches, caves and waterfalls. In 1986, the Northeast side of the island was designated a National Park and includes a protected marine zone. Cat Ba Island supports a population of over 20,000 inhabitants most of whom live off fishing or farming in and around Cat Ba Town. The town is small and ancient, with clusters of fishing boats. It is an ideal spot to watch inspiring sunsets across the harbor. You can even check out the catch-of-the-day in the early morning as the fishing boats return to port. See cuttlefish dried over hot charcoals, or stroll around the old town. It's a short hike from Cat Ba town through a tunnel to Cat Co Beach where mountains form a throne-like picture holding a marvelous sandy coast. You can even hike further along the beach to reach the rockier Cat Vang Beach.

As transportation in and around the town is not well-developed, the easiest and best way to get to the larger Trung Trang Cave with its many chambers, or to the National Park, or to discover other beaches around the island is by motorbike. A tour guide will be necessary to help you communicate with the local drivers and point out and explain the many beautiful sites. The National Park is made up of stringy trees, thick undergrowth and slippery vines. In the Park there is also a great view of an old French, now Vietnamese, farming village from the top of the mountain and a wonderful lake in the middle of the Park that takes a half day to reach. Please visit: www.DiscoveryHalong.com

(Source: LuxuryPrivateTravel.com INC)
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