Getting to know more about V’Spirit Cruises new destination – Cat Ba Nature Reserve Area

Starting from February 1st 2016, V’Spirit Cruises will apply a new itinerary with new destinations and new activities. In the new course, we will take you to Cat Ba Natural Reserve Area. Why don’t we spend a little time to know more about our newest destination.

Map V'Spirit

Cat Ba Island is situated a mere 50 km east of Hai Phong city in the north of Vietnam. Cat Ba Island is part of a chain of 366 islands that lie within the larger area of Halong Bay. Cat Ba island has a surface area of 285 km2 and maintains the dramatic and rugged features of Ha Long Bay. The island is easily accessible and matches neighbouring Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay for stunning natural beauty. It also offers visitors the added options of relaxation, adventure and cultural exchange. In April 2005, Cat Ba was officially recognized as Cat Ba Archipelago Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Cat Ba Island means “Women’s Island” (Cat meaning sandy and Ba meaning women). Legend tells that three women of the Tran Dynasty died and each drifted to a sandy beach on the island. Afterwards, the inhabitants built temples on each of the beaches and the island is named Cat Ba Island (Women’s Island) and the temples are called Women’s Temples. Opposite Cat Ba Town is small Cat Ong Island (Men’s Island) which was once a secret place for soldiers to hide weapons.

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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 few populated islands in Ha Long Bay, with roughly 17,000 inhabitants of which 4,000 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 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 National Park is located 15km north – west of Cat Ba Town. It was established in 1986. It spans an area of 15,200ha, of which 9,800ha are forest, and contains lots of particularly interesting caves. The original tropical forest spans an area of 570ha, with extremely varied wildlife and vegetation.

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Cat Ba National Park was Vietnam’s first national park to include both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The park and the surrounding area are nationally and internationally recognized for their importance to biodiversity conservation, exemplified through the recognition of the Cat Ba Archipelago as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 2004. This is not only because the area has a high number of different ecosystem and habitat types but also because it possesses a great variety of plant and animal species, many of which, like the Cat Ba langur, are now rare and endangered.

The national park is home to 32 types of mammals and more than 70 species of birds have been sighted. Large mammals include the Cat Ba langur, the Southern Serow, Leopard Cat, black giant squirrel and civet cats, many of which are endangered. The cave, land snail and butterfly fauna is rich including four species of true cave snails. Interestingly, the most northerly cave-adapted crab species also occurs here. In 2007, 27 species of bat were recorded here including one new species as well as the first record of a species in Vietnam. Additionally, a reptile survey was conducted in Cat Ba National Park. This led to the discovery of the Cat Ba Leopard Gecko, yet another species to add to the growing list of endemic and rare species on Cat Ba.

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There are 745 species of plants recorded on Cat Ba, including 118 timber species and 160 plants with medicinal value, many of which can only be found in Ha Long Bay. Seventy-two species are listed as nationally or internationally rare or endangered. A special type of tree called “Cay Kim Giao” is unique to Cat Ba. In ancient times, kings and nobles would eat only with chopsticks made from this timber, as the light coloured wood was reputed to turn to black when it touched anything poisonous.

The golden–headed langur or Cat Ba langur is a rare and a precious animal. The only known locality of where this langur occurs is the island of Cat Ba. There is no evidence to suggest that the Cat Ba langur ever inhabited the mainland. Immigration of this species onto Cat Ba Island might have taken place around 10,000 years ago. Cat Ba langurs are one of several langur species that are closely associated with limestone areas meaning their habitat consists chiefly of limestone covered Karst forest. They regularly sleep in caves throughout the year to guard against unfavorable weather conditions. A group of langurs may use up to twelve different caves as resting sites. They generally spend only one or two nights in the same cave before moving on to other feeding and resting areas. The coloration of male and female langurs is nearly identical the only difference being a white pubic patch on the female. Infants have a flamboyant orange and only begin developing their adult coloration at about four months of age.

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This species is one of the most endangered primates in the world. The langurs population numbers, which used to be between 2,400-2,700, dwindled to as low as only 53 langurs in 2000 due to poaching for traditional medicine and habitat fragmentation caused by human development. Today, there are approximately 68 langurs left in the wild. The langur population and its habitat is monitored by the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project (CBLCP), a German-based NGO that works in close cooperation with the national park staff and the local government on Cat Ba Island and in Hai Phong province.