The Cham Islands are a cluster of islands in Tan Hiep Commune, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province. About 15 kilometres offshore from Cua Dai Beach, the Cham Islands are recognised as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The Cham Islands constitute 8 islands namely Hon Lao (Pearl Island), Hon Dai (Long Island), Hon Mo (Tomb Island), Hon Kho me (Dry Island – mother), Hon Kho con (Dry Island – child), Hon La (Leaf Island), Hon Tai (Ear Island) and Hon Ong (Man Island). The total population of the Cham Islands is approximately 3,000.
Each time visiting the Cham Islands, I had different feelings. On my first time to the Cham Islands, I felt overwhelmed by the great space while the sky was in harmony with the sea and the forest. For the second time, I was excited diving in the blue sea, watching the breathtaking coral reefs or joining night squid fishing trip. The third time, I came here for love. I love the local habitants who are protecting and preserving the islands with their endless love and faith.
The Cham Islands are a historical and cultural relic closely related to the establishment and development of the urban town and trading harbour of Hoi An. There are many relics of Sa Huynh culture, Cham Pa culture and Dai Viet culture. Architecture structures of the Viet and Cham peoples here date back hundreds of years. The Cham Islands are attractive to visitors thanks to year-round cool weather and diverse flora and fauna. The coral reefs in the marine area of the Cham Islands are highly appreciated and listed in the World’s Red Book of Endangered Species. According to Mr Jackie Han, Deputy Director ofHoabinhtourist & Convention, visitors to Quang Nam Province make up a large proportion of the domestic tours of the company. As the Cham Islands are a World Biosphere Reserve, people come here to relax, go snorkelling, discover the life of local people and enjoy the unspoilt beauty of the islands.
To have green and clean environment like this, the local inhabitants have to come together to protect the islands. They know that 90 percent of the area is forest and mountain. If they don’t protect the islands, they will be just barren. The waste problem, if not addressed, threatens the habitat of off-shore and undersea flora and fauna. Mr Nguyen Tan An, a local habitant in Bai Lang, Tan Hiep Commune, said: “Imagine that one day we dive and do not see any coral reefs, but only plastic bags and garbage in the sea. Nobody wants to see that. Therefore, we are determined to protect the environment. We are happy that Cham Islands are recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve. It is a good thing, showing that we care about the environment and in return we benefit from the environment.”
The wonderful environment of the Cham Islands is satisfactory to visitors. Mr Rachanarit, a tourist from Malaysia, said that a wild and peaceful space like this is very rare, with many trees and beautiful sand. The water is so clean that we can see the coral reefs and many kinds of fish. The environment here is very good.
At twilight, the whole islands seem to wear a beautiful shining coat, woven by numerous last rays of sunset. The children of the village gather at the wharf to play and swim. Food stalls are ready to serve. Delicious foods such as noodle, grilled meat, seafood, sweetened porridge are so attractive to tourists. According to Ms Cao Thi Tam, a local on the Cham Islands, there are many kinds of specialties such as stone crab, abalone, thorn snail and cone snail. Cone snail is a local specialty that everybody wants to try it. Wild vegetable is typical with various kinds. The root can be boiled to make a drink. Wild vegetables are rare in summer but plentiful in winter. The local people live on wild vegetable in winter, or storm season.
Coming to the Cham Islands, you can do a homestay in a fisherman’s house. The host family welcomes you hospitably. Simple meals with seafood, wild vegetables, fish, squid, etc. are served. After that, visitors chat with the host and are told numerous stories. The stories are about the hardships in the early days to the island, the fishing trips with days of rough sea. They tell mysterious folk tales about whales, the ancient well that never dries up, and the primeval forest where rare species of animals and plants are preserved. If you love sea views, you can stay in small tent on the smooth beach. Sitting around the fire, playing the guitar, singing with the waves and the wind, you will discover the mysterious beauty of the sea at night. Loneliness dissolves in the sea. When the music stops, the moon rises and gilds the sea with magic silver rays. The Cham Islands are such islands of dreams.
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