Craggy, rugged and jungle-clad, Cat Ba Island is the largest of the 367 islands that comprise the Cat Ba Archipelago, which makes up the southeastern section of Lan Ha Bay. Almost half of the island and 90 sq km of the surrounding waters were designated a national park in 1986 in order to protect Cat Ba’s diverse ecosystems. What’s great about Cat Ba Island is that it maintains the remarkable and rugged features of Halong Bay. It is in fact, one of the must-see attractions in Halong Bay. No wonder just about every cruise company offers daily trips to the island, attracting throngs of tourists looking to enjoy a day of exciting and fun-filled activities.
Also called “Pearl Island”, Cat Ba is located in Cat Ba district, Hai Phong province, to the south of the world-famous Halong Bay. It’s about 50 kilometers (32 miles) from Hai Phong City, a trip that takes approximately 1 hour by speedboat. The island is divided into six communes and is home to 13,000 people. A further 4,000 live in the floating villages immediately off the coast.
History and Legend
Based on studies, the history of Cat Ba Island can be traced as far back as 6000 years ago. The name Cat Ba means “Women’s Island” and as with all things in Vietnam, there are a lot of interesting legends about it. One states that many centuries ago, three women of the Tran Dynasty were murdered. The bodies washed up to the shores of Cat Ba Island and were found by fishermen. The locals then built a temple for each woman and the island later became known as Cat Ba.
Cat Ba Island boasts an extremely diverse ecosystem with plenty of unique flora and fauna. There are 1,561 plant species identified from 186 families. There are also 279 animal species of which 23 are either classified as endangered or critically endangered. The fauna includes 53 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 66 species of amphibians and reptiles and 274 species of insects. Aquatically, there are 900 species of fish, 178 species of corals, 21 species of seaweed, 7 species of sea snakes, and 4 species of sea turtles. With such high biodiversity, Cat Ba Island was officially recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve Zone. It is no surprise that Cat Ba Island is also considered a wonder of nature.