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Asia Dive News : Scuba diving paradise on Vietnam's central coast

VAN PHONG BAY, Vietnam - Van Phong Bay is a place of superlatives. A report of the Vietnam Maritime Department shows that Van Phong is one of the world's deepest bays.

United Nations tourism experts have also recognised it as one of Asia's most perfect sites for eco-tourism, and the bay has been rated as an ideal place for scuba diving.

Its clear, turquoise water and coral reefs are even said to be more beautiful than those at the Hon Mun Nature Reserve in Nha Trang.

Located some 100 kilometers north of the capital of the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, Van Phong covers 15,000 hectares, including 8,000 hectares of water in Van Ninh and Ninh Hoa districts.

Surrounded by Hon Gom Peninsula to the north and Hon Lon Peninsula to the southwest, Van Phong is considered a safe shelter for ships.

Because of the bay's location and depth, the Vietnamese Government allowed Khanh Hoa province in October 1999 to draw up a plan to develop Van Phong into an international deep sea port and a tourism venue.

But so far the bay remains mostly free of large container ships and bus loads of tourists.

Besides water and corals, the bay has more natural attractions. It is home to magnificent mountains with almost untouched forests and lovely beaches, and it is the habitat for hundreds of species of plants and animals.

The bay is known for Hon Ong, Dam Mon and Bai Nhau. Most of these places remain relatively deserted except for nearby fishing villages.

Thus, Hon Ong (whale island) is great for resting, enjoying the many beautiful sights and relics on the island. Visitors can learn about the inhabitants' fishing work and the habits and customs of minorities living in the bay.

For more entertainment, water sports, such as catamaran, windsurfing, scuba diving and snorkeling, are also on offer.

After exploring the ocean, you can walk along the white sandy beach, climb up the nearby mountain or observe animals in the island's forest.

At night visitors can stay in nice bungalows along the beach and eat seafood with Vietnamese.

The sea region of Dam Mon, covering 128 square kilometers, is another place worth a visit. Situated at the end of the newly built 18-kilometer road leading to Hon Gom Peninsular, Dam Mon boasts casuarina forests and the primitive wetland forest of Tuan Le.

After bathing in the blue sea, visitors to Dam Mon can rest in hammocks under the shady coconut trees along the beach or talk with children of the fishing village.

You can also walk across the sand dunes toward Dam Mon Village. There you can stop for a while to learn about how the local fishermen smear chai (a material made from a plant) onto the bottom of their boats to make them waterproof. The perfect sunset view is from the top of the dunes.

Scuba diving to the coral reefs, rowing boats and fishing squid or cuttle-fish at night are other activities at Dam Mon. From Dam Mon, visitors can also take a motorboat to discover the bay.

It takes around 45 minutes to get to the first site of interest, Bai Nhau (Nhau beach), where you can see groups of white and pink jellyfish swimming in the calm water. Again visitors can also dive down to coral reefs.

At night, visitors can choose from a wide selection of seafood, such as fresh squid and grilled shrimp, for dinner at Dam Mon's only hotel.

If you spend some days in Van Phong, you have time to take trips to see many other islands in the bay, such as Hon Lon, Hon Do, Ganh Da, Bai Lach, Bai Me and Bai Ong Co, as well as fishing villages, lobster-breeding cages and pearl oyster-raising areas.

Source: Nhan Dan