Most of the islands of Van Don are small. The essential substance of islands is limestone, so land makes just a small proportion of the total area of Van Don. The main area is the sea. Forest areas account for 68% of the natural land area. There are no large rivers on the islands and on the largest islands there are only streams. The local people call the straits between the islands and inland and between the islands themselves “the rivers”. For example, the Voi Lon River is a strait between Cai Bau Island and the mainland. There are two small lakes in Van Don, which are Vong Tre and Mat Rong Lakes. There is the Mang River on Quan Lan Island.
The average rainfall per year of Van Don is over 2000 millimeters. Population: 45,000 people, of which the Kinh (Viet) people are about 86%; San Diu people 10%; Hoa people 1.5 %; Dao people 1.3%. The San Chi and Tay minorities also live here.
The principal means of transport are the waterways between islands. Van Hoa port in Van Yen commune and Cai Rong port in Cai Rong town are the key transport hubs of the islands. Barges, large boats and ships, weighing hundreds of tons, may easily go in and out of these ports. The longest land road is Road No. 31, of 40 kilometers in length. It runs across Cai Bau Island and links this island to the mainland through Cua Ong town.
People have lived on the islands of Van Don Island district from the earliest times. Archaeological sites are numerous here. The Soi Nhu cave is a Middle Neolithic archaeological site having existed earlier than Ha Long Civilization. Ancient graves in Da Bac hamlet of Minh Chau commune were built during the Han dynasty. The name Van Don originated from the name Van Mountain (Cloudy Mountain) in Van village of Quan Lan commune today. Van village belongs to the Van Hai chain of islands. In the Tran dynasty Van Don became a prosperous center of sea transport and commerce, as evidenced by archaeological excavations.
The key branches of the economy of Van Don are sea exploitation and mine-ore exploitation, including raising sea products, fishing, the plantation and exploitation of forests, sea tourist services, limestone and coal mining, the exploitation of white sand, iron and thin gold. Farming is not significant. Forestry gets diminished as forest resources become exhausted.
Various valuable sea creatures such as prawn, squid, and pearl live in the sea of Van Don. Exploitation of sea creatures started a long time ago but was mainly limited to the occupation of inshore fishing and raising fish in cages. Offshore fishing has been developed only since 1995. Since 1990 aquaculture has much developed. The industry of mine ore exploitation (including coal exploitation) began during the time of French domination in the Ke Bao coal mine. The current reserve of coal here is about 107,000,000 tons. The reserve of Cai Bau iron ore is about 154,000 tons. The white sand ore has a reserve of over 13,000,000 tons. Now sand is exploited at the rate of 20,000 tons per year. Thin sediment gold and gold mixed with iron are found on Cai Bau Island.
Van Don is related to the World Natural Heritage of Ha Long Bay. So in Van Don are a variety of limestone islands and beautiful caves. In the communes of the Van Hai external island chain there are many nice beaches, tasty sea products, clean climate and valuable historical and cultural vestiges. Van Don has great potential for developing tourist services.
The forests on the islands of Van Don formerly included plenty of kinds of precious wood such as ironwood, ebony, vatica tonkinensis wood and burretiodendron hsienmu wood. “Man Lai” wood is an endemic wood of Van Don. The Quan Lan communal house is entirely made of this Man Lai wood. The forests have many valuable birds and animals, for example yellow monkey, white head parrot, earth eagle, peacock, pheasant and spotted deer. Some of them now have only a small quantity and are listed in the world Red Book.
In 2007 the government approved the establishment of the Van Don economic zone. Now infrastructural facilities are under construction. As planned, there will be a center for high-class ecological tourism of the sea and islands, an airline center and a center for high-class services. Van Don is also an international transport hub for promoting the economy of Van Don in general and of Quang Ninh province in particular.

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