Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is located south of Ha Long Bay in the sea of Hai Phong City and Quang Ninh province, about 30 kilometers from the center of Hai Phong City and 25 kilometers from Ha Long city. Among the 1,969 islands of Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba Island is the largest. It is also the largest island of a complex of 367 local islands. Cat Ba Island is an administrative territorial unit of Cat Hai Island district of Hai Phong City.
It is otherwise known as Ngoc (Pearl) Island. Legends say that the genuine meaning of Cat Ba possibly is Cac Ba (i.e. Ladies) because once there were women fulfilling logistics works for the men battling on the neighboring “Gentlemen” island. That is, Cat Ba is a corrupt pronunciation of Cac Ba.
Cat Ba has a romantic landscape. It is located at the height of 70 meters above sea level. The six communes of the island are Gia Luan, Hien Hao, Phu Long, Tran Chau, Viet Hai and Xuan Dam Islands. Cat Ba town is located in the southeast of the island, facing the Lan Ha harbor. The majority of the population are the Kinh (Viet) people.
Cat Ba has a tropical, monsoon and oceanic climate. Compared with the mainland, Cat Ba is cooler in summer but warmer in winter. The rainy season is in July and August. The average temperature is 25-28°C and varies from season to season. The average temperature in summer may be over 30°C and 15-20°C in winter. Sometimes the temperature may be below 10°C (when the northern monsoon is blowing). Average humidity: 85%. Tidal amplitude: 3.3-3.9 m. The salinity of seawater is from 0.930% (in the rainy season) to 3.111% (in the dry season).
Virgin forests are growing on the limestone mountains of Cat Ba where ecological tourism is promoted. The Lan Ha bay is on the southeast side of Cat Ba; and on the southwest side is the Cat Gia bay with some small clean sand grounds. Waves here are not big, so relaxation by the sea and tourism may develop. From the surface of the sea emerge limestone mountains as beautiful as those in Bai Tu Long and Ha Long Bays. On some small islands are also many nice beaches. The road crossing Cat Ba is 27 kilometers in length, and has lots of steep, winding mountain passes and slopes. It snakes close to the coastline and goes through the national park, where there is a charming landscape.
Trung Trang Cave on Cat Ba is located 15 kilometers from the town and next to the road crossing the island. There are a variety of stalactites in this cave. Hundreds of people may house in it. There is also Hung Son Cave located 13 kilometers from the town and on the road crossing the island. It is otherwise known as Quan Y (Military hospital) Cave, because during the Viet Nam War a hospital of hundreds of beds was built in this cave. The newly found Phu Long (Cai Vieng) Cave is considered more charming than Trung Trang Cave. Cat Ba Island has the following beaches: Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, Cat Dua, Cat Ong and Cat Trai Gai Beaches. These are small, beautiful and hidden beaches with smooth sand and much salty water. The water is so clean that the seabed is visible.
Cat Ba National Park is located 35 sea miles to the east of Hai Phong city. Area: 15,200 hectares (9,800 hectares are mountains and forests and 5,400 hectares are sea surface). The major part of Cat Ba Island is located at the height of about 50-200 meters, but Cat Ba National Park is entirely situated in a rugged mountainous area at a height just under 500 meters. The main parts of Cat Ba Island are limestone mountains lying between narrow valleys in a northeast- southwest direction.
On Cat Ba are focused all values of biodiversity conservation. It can satisfy the standards for a world biosphere reserve, because it has tropical forests, mangrove forests, coral reefs, sea plants, lots of caves, grottos and island lakes. That is why on 2 December 2004 it was recognized by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve. The total area of the Cat Ba biosphere reserve is over 26,000 hectares, with two core zones (i e. strictly preserved zones without human effects), two buffer zones (in which restrained economic development and nature preservation are permitted) and two transitional zones for economic development. Cat Bas biosphere reserve also has tropical forests, mangrove forests, coral reefs, sea plants, lots of caves, grottos and island lakes.
Cat Ba has nearly 60 flora and fauna species considered as endemic and rare species, listed in the Red Book of Viet Nam. They include the pica bird, white collared crow, Golden headed langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus), trachypithecus delacouri langur, annamocarya sinensistree tree, nageia fleuryi tree, chukrasia tabularis tree, perfume chestnut, smilaxglabra herb, sasajaponica tree and madhuca pasquieri tree. There are also eight kinds of sea plant and seven species of sea animal living on the seabed and are to be protected.

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