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Time Required : 4-5 hours

Entry Fee : VND 70,000 is charged for entering the beaches at the Cua Dai Pier before entering the waters of the protected area

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Cham Islands, Da Nang Overview

A group of 8 spectacular islands, Cham Islands located off the coast of Hoi An in Central Vietnam, has been garnering much interest since it was declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2009. The inhabitants of the charming islands are recognized as a distinct community with the entire area being governed by the local Tan Hiep commune.

Hon Lao is the largest and only island in the cluster that is home to several villages while the lesser islands of Hon Dai, Hon Kho Me, Hon Mo, Hon Kho Con, Hon Tai, Hon Ong and Hon La are known for their scenic beauty and diversity of marine life including the presence of a few endangered species that are not found elsewhere in the world.

The fishing villages of Cham Islands offer an insight into the life of the local populace while the seven magnificent beaches on Hon Lao possess a number of charms including natural caves and tranquil sites that are excellent for relaxation.

Visitors can enjoy a day’s outing at the wonderful and unspoiled natural islands by booking specific packages from the tour operators located in and around Hoi An & Da Nang cities. However, tourists eager to try a number of water sports prefer to stay overnight.

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Scuba Diving, Snorkelling and More

Scuba Diving: There are several companies offering scuba diving services in the main island of Hon Lao. The enthusiasts are given a quick training, provided with the required gear and asked to dive deep into the water for watch the busy marine life weave in and out of the spectacular coral reefs.

Snorkeling: This is the most popular activity at the Cham islands with almost all tour operators including it within their packages. However, many individuals choose to do it independently by contacting the island authorities at the pier. Full snorkeling equipment and the services of an English speaking guide are available for VND 200,000 here. People eager to try snorkeling need to have the required permit that is issued by the, “Cu Lao Cham MPA” in exchange for VND 30,000.

Swimming: It is possible to swim around lazily in the shallow waters near the beaches. Bai Xep, Bai Bim and Bai Chong are considered to be the best beaches for swimming without interruptions.

Boat Tour: Hon Lao is the largest island with the activities being centered around it. However, many visitors choose to hire a boat to travel to the other islands of the cluster that offer a spectacular view of the surroundings. The plethora of marine life that washes up to the shores along with the colorful coral reefs and geological features makes such a tour both interesting and fun. Boats usually carry around 10 passengers per trip and can be hired at affordable rates. 

Sea Tekking: This is an activity that excites the young and old alike. With no gear or special skills needed, the visitors can walk into the sea by donning a special helmet. The view underwater is magnificent with the tourists remaining mesmerized by the colorful fishes and beautiful corals growing in abandon.

Camping: Nature lovers are excited to find the option of camping at the beaches of Cham Islands. While the local provide tents and option for home cooked food at Bai Ong and Bai Huong, the beaches of Bai Bim & Bai Xep are deemed to be the best camping sites for the tourists who enjoy the wilderness and untouched beauty.

Cham Island Attractions & Places to Visit

While the sparkling white sands of the beaches at Hon Lao along with the granite stone reefs and amazing coral reefs are enough to leave the tourists spellbound, there a number of other attractions at the Cham Islands that warrants a visit.

Hai Tang Pagoda- Locals worship Lord Buddha for safety and prosperity at this pagoda. It is located near the western mountains on the Hon Lao Island and overlooks the only paddy field in the area.

Marine Museum-
The museum on Ong Beach is a must visit as it displays a sizable collection of documents and artifacts depicting the history of the islands as well as the local tradition and rites with particular emphasis on the festivals as well as the marine life found in the waters around the Cham islands.

Ancient Well- The 200-year-old well that had been dug by the Cham people continues to remain active today by producing water throughout the year regardless of the dry spells. The well is similar to the ones found in Hoi An City and is shaped like a pipe.

History of Cham Islands

The Cham Islands have been inhabited for 2500 years by the Champa People who formed their kingdom in the Hue region. Their rule that lasted from 200 AD to 1835 AD with the Malayo-Polynesian origin expanding their business interests particularly in the spice trade out of the commercial center of Hoi An during 7th to 10th century. The village of Bai Lang served as an important port of call for the ships laden with a cargo of spice as they were unable to enter the shallow waters of Hoi An river.

The Cham Islands, known locally as Cu Lao Cham, has an intrinsically Vietnamese character with multiple shrines and pagodas constructed by the Vietnamese population between 18th to 20th centuries in order to stamp their cultural imminence on the people. The islands become a refuge for many Vietnamese between the years of 1965 to 1970 as the people were eager to avoid being drafted during the Vietnamese War. The hill top is under the control of the military to date. However, the, “Cham Island Marine Park Administration” has relaxed the regulations a bit at present thereby encouraging tourism in the area.

Tips for Visiting Cham Islands

1. It is best to visit the uninhabited islands during the morning hours when the sea remains comparatively calm 
2. It is advisable to check with the authorities before visiting remote locations for hiking is only permitted between two of the villages on Hon Lao
3. It is essential to carry one’s passport and travel documents while visiting Cham islands
4. It is advisable to avoid visiting the islands on weekends due to excessive crowding
5. Using sunscreen and shielding the eyes and heads while going out into the beaches is recommended
6. It is best to be fully dressed while visiting the villages. However, swimwear is acceptable on the beaches.

How To Reach Cham Islands

  • The cluster of islands is found just off Hoi An coast. It lies in close proximity to the cities of Da Nang & Hoi An in Central Vietnam.
  • Tourists have to reach Hoi An city in order to reach the Cham islands. The foreigners prefer to hire a speed boat for VND 800,000 to VND 12, 000,000 to get to islands within 15 to 20 minutes. There are multiple tour operators offering day tours to the islands as well. Individuals keen to visit the island can buy their ticket priced VND 300,000 from Cua Dai Pier and travel with a group.
  • The locals and people looking for an exotic vessel can opt for a tau cho (wooden boat) as well. People willing to spend the night at the island favour this form of transportation as it is more affordable costing only VND 50,000. However, it takes almost 90 minutes to reach Cham Island from Cua Dai Pier, taking off at 8:00 AM every morning.
  • Visiting beaches and specific locations of the main island is usually done on foot. However, the villagers also offer motorbikes for a daily rent of VND 200,000. The other islands of Hon Ba, Bai Bim and Dao Yen (salangane island) can be visited by hiring a boat that carries a group of 10 people.

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