Hoi An has a lot of wonderful things for its visitors. The coast has this amazing set of eight islands which are some of the ancient islands and are part of UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is said that the civilization of the Cham island Snorkeling is about 2500 years old, older than the Hoi An city. The culture of Cham Islands is a little different because it is inspired by the Malayo-Polynesian. They lived there from 200 B.C. to the eighteenth century. They created the Champa Kingdom from 200 A.D. that you will see Champa culture a lot in different parts of Vietnam.
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- – Cham Island Tour From Da Nang (private tour): 66 USD/pax
- – Cham Island Tour From Hoi An (group tour):45 USD/pax
This place is very interesting to explore because of the diversity and the strong cultural roots. Hoi An was the important trade port and Champas controlled the trade of Indonesia, Japan, China and Persian Gulf states. They were the major dealers of spice long before China and Portuguese. During the tenth century some Champa people had converted to Islam due to the influence of Arab maritime. There are a lot of activities other than Cham Island snorkeling for the tourists. There are mountains, hilly granite compositions, rivers, fresh water streams and natural forests with their own natural habitat.
The major activity is snorkeling to see the conserved marine life. Cu Lao Cham Marine Park is very famous for this purpose and it provides wonderful scuba diving and snorkeling experiences to its visitors. You can also join some independent diving centers on the islands which are located among the resorts, hotels and restaurants. Tents are also available to enjoy the camping among forests and mountains.
Land and Marine life of the Islands
The Forestry Protection Department of Quang Nam Forests keeps on working for the conservation of the native plant species. The mountain forests are extremely protected and natural. Another main cause is the water resources distribution in the entire areas which are also protected by the government. According to the top marine and technology departments of Quang nam province, the marine life of Cham islands has more than 130 species of Corals, more than 200 species of fish and a variety of different marine animals. These eight islands are part of marine conservation project. There are many well preserved corals reef, seaweeds and sea grass beds which keep on growing and providing life to many other species.
Best time to Visit Cham Island
March to September is the best time to enjoy the weather and water conditions. The climate is very pleasant and perfect for the beach; the water temperature is also good to soak in. However, June to August is highly recommended for diving and snorkeling. The Cu Lao Cham Marine Park is the best place to explore colorful corals and a wide variety of marine species. You can find different companies to plan a day trip to the islands. During the monsoon period (from October to February) Cham islands are closed and inaccessible because of the strong waves and winds. Companies do not offer trips during this period of time because it is extremely dangerous to visit.
Weather Precautions for Cham Island
Sometimes you find the private boats offering trips during February. That is not safe because they do not have the reliable transport to take the passengers in strong waves season. The facilities are not up to the mark. In addition to that, the climate is becoming even more rough and extreme because of the climate change and global warming. Even when the weather is changing from September to October, the unpredicted storms and typhoons are common. Sometimes the flood waves appear in Hoi An coastal areas or villages near the river.
Best Time for Cham Island Snorkeling
There are several points to keep in mind to enjoy the best climate during snorkeling
The time from the start of June till the end of the August is the best to explore the Cham islands. The ocean is very calm and the sun is strong and warm so the dip in the waters become more amazing and relaxing.
During this time there is a lot of Jelly fish so it is better to wear a swim suit or T-shirt to protect the body from the jelly fish.
Sometimes the weather becomes rough from April to June but this time snorkeling is the most common activity. You can also plan some beach activities as well according to the weather.
How to get to the Cham islands
The islands are easily accessible from June to August and during the other parts of the year, the weather is either rough or unpredictable. Lesser number of boats operate on the international standards in Vietnam so beware of the squalls and rain falls during the trips. You can get to the islands from Chua Dai Beach in about 30 minutes and the rent is around 10USD per head via express boat. Hoi An and Da Nang has numerous tour companies offering the group and private tours to Cu Lao Lam Marine Park.
Public Ferry to Cham Island
This is a slower and cheaper way of transportation. Ferry departs for Cham Islands once every day and stops at two locations. First location is An Hoi Pier that is better to travel if you are less than three people. Second location is the Cua Dai Pier that is good if you are more than three people. Cost of travel from both places is almost equal.
Speed boat from Hoi An
The fastest way to reach Cham Island is by speed boat. You only need 20 minutes to travel in 300,000 VND for one-way trip. The booking is available at Cua Dai Pier but booking through your hotel or resort is the better option. The prices may vary according to the boat and the time of the day. Getting boat after 3:00 pm becomes a little difficult so plan according to the availability.
Tour packages of Cham islands
The most common way to get to the Cham islands is the tour packages. It includes the beaches visit, stops of one or two villages, lunch and snorkeling. They also take you to different snorkeling sports and guide about the species you can see. This is the best option because you get enough time to enjoy what you like the most there.
Snorkeling trips of the Cham Islands
If you want to stay on Hon Lao Island and explore the areas, then remember that renting the motorcycles is not allowed to the tourists. You can hire a driver with bike that costs around 300,000 VND for two hours. The island is very easy to explore by walking so most tourists do not hire the vehicle. When you get there from Hoi an for snorkeling trip, you will find a huge variety of beach bars, restaurants and hotels. The tour companies normally offer seafood lunch at the beach. They also give snorkeling equipment and guide. You can take your snacks on the boats and try snorkeling in different parts of water to see different marine species. The snorkeling masks are not personal. If you have issues in using the used ones, then bring your own equipment because the equipment sold on the island costs more than normal.
Fees and Permits
When you book the tour, make sure which fees are included in the charges. Marine protected area, Bai Chong and Island fees, guide charges, snorkeling equipment rent, lunch etc. Normally these charges are included in the amount of the tour but sometimes it creates hassle when you get to the island and pay extra amount for everything.
Check list for Cham Island Snorkeling
- Sunblock, sunglasses and Hat
- Water bottle (tour companies give one bottle per head)
- Swim Wear and snorkeling equipment (if you do not want to use the used one)
- Basic medication and anti-allergic
- Clothes to change
- Towel and plastic slippers
How snorkeling trips helps in conservation projects
Before the making of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cu Lao Cham- Hoi An in 2009, the domestic tourism had almost destroyed the natural life of the islands. The organization created some conservation programs with the help of provincial government to protect the marine life and forests. There are a lot of places to see on the islands along with the conserved species. The travel between villages is best by walk or by bus. Otherwise ferries are also available to get around the areas.
The areas under Marine Park Administration (MPA) has a variety of underwater life. Only snorkeling is allowed in these areas and you need a proper permit from them. The charges paid for the snorkeling goes directly to the MPA support funds and they are used for the marine protection.
The forests areas are also well preserved and the hiking is only allowed in the area of two villages. It is the best way to get to the two villages and there are no charges for this.
Where to stay on Cham Islands
Stay at home
Different natives of the villages offer stay at their private homes. They offer shared or private rooms, vegetarians or seafood meal and return boat.
Cham Island Diving center
You can plan the snorkeling tour with the diving center. They offer all services like scuba diving, snorkeling, exploring trips, camping in the night or stay in the fisherman village, trips to different islands through wooden boats and guide.
Cham Island Tour
Trip includes two days and one night in which you can explore the daily routine of villagers, explore the beaches and local villages, try seafood meals and make a snorkeling trip.
Where to Eat
There is a huge variety of restaurants and hotels on the beach. You can get amazing sea food, vegetarian meals and a lot of traditional and international cuisines. Sea food is the best option to try because it is fresh and delicious.
Explore the ancient Kingdom of Champa
The Champa kingdom dates back to the 17th century and you can explore the cultural and historic sites. You will see a lot of ancient sites while exploring the islands. You can visit the Cham Marine Museum, Ancient Well, temple of bird’s nest business founder (the birds nest dish available on Cham Islands is made by harvesting the birds nest from these areas) and Hai Tang Pagoda. The Hai Tang Pagoda belong to 17th century and it got hit by a storm and repaired in eighteenth century. It is still considered as an important worshipping place among the Buddhists.
The architecture is unique and spectacular with gold sentences, statues and a big bell. Cham marine Museum is the best place to explore the traditional and historical special sea creatures of the Cham Island. The ancient well was dug 200 years ago by the local people. It remains filled with fresh water even during the driest seasons. It is said that the water of the well immediately repels sea sickness. A very interesting festival is celebrated on the temple of Bird’s nest business founder on the 9th and 10th march to pray for the new bird’s nest harvest.
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