Ha Long Bay is famed for its crystal-clear emerald waters and its fascinating collection of thousands of limestone islands and islets towering out of the bay’s waters. These karsts come in all manner of shapes and sizes and there are nearly 2,000 of them altogether. All of them are forested and are home to incredibly di-verse wildlife. Most of them have never been inhabited.
The bay covers an area of approximately 1,500 square kilometers. It lies just over 100 miles east of Ha-noi, Vietnam’s capital and second largest city in terms of population. Closer by is the eponymous city of Ha Long, which fringes the northern coast of the bay. The bay area has a tropical coastal climate, with two main seasons. From April to September, it tends to be quite warm, though most of the area’s annual rain falls dur-ing this time of year; from October to March, temperatures are usually cooler and while there’s a bit more wind, there’s significantly less rain.
What makes Ha Long Bay particularly appealing is the fact that there are so many islands to explore. Cat Ba is by far the largest of them all and is known for its incredible biodiversity, not to mention its variety of rugged landscapes and natural ecosystems. It is home to the endangered Cat Ba langur and roughly half of it is protected as part of a national park. Dau Be is popular with divers and swimmers thanks to its beautifully preserved grottoes, while many visit Bo Hon to venture through the Virgin Cave and catch a glimpse of its famous shrine. The best way to explore the Bay is on a cruise on a traditional style junk; these enable visitors to experience first-hand the many caves, limestone formations, grottoes and other natural wonders that have made the bay one of the the highlights of Vietnam.