Viet Nam News
By Hoàng Linh
Any nature lover or adventure-seeker will have an unforgettable experience on Cù Lao Câu, the wildly beautiful island totally lit by solar power rather than hydro-electricity.
Câu Island, also known as Cù Lao Câu or Hòn Câu in Vietnamese, is located in Tuy Phong Commune, Bình Thuận Province, 110km from Phan Thiết City in the northeast. The island is 10km off the mainland, and is 1.5km long and less than 800m in width.
The wind here is cooler than in other areas. The vast ocean is enchanting with its crystal clear deep blue water. The greenery barely covers the island due to a lack of rain. There are only a few casuarina trees, green bushes and vines. Despite periods of six months without rain, the plants here persist and come to bloom, revealing their exquisite beauty.
During the rainy season, the island’s landscape becomes a smooth green like a golf course surrounded by ocean. During the dry season it is different, however the plants still bravely hold onto life.
The most populous reptile species here are the butterfly lizard and snakes, including venomous species. There are far fewer venomous snakes now than in the past, but prevention is better than cure. When walking on the island, especially at night, put on your shoes and a pair of full-length trousers. The snakes will not bite unless they are threatened.
A day on Cù Lao Câu
Câu is a very small island, so one can easily explore the whole island on foot within a day. To have the best experience, you’d better contact Mr Tư Hữu, a well-known local who knows everything about Cù Lao Câu. He will be happy to become your tour guide.
Enjoying the beach
Bãi Tiên (Fairy Beach) is considered the most beautiful beach according to locals here. In front of one’s eyes is a gorgeous landscape rich with colours. The silver white crests of the waves travel above the deep blue ocean surface. To the right, a vast area is covered with lush green grass punctuated with a few rocks.
On Cù Lao Câu, besides enjoying the sandy beach with crystal clear water or the rock pools of all shapes and sizes that surround the island, one can explore many other interesting things.
See the coral
A special biological feature of Hòn Câu is that the surrounding water possesses a tropical marine ecosystem that includes coral reefs and patches of sea grass. They not only bring eco-diversity but also serve as the habitat and egging laying site for many precious marine species. Thus, Cù Lao Câu is one of the best places in Việt Nam for anyone that wants to feast their eyes on natural coral reefs.
On Cù Lao Câu, the coral reefs are well preserved. Only a few metres from the shore is already enough to allow you to take a closer look at the colourful reefs and the schools of fish joyfully twisting and turning in all directions. A piece of advice to any swimmer or diver is to bring along a pair of sandals to avoid cutting your feet on oyster shells.
Yến Cave and Ba Hòn
There is a special cave where hundreds of swifts nest. Before, the local fishermen and hunters usually came here for the swifts’ nests and eggs, but now under the protection of border patrols, the swifts flourish.
Right next to Yến Cave (Swift Cave) is Ba Hòn Cave created by three huge rocks of such strange shapes that anyone visiting Câu Island has to take a photo here.
Nam Hải Temple
The Nam Hải God Worship Temple is a sacred place for local fishermen, who believe the god has saved their lives many times when they have got into trouble at sea. No one knows who built the temple or when the customs and faith in the sea god came about, but they have been solemnly preserved and passed down through the generations for centuries. The biggest ceremony occurs annually at the Nam Hải Temple on the 15th and 16th of April in the lunar calendar.
There are two restaurants on the island that are always open. One of them is the Ocean Wave owned by Mr. Tư Hữu, and is famous for its delicious dishes.
Snails are a specialty here, sold at the very cheap price of VND50,000/kg. Also found here are moon crabs, a species with white spots on its shell that is said to be even more delicious than king crabs, and much cheaper.
A final specialty are the scallops topped with crushed peanuts, a dish unique to Cù Lao Câu that every visitor must try.
When to visit?
The best time to visit Cù Lao Câu is from April to August in the lunar calendar, when the southern wind comes to calm the ocean, though recently there have still been storms during this period. Some tourists that are seeking more adventure visit the island during winter, from August to March in the lunar calendar, which comes with strong winds. Storms coming from the ocean with strong winds can make it difficult to travel to the island during this time.
Staying on the island
Cù Lao Câu is under the management of the border patrol, so if you want to stay on the island overnight, you must ask them for permission.
Moreover, there is no accommodation on the island, so interested campers must bring along sleeping bags, tents and everything else they might need, or ask to stay for a night at the border patrol station. All the patrols are friendly and helpful. Normally, people visit the island during the day and return to the mainland in the afternoon.
There is an abundance of seafood in the waters around the island, so if anyone is up for more adventure, he or she can bring along a fishing rod or go hunting for crabs to make a supper on the beach before sleeping on the island. Nothing compares to sitting around a bonfire on a sandy beach enjoying seafood soup of one’s own creation. If that sounds like too much work, a wide variety of seafood is sold by locals at very attractive prices.
A day on Cù Lao Câu can help to melt away all the stress and pressures of daily life. — VNS