Phu Quy Island
Proposed Marine Protected Area
Phu Quy Island is a tropical paradise set in a volcanic crater, rising from the sea off Binh Thuan Province. Its existence contradicts statements that there is no significant seismological activity in Binh Thuan province (there are also well known hot springs at the East and West ends of the province). Volcanic upwelling at Hon Cau near Ca Na Beach, and at Phu Quy island, keep the waters warm and provide vital nutrients for the reef ecosystem, making Binh Thuan province the best kept secret in South East Asia in regard to coral reef diving.
Phu Quy Island, whose name means "rich and precious," lies about 100 km to the east of Phan Thiet City; close to the international maritime route and on the continental shelf. The Island is an important stop between the mainland and Truong Sa (Spratley Island) archipelago; 20 km further away. Its a “floating base;” providing services to ships fishing offshore via its seaport on Trieu Duong Beach.
The island is 2,300 ha in area (16.5 sq km). The highest point on the island is Mount Cam Dat, at 106 m. Phu Quy has thick stands of tall trees and long, pristine beaches. Only the rocky, northern half of the island is inhabited, with a population of 20,698 people. The southern end offers long, deserted stretches of sandy beaches.
Visitors arrive at the wharf, and travel a narrow road, flanked by densely packed houses. The first stop is Van Tam Thanh, a peaceful locale with red, basalt soil; once covered by pineapple plantations. Here you can view the skeleton of a gigantic whale that the local people worship as "Ca Ong", or the "Lord Whale."
Linh Son Tu (Sacred Mount) Pagoda, is the oldest pagode on Phu Quy. It was built in 1747 in the time of King Le Hien Tong (whose regal name was Canh Hung the 18th) on Cao Cat Hill, in Tam Thanh Village. The pagoda has preserved many documents about the life of the local islanders as well as many ancient cultural objects.
Oddly shaped mountains and caves pepper Phu Quy Island’s interior. On top of Mountain Cao Cat, Linh Son Pagoda rests peacefully under a banyan tree. Located here is another worship site, with a statue of "Kuan Yin," the goddess of compassion. At the summit is a lovely panoramic view of the island's beaches and immense rock formations.
On Mountain Cam sits the island’s lighthouse, built in 1997. The lighthouse is one of only two in the country that runs on solar energy.
Hon Tranh, a small island shaped like an S, is half a kilometer to the South-East. The island contains beautiful mountains and long, pristine beaches. Hon Tranh also has excellent scuba diving and snorkeling in its pink coral reefs.
Dao Phu Quy Proposed Marine Protected Area is 18,980 ha in size, comprising a marine component of 16,680 ha and a terrestrial component of 2,300 ha (the entire land area). The island is surrounded by a dense coral reef, the deepest point of which is 42 m below sea level. North-west of Phu Quy island (within the boundary of the marine protected area) are a number of submerged banks.
Preliminary surveys of the island have recorded 70 species of terrestrial plant, 72 species of seaweed, 134 species of hard coral and 15 species of mollusc. Large areas of the coral reef surrounding Phu Quy island are dominated by Acropora sp. and Pocillopora sp. On the western end of the island there is a broad, flat reef (600 m in width), which supports a lagoon covered by vast beds of sea grass. Dugong (manatees) are seen nearby, from time to time.
Over-fishing is having an impact on marine resources. The human population density on Phu Quy island is relatively high, with over 600 people per square kilometer. As a result, terrestrial forest resources are vulnerable to over-exploitation. Proposals to further develop the island for tourism and fishing have a potential to increase pressure on the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the marine area. The waters off Phu Quy island are the most important fishing grounds in Binh Thuan province. It supports a large diversity of squid, snapper, grouper, tuna and sharks. The marine ecosystem is currently managed by the Binh Thuan Provincial Fisheries Department, which has a fishery guard station on the island, manned by four people.
Phu Quy Island is not safe for wind sports, including kiteboarding and windsurfing, due to the presence of coral reefs, shallow water, and large populations of sharks.
The island presents one of the best potentials in South East Asia for Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at tropical coral reefs. However, If you have come to Mui ne or Phan Thiet many times, but still have never heard of Phu Quy, there is probably a good reason. Getting there is still quite difficult. There are no official tours or public transportation between the mainland and the island. Trips must be arranged privately by chartering local fishing boats, and can take several hours at least (no definite time frame, with reports of 3-6 hours journey by boat). There is very little, if any indication of tourist development on the island and no rated hotels. Hopefully major development on the island, capable of threatening the fragile ecosystem, can be staved off for a while longer. If tourism in Mui Ne and the rest of Binh Thuan province continues to grow however, large development projects on the island are inevitable. In such a case, the only environmental salvation of the island may be through intelligent, well-planned eco tourism and enforced, legal protection of its marine and terrestrial environment.