The limestone karsts of Halong Bay have been worn over thousands of years but outwardly there are only slight differences in the views from deck between the Emeraude and its predecessor a century earlier.
However Vietnam, the world and modern tourism have changed significantly and accordingly the bay faces increased environmental challenges.
I was lucky enough to be interviewed recently by DestinAsian magazine on this very topic.
Alongside my quotes they noted:
"The most visible culprit is the number of tour boats. While properly equipped vessels such as the Emeraude don't discharge sewage or toss rubbish overboard, many others are known to dump directly into the bay. In 2008, the provincial government of Quang Ninh, where Halong Bay is located, temporarily banned the construction of new boats. Authorities have since sought to keep substandard craft off the water, though enforcement remains uneven..."
However, as they point out, it's upstream where a large part of the problem lies. The article continues...
"Less than an hour's drive inland is a major coal-producing area centered on Uong Bi, a town entirely stained with soot. Residential refuse and heavy-metal leachates wind up in rivers that ultimately discharge into the bay, where, until recently, this toxic stew mixed with spillage from a coal-loading facility."
But I find reason to be optimistic. Every World Heritage Site has its challenges and is under some kind of duress. These are our particular issues. The local authorities are on to this, and now there are efforts afoot to upgrade the waste management and control development.
Here's hoping it's the start of sustained environmental improvement.
For more information about Halong Bay Cruise and to book the Emeraude Classic Cruises please feel free to contact us.