The Legacy of Green Spirit – The Lan Ha Preservation Zone

It is the wild and deep colours of green that repeatedly brings tourists to Halong Bay. Images of mountains covered in forest and islands of untamed jungle jutting directly out of the emerald sea can be found across the walls of every tourist agency in Vietnam. They promote the image of a very healthy bay and entice foreign and domestic visitors to book onto one of the many Halong Bay tours that head into this evocative land.

Of course, the benefits of mass tourism to the bay are huge. Thousands of jobs have been created in Vietnam’s northwestern corner, and many more throughout a country that promotes the bay constantly. As with all good things, however, there is another side to the coin that many passengers are confronted with when arriving to the bay – the masses of floating rubbish.

Much of this can be found on the cruise routes that cut between the limestone spires of Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay, as well as on the beaches and around the fishing villages. This is a product of the speed at which tourism has grown in the bay and the inability of many cruise companies to deal with the influx of visitors. Of course, no one sets out to deliberately pollute the bay with rubbish, but current, careless practices have gone unchanged for too long, threatening the image of Halong Bay as a bastion for the green and fresh.

At V’Spirit Cruises, one of the members of the Incredible Asia Journeys group, we are determined to put a stop to this. We were amongst the first companies to say ‘no’ to the thoughtless destruction of Halong Bay’s unique landscape and make steps to prevent its deterioration. Our company began with a long-term interest in the bay and has developed a devotion to its long-term protection. Our Green Spirit program was born of this vision, with an aim to clean-up and preserve the natural beauty that we have been so blessed to receive.

Green Spirit encapsulates responsible tourism perfectly. Throughout northern Vietnam, the wonderful members of the Green Spirit team have left their mark, but none more so than in Halong Bay. Our clean-up efforts and community outreach initiatives have improved the quality of life for many residents of the bay, as well as the tourists who visit it, but we understand that there is a long way to go yet.

February 2016 saw V’Spirit Cruises’ largest change to its itinerary. Overcrowding in Halong Bay has long irritated tourists and produced more pollution across its routes and attractions, leading us to consider an alternative route that would ease the pressure on the bay. After months of scouting and a host of test runs, we settled on a move to the Lan Ha Preservation Zone, an area of Halong Bay far removed from the traditional tourist routes, with the same idyllic picture of paradise strewn across the islands and the isolated floating houses of its verdant area.

One such community contains the house of Mr. Lap, father to four children and lifelong resident of Lan Ha Bay. In communities such as these, stopping pollution of the bay is very low down on the list of priorities, as day-to-day life is a struggle in itself. On a visit to the Lan Ha Preservation Zone, members of the Green Spirit team sat down with Mr. Lap and described the impact of his everyday actions in the polluting of the environment. Before leaving, we had arranged a new deal whereby Mr. Lap’s green cooperation would be rewarded with an important role in our new itinerary. In the following months, Mr. Lap’s new commitment to the environment and his active role in persuading other residents to abandon their polluting practices blew us away. We awarded him a Green Spirit certification for his efforts and are immensely proud to still have him working in cooperation with us today.

With the strong currents of the Lan Ha Preservation Zone, rubbish occasionally drifts into here from other areas around the bay, meaning regular clean-ups are still necessary. Our biggest clean-up took place on March 16th 2016, when every member of the V’Spirit Cruises’ staff was employed to collect the rubbish around the zone, promoting a healthier overall image of Halong Bay as we did so. Our largest clean-up was still a small action in the overall scope of Halong Bay, but the significant image of green living that it sent out was overwhelmingly positive for the bay and the actions of other companies, passengers and management authorities. 

As awareness is raised, more and more passengers ask us if they can help the bay in any way. We carry several collection nets and rubbish bags on each one of our cruises, giving willing tourists the chance to make their own small mark. Through small actions like this, V’Spirit Cruises and its wonderful passengers can make a big impact in Halong Bay and ensure its wild and evocative beauty is forever untainted.

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