The forest is around three kilometers from the UNESCO heritage town of Hoi An, in Cam Thanh Commune. It once sheltered Vietnamese troops from shelling and raids during the Vietnam War. In 2009, Quang Nam Province recognized the Bay Mau nipa palm forest as an eco-tourism site and allowed locals to offer coracle tours and homestay services to boost tourism and their income.
Locals say their ancestors brought nipa palm trees from the Mekong Delta 200 years ago. Over the years, as people noticed their ability to protect the coast from erosion, strong waves and winds, more nipa palm trees were planted. The nipa forest area was only around 3.5 hectares at the beginning. Today, the total area has expanded to 120 hectares. The government has categorized nipa palms in Cam Thanh as a protected forest, which means they cannot be chopped down or otherwise exploited.
Coracles set out to explore the forest. The coracles are still used by fishermen all over the country.
A coracle tour that takes about 45 minutes costs VND150,000 (US$6.44) per person including entry fees. Visitors can watch crab fishing and fishermen performing a unique dance on their coracles. They can also learn about the daily life of local farmers while participating in traditional activities including fishing and enjoying dishes made with freshly-caught seafood. Travelers who wish to explore the forest but stay off the water can also rent a motorbike for about $5 a day or request a complimentary bicycle from the hotel reception.
Each basket boat can carry a maximum of two adults and two children.
Nhu Kim, a tourist from Hanoi, said that after visiting Hoi An Town with her relatives, she went on a tour of the Cam Thanh nipa palm forest. “It was hot and sunny, but sitting on a basket boat floating through canals lined with nipa palm trees and breathing in the fresh air was really a great experience,” Kim said.
South Korean tourists on a coracle.
From their coracles, visitors can see local fishermen cast their nets for seafood.
One unusual experience that has got people talking is a corcle dance performed by local rowers. Nguyen Cuong of Hanoi experienced that dance with his son. After swirling more than 10 times, he said he was a bit dizzy but it was exciting.
The Cam Thanh Tourism Management Board says that since the country fully reopened tourism, the number of visitors to the eco-tourism site has risen sharply from 20,000 in May to 50,000 this month.
After more than two years, Vietnam fully reopened international tourism starting March 15, lifting Covid-19 restrictions including quarantining and tests. It also resumed pre-pandemic visa exemption policy for 24 countries including South Korea.
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