As soon as Son Cha Island (Lang Co Town, Phu Loc District) becomes an attractive tourist destination, the work of ensuring security, safety and maritime sovereignty are enhanced multifold.
Patrolling to ensure security and sovereignty in the waters of Son Cha Island
An interesting destination
After some missed trips, I had an opportunity to experience the discovery tour of Son Cha Island from the invitation of the Blue Sea Lang Co’s young owner. Before starting the journey, a tour guide gave me brief information about Son Cha Island. It looks like an upside-down pan if being seen from Cua Khem cape (Hai Van Pass). The island is surrounded by luxuriant green trees and blue sea mixed with jade-colored water.
About 14 kilometers south of Lang Co Bay, it took us about 20 minutes to travel to the island by canoe. Son Cha has the charming beauty with mountains and sea. Coral reefs from three to five meters deep are still easy to be seen with the naked eyes. According to "sea guarders" there, Son Cha has more than 144 species of coral, 135 species of seaweed and some 162 colorful fish species.
For questions about the names of Son Cha Island and Ngoc Island, Lieutenant Colonel Phung The Anh, Head of Lang Co Border Guard Station (Son Cha Island Management Unit), explained: “It must be a thick book to tell about Son Cha Island. The highest point of the island is at 224 meters above sea level, the island is only 1.5 square kilometer. In the past, this island was the boundary between Dai Viet and Champa.”
The island was once named as “Huyen Tran” to commemorate the merits of Princess Huyen Tran. Several hundred years later, when King Quang Trung went to the north, he came upon seeing the island surrounded by blue-colored water with its charming landscape, thence he changed its name into Ngoc Island. Later, in the Nguyen Dynasty, this island was renamed as Hàn Isle. During the French colonial period, the island was once again renamed as Son Cha and has kept this name up to now.
Viewing the coral reef in Son Cha. Photo: Tran Hung
People living Lang Co often call Son Cha with its familiar name as Hon Chao. This name is said to have had existed before the island was named as Huyen Tran. According to Lang Co Border Guard Station, with the names of Ngoc Island, Hon Chao, or Son Cha, they all refer to only one island.
Son Cha is a place where a lighthouse is put to guide boats of fishermen going to the sea safely. The island is also a storm shelter. Borderlands Security is garrisoned on the island to protect sovereignty and help fishermen in emergency situations. For three years from now, Son Cha also has another important "mission" which is to serve tourism, contributing to the attraction of visitors to Lang Co. It is not difficult to see the discovery tours of Son Cha - Ngoc Island exploited by businesses. This summer, the island has welcomed visitors almost every day.
According to statistical data released by Lang Co Border Guard Station, in the first eight months of 2018, there were 133 visitor groups, bringing 2,750 visitors to Son Cha. At present, there are two forms to get to Son Cha, one of them is to book tours from tourist companies and another one is to hire boats of fishermen to go to the island.
Tourism development associated with national security and defense
According to Phu Loc District People's Committee, the locality is concentrating resources, prioritizing tourism development. Ngoc Island is promised to be an attractive destination for visitors in the next few years thanks to its wild landscape. The district is also considering various development options, which do not affect the island’s landscape.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Phung The Anh, since Son Cha has developed tourism, the work of ensuring security, safety and especially maritime sovereignty has been paid more attention. At present, 100 percent of border guard soldiers are on duty on the island to patrol and secure Son Cha. Particularly to the Border Guard Station, there are frequent unscheduled inspections of places where visitors come to visit, so as to take initiative in setting out plans.
Son Cha is considered as the "God’s Eyes", which can see key positions in the sea and on land. Because of that importance, flycam is absolutely banned on the island, except for authorized cases and filming for the purposes of promoting tourism.
Tourism businessmen said that, visitors going to Ngoc Island must dive to view coral reefs. The nature gives the reefs to Ngoc Island. While underwater swimming, visitors can touch fishes and grasp organisms living in coral reefs. The island is home to many precious sea species, such as lobsters, groupers, abalones, and sea ginseng, etc.; thus, many businesses believe that Son Cha is the "First island".
However, when visitors come to discover the island, with thousands of people dive into the sea, even the smallest impact can affect the ecology of Son Cha. According to the Director of Blue Sea Lang Co, visitors coming to Ngoc Island must be subject to regulations including “do not affect the environment, do not litter, do not catch fish and take coral in the island area; visitors can only swim, dive, go sightseeing and pose for photos. Especially with the fishing services, it must be carried out far away from Son Cha Island”.
Story and photos: Duc Quang