Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Archipelago Achieve World Natural Heritage Recognition in 2023

Ha Long Bay - Cat Ba Archipelago complex seen from above

For 29 years since 1994, Ha Long Bay has continuously held its UNESCO World Natural Heritage status. This year’s session of the World Heritage Committee has also recognized Cat Ba Archipelago, which encompasses Lan Ha Bay, as another World Natural Heritage site.

The Natural Heritage Bays of Vietnam

During the 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on the evening of September 16 (Hanoi time), Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The areas boast 1,133 limestone islets of various shapes (775 islets in Ha Long Bay and 358 islets in the Cat Ba Archipelago) covered by lush vegetation on the glistening emerald waters and pristine, fine white sandy beaches.

According to UNESCO, Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago is considered a geological museum, containing outstanding global heritage with the ability to witness characteristic changes in Earth’s developmental history.

Among them, the Cat Ba Langur is a precious and endangered species, listed among the most critically threatened animals and included in the IUCN Red List. To date, only around 60-70 individuals are found exclusively on Cat Ba Island, with no other place in the world where this species is present.

precious animal species in the IUCN Red List
The Cat Ba langur is one of the rare and precious animal species in the IUCN Red List

The process of Recognition

The process of creating the joint World Heritage dossier for Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago was initiated based on a recommendation from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2014.

At that time, Cat Ba was in the process of submitting its nomination dossier, while Ha Long Bay had already been recognized as a World Natural Heritage Site twice (in 1994 and 2000):

  • On December 17, 1994, during the 18th session held in Phuket, Thailand, UNESCO recognized Ha Long Bay as a World Natural Heritage Site with outstanding global aesthetic value under criterion (vii) of the World Heritage Convention on the Protection of Natural and Cultural Heritage.
  • On December 2, 2000, during the 24th session in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, UNESCO designated Ha Long Bay as a World Natural Heritage Site for the second time under criterion (viii) of the World Heritage Convention on Geological and Geomorphological Values.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay still maintains its allure as a favorite destination for travelers visiting Vietnam

Although UNESCO’s criteria for evaluating World Natural Heritage Sites are updated annually, Ha Long Bay once again makes its mark on this list.

The nomination dossier of Cat Ba Archipelago was submitted under the ecological and biodiversity criteria (ix) and (x) to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

The maintenance of Ha Long Bay’s heritage status and the new recognition of Cat Ba Archipelago as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site hold significant importance in preserving and affirming the natural values of these two regions.

In fact, Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay within the Cat Ba Archipelago are located in adjacent provinces, making it convenient for travelers to explore both bays. These renowned bays in Northern Vietnam have long attracted numerous visitors keen on enjoying the stunning bay views, swimming, kayaking, visiting caves, fishing villages, and exploring the small islands.

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