On the horizon small iron huts float lazily on the water. Fish
eagles circle the skies and the distant sound of aged boat engines echoes the
silence as the salt air whips the ocean into life.
These are the waters of Van Phong Bay, a 5,000-hectare marine wonderland 100kms
north of Nha Trang containing a unique archipelago that include the islands of
Son Dung, Khai Luong, Vinh Yen and Hon Ong.
The bay, once a desired location for a marine harbor at the end of the
nineteenth century, and the archipelago became a base for explorer Jacques
Cousteau during his time spent as a marine cartographer in Vietnam.
The bay is home to many floating fishing villages where numerous varieties of
crustaceans and fish are farmed in deep waters.
Rotten wooden beams lie on softly bobbing pontoons. They provide the basic
framework for the fishing nets which plunge meters into the ocean’s depths.
Guard dogs patrol the perimeters of the pens, fearless in their protection and
frightening in their ferocity.
In searing heat the men work quickly coiling ropes, repairing nets and
collecting and sorting their catch. They dive into the fishing pens to collect
an array of lobsters, crayfish, oysters and cuttlefish.
A thin plastic tube attached to a diesel-generated oxygen supply snakes its way
along the planks and into the hands of a fisherman who blows long breaths down
its length, checking for any tangles in the line. Wrapping the tube around his
back, he adjusts his mask and plunges into the water.
The silence of the bay is only broken by the soft purring of the generator. For
what seems like an eternity, the diver works away, the only evidence being
occasional bubbles that escape to the surface and the soft tugging of the oxygen
line. Eventually his silhouette emerges and he powers up, breaking the surface
with lobsters in hand.
All over the fishing village, men plunge into the fishing pens creating a
synchronized display of disappearing acts as they are swallowed by the water.
Reappearing one after another, they come to the surface hands full of the
With incredible agility, a fisherman leaps up on to the beams, water dripping
from his body.
Sorting the contents of his net, the fisherman wastes no time under the
relentless sun as he boards a small bamboo boat and disappears into the horizon
with his catch, headed for the market.
By Nikki Bisenieks, Thanh Nien News (The story can be
found in the June 15th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)