Cu Lao Cham Nature Reserve is situated in Tan Hiep commune, Hoi An town. The nature reserve comprises an archipelago of one large island and seven smaller islands, lying about 12 km off the coast of central Vietnam. The largest island, Hon Lao, covers 1,317 ha. The topography of Cu Lao Cham island is dominated by two peaks: a 517 m peak in the centre of the island and a 326 m peak at the western end.
Little information is available on the terrestrial biodiversity values of the nature reserve. Natural forest covers 532 ha of the nature reserve, equivalent to 35% of the total area, while plantation forest covers a further 30 ha. The natural vegetation of the islands is lowland evergreen forest, although, at lower elevations, this forest has been heavily degraded or replaced by secondary scrub.
Scientists report the occurrence of macaques Macaca sp., monitor lizards Varanus sp. and pythons Python sp. To date, 265 vascular plant species have been reported from the nature reserve. Furthermore, a species of swiftlet Collocalia sp. is reported to nest on Hon Kho island within the nature reserve.
As the only island in the archipelago with permanent water, Hon Lao is the only island to have permanent human habitation; around 3,000 people live on the island in two main settlements. As the forest on Hon Lao protects the catchments of the four permanent streams on the island, forest protection is essential if the conditions required for permanent habitation are to be maintained.
Because of their location close to Hoi An town, the islands have high potential for tourism development. In fact, the first tourism infrastructure was constructed on the islands in 2003.