Hainan's distinctive coasts are its string of pearls

By Chen Shumin / HICN / Updated: 20:54,25-September-2021

According to the recently released 14th Five-Year (2021-2025) Plan for Ecological and Environmental Protection in Hainan , the island-province will build 19 demonstration zones in 19 bays, creating "a string of pearls" around it. These 19 bays include Puqian Bay in Wenchang, Haitang and Yalong bays in Sanya, E'man Bay in Danzhou and Houshui Bay in Lingao.

Hainan, lying in the South China Sea, is the second largest island in China with an area of about 34,000 square meters. Its over 1,900 kilometers of coastline provides the islanders living here for generations with rich ecological, tourism and cultural resources.

If the blue sea is like a gift of amber from the heavens, the gorgeous coastline is like a blessed pearl necklace around the island, boasting a white flat coast with luxuriant mangroves and coconuts swaying in the breeze, wondrously shaped rocks and colorful corals. It’s a scene that stimulates the romantic imagination.

Yinggehai Salt Field in Ledong, Hainan. CHEN RUOLONG

Zhang Ben, honorary President of the College of Ocean Sciences in Hainan University, says Hainan’s coast can be generally divided into four varieties on the basis of factors such as geology, geomorphology and ecology: rocky, sandy, muddy and biological.

The rocky coast, also known as the harbor coast, is a sea-eroded landform formed by the impact of waves. It is characterized by a steep terrain, winding shoreline and strong currents. This kind of coast can be found in Sanya and Lingshui in the southeast.

The red cliffs of E’man Bay in Danzhou. WU WENSHENG

The sandy (gravel) coast, also known as the depositional coast, is formed of loose sand (gravel) and has narrow beaches. This kind of coast can be seen around Wenchang, Qionghai, Wanning and Sanya on the eastern part of Hainan and in Dongfang, Changjiang, Danzhou and Lingao on the west.

The gravel coast of Qizi Bay in Changjiang. (Photo provided to Hainan Daily)

The muddy coast is created by the accumulation of clay and silt and is often sheltered from the waves. This fertile coast can be seen in the delta at the mouth of major rivers, such as the Nandu and Changhua. It has a straight shoreline and flat terrain.

The sandy beach of Yalong Bay in Sanya. WU WEI

Biological coasts mainly feature mangrove and coral reef ecosystems with distinctive tropical coastal characteristics. Coral reefs can be seen in some coastal zones in Hainan, with the most typical one being the Sanya National Coral Reef Nature Reserve. Almost all the major rivers in Hainan have mangrove coasts at their mouths. The best known is the Dongzhaigang Mangrove National Nature Reserve, which is rich in mangrove plants and muddy tidal flats.

Lush mangroves at the Dongzhaigang Mangrove National Nature Reserve. LI XINGHUANG

    The corals of Wuzhizhou Island in Sanya. WU WEI

The beaches in different coastal zones of Hainan have different kinds of sand. While some are fine and white, some are dark and coarse. Zhang explained that this difference is due to the thickness and color of the original plain deposits as well as how much they have come under the waves and currents. For example, the mudflat near the mangrove coast is of a dark color due to its rich humus content and other substrates.

Different types of coastal landscapes have different resource development and utilization values. According to Zhang, the rocky coast is conducive to the construction of deep-water commercial ports and fishing ports while the sandy coast is rich in a variety of minerals, such as the rich quartz sand ores found in the northeastern coastal zone of Wenchang. This medley of different coasts has together created an abundant and unique natural resource and ecological environment, contributing to Hainan’s economic and social development.

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