“Charming oratory, flexible tours and the provision of exceptional information is real spice, making tour guides here a beguiling choice for tourists," said Dutch visitor Jenny Mario after finishing a tour with guide Vo Phuc Sinh, 34.
A typical working day for Sinh, who is called “Lord of the Soil and the Ground of Cham Islands” starts at 8am. When the first tourist groups from the mainland enter the port, he quickly supports them. They are attracted by his friendly, brisk and cheerful attitude.
Nguyen Thanh Ba, a visitor from Hanoi, said jokes and humorous stories were combined with explanations of traditional customs of islanders. He said this brought a relaxing, close link between guides and tourists. “It is far better than having dogmatic guides who always stick to what they have been taught in the textbooks. So boring,” he said.
At present, the tourist guides at Cham Islands has up to 30 members. They include former "xe om" drivers, boatmen and even housewives who have been trained at local tourist guide classes and issued with a certificate.
Some guides are youngsters who left the islands, but returned to take up jobs as guides. The team cleverly combines guiding with reminding tourists on keeping the environment clean. No plastic bags are allowed on the islands, swimmers are not allowed to remove anything from the sea - and the sale of rare sea crabs is forbidden.
Meanwhile, because many tourists love to see starfish and coral while diving, tour guides are encouraged to bring them to the surface for visitors to see - and then release them.
Guides are paid 200,000 VND for each tour. The money helps them to cover their living expense. When the stormy season comes, they return to their daily routines as xe om drivers, hammock knitters and livestock breeders.
Tran Thi Hong Thuy, Director of the Cham Islands Sea Reserve said the reserve started training 30 young people a time in tourist guide classes.