Located in Phong Nha National Park, Central Vietnam is Son Doong Cave. It was labelled as the biggest known cave in the world in 2009.
The discovery of Son Doong
Son Doong Cave (hang Sơn Đoòng in Vietnamese) was first encountered by Ho Khanh, a local man when he was on his agarwood hunting mission in 1990. He accidentally stumbled across an opening in a limestone cliff while looking for a place to shelter from the rain. As he approached he noticed “clouds billowing out of the entrance and could hear the sounds of a river raging from somewhere inside the cave”.
Ho Khanh made an educated guess that the cave might have been the biggest cave in the region but he obviously did not expect it to be the largest in the world! However, with the strong winds blowing out from the cave and his situation, he decided to continue his trip without further investigation.
By the time he returned to his village after few days, he could not remember exactly its location until 2008, while out on another trip to the jungle, he found the mysterious opening again. In 2009, Ho Khanh led a team including 2 members of the British Cave Research Association and other professionals for the first expedition to enter what would become the largest known cave passage cross-section in the world.
The extraordinary wonder of mother nature
Son Doong Cave runs for approximately 9 kilometers. 2 large dolines punctuate the length of the cave. These dolines allow sunlight to enter sections of the cave and aid the growth of trees and vegetation.
The cave is big enough to accommodate a battleship! That’s BIG!
The cave contains some of the tallest known stalagmites in the world (stretching up to 70 meters tall).
The one exception to this would be the Great Wall of Vietnam, a stalagmite wall that stands at almost 100 meters tall. Behind the Wall, you can find abnormally large cave pearls, some even the size of baseballs!
How to see Son Doong with your own eyes
To visit the cave, you can fly to Da Nang or Ha Noi then take domestic flight, train or car to Dong Hoi city, which is 30km from Phong Nha National Park.
A 40 kilometer trekking journey to Son Doong stretching 4 days will cost you US$3000/pax. However, due to safety and conservation issues, there are limitations to the number of tourists allowed to visit the cave per year.
The booking for 2017 tours was opened in August 2016 and was fully booked within 20 hours. Oxalis has yet to open up tourist slots for 2018!
Oxalis happens to be the only tour company that offers tours for Son Doong cave. Check them out if you want a tour!
In the mean time, visit Phong Nha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides being home to the world’s largest cave, the park actually has hundreds of other cave systems as well!
Hang En, Hang Va, Hang Tu Lan and Dong Phong Nha are some cool caves you can explore in Vietnam. Just some alternatives if you can’t visit Son Doong.
Save Son Doong
Recently, talks of a project to build a 11 kilometer cable car system through Son Doong has been circulating. This suggested system could carry 1,000 visitors an hour through the cave.
Vietnamese has been protesting against this project. The environmental impact to this natural jewel will be devastating. Here’s hoping the natural beauty of the cave will be left untouched.
Pic credited to Ryan Deboodt, Carsten Peter.