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Explore the World’s Largest Cave: The Son Doong Cave

Swarali Jambhale May 21, 2019
The Son Doong cave is another world in itself bringing forth the power and beauty of nature. This unrivaled natural masterpiece is a must visit in a lifetime! Truly!

About the Place

Vietnam is a place known for its magnificent landscapes! Ranging from the beautiful cascading rice fields of Sapa and thousands of limestone karst and isles in Ha Long Bay to the dense networks of rivers and silk smooth sand dunes of Mui Ne. With all the beauty it boasts of, to its fortune, the country is now home to the world’s largest cave!

The Cave

Hang Son Doong (Mountain River Cave) is situated right in the heart of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the Quang Binh province of Vietnam. The cave’s formation is dated back to 400-450 million years! This UNESCO World Heritage Site extends over 5 kilometers and stands tall up to a height of 660 feet (200 meters).
The main cavern of the cave has an exorbitant arch that can contain a huge 40 story building in New York!
An 80m high calcite barrier had stopped the first ever expedition to the cave. It was after the second expedition that this erection was named as the “Great Wall of Vietnam” when found that it was just a pillar which was to be climbed further realizing the cave to be the world’s largest!
The best and the most exciting part about the cave is that it has its own ecosystem within the cave! The inside of the cave is an image of Earth with misty clouds, jungles, flowing rivers and micro-organisms making strides through darkness. The cave is so vintage…maybe you will find dinosaurs inside!!

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First Discovery - 1990

All thanks to Ho Khanh, a local who was on a search for food and timber for his living. Suddenly, the rains poured and with an intention to find shelter he was under the entrance of the world’s biggest cave! Considering human psychology, he was apprehensive of investigating it further so he went home and forgot where he had found it.

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Second Discovery – 2008

Again all the credits to Ho Khanh, in 2008 he found it again the same way. He then carefully took a note of the path and eventually led Howard and Deb Limbert of the British Cave Association to the cave successfully!

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Carved out by the ferocious Rao Thuong River, the cave is formed on the edge of a fault zone! The cave goes deep eroding the limestone away, making a huge tunnel beneath the Annamite Mountains.
Collapsed ceilings of the cave have formed dolines that have created enormous openings. The openings allowed sunlight to enter that resulted in vegetation and growth of trees forming a dense forest inside, later named as Eden Forest!
It probably boasts of owning the biggest pearls in the world! It has long stalactites, one of them being 80m long! It is also known for its baseball sized pearls formed due to the dripping water later creating calcite crystals on the sand!

Explore The Cave on Toes!

The country only allows Oxalis, a tour company, to arrange expeditions to this cave with legal permit. They plan an exclusive 5-day trek which is not for the faint hearted and unfit ones! With a total costing of 3,000 USD a tour, it is money well spent!
With total care and safety of the cave as well as the trekkers, the government only releases 300-500 permits annually! It also has a waiting of about 2 years, so, just test your patience with this tour as it is worth a wait of two years!

The Tour

To reach the Hang Son Doong cave, you need to pass the only village in Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park, the Ban Doong village. This village is only accessible by foot due to its surrounding dense jungles. The village houses not more than 40 people making them suffer through hardships because of the remote location of the village.

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However, the discovery of this cave and the partnership with Oxalis - for conservation have taken the edge off their hardships! Exploring this village and talking to the localites makes the journey much more exciting as there is a lot to learn.
The journey to the cave is no small feat! With 2 days of intense jungle trekking and river crossing to reach just the entrance, you will then have to abseil, climb, swim and crawl inside. The most fascinating part of the tour is you get to camp inside the cave! Sounds interesting?
Only 10 guests are allowed per departure, with utmost care and responsibility of each and everyone. A group includes 2 caving experts, 3 local guides, 2 chefs, 2 park rangers, and 20 porters to carry the luggage such as tents with everyone’s safety ensured. The tour is arranged once a week every year between the months of February and August.
This is the most intriguing cave. So, to have a glimpse of all the beauties of nature in just 5 days, a trek to this cave will be more than enough!