Son Doong Cave Expedition

For photography enthusiasts and professionals alike, we are unveiling our new Son Doong Photography tour for the 2016 season. This tour will be focused on capturing unique images within Son Doong with lighting support and porters carrying up to 20 kg your personal equipment. Sign up now at Son Doong Photography Tour.

Our Son Doong Cave Expedition will take you deep into the heart of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam, on one of the most thrilling adventure tours in the world.

With our team of more than 25 porters, safety experts and guides, you’ll explore over five days the entire length of Son Doong Cave, Hang En Cave, as well the Ban Doong ethnic minority village.

Imagine trekking straight into the depths of the world’s largest cave on an expedition unlike any other. A cave that can fit a 747 flying through its largest cavern – a truly foreign landscape, with enormous stalagmites and statuesque stalactites, hanging from the ceiling and rising from the ground like an alien species.

A jungle within a cave, that’s almost so unreal that you have to see it to believe it. Misty clouds enveloping the whole scene, evidence of the cave’s own weather system. Fossil passageways that give proof of the cave’s ancient existence.

There is no rush on this tour and there is plenty of time for photography and to enjoy the cave. However you need to be very fit, and have previous trekking experience (but not necessarily caving experience) to enjoy this adventure tour.

Note: Due to safety and conservation matters, the government of Quang Binh allowed Oxalis is the only operator bringing tourists to Hang En/Son Doong cave. Decisions: 47/VPUBND-VX (Dated January 9, 2015) and 878/UBND-VX (dated July 29, 2015) of the Government of Quang Binh Province.

Download Itinerary (PDF)

Itinerary

Download Itinerary (PDF)

Quick Facts

  • Operating: from Feb to Aug (closed from Sep to Jan)

  • Duration: 5 days / 4 nights (plus 1 night before and 1 night after the expedition)

  • Adventure Level: Difficult (50+ km) for physically active guests.

  • Availability: Weekly Departures

  • Small Group Tours: max 10 guests per departure

  • Minimum Age: 18 years

  • Price: VND 66,000,000 or US$3,000/pax (incl. $660 National Park fee)

Dong Hoi – Safety Briefing – Local hotel in Phong Nha

Arrive in Dong Hoi by no later than the afternoon (no later than 4 pm) of the briefing day where you will be met by a member of our team and transferred to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.

You’ll be dropped off at Oxalis Home hotel or Ho Khanh Homestay where you’ll have the rest of the day to rest, relax and wander around the village. You will be required to purchase your own breakfast and lunch on this first day.

Around 5:30 pm you will congregate in the hotel restaurant where you’ll meet your cave experts and guide team for your safety briefing and equipment check. The briefing is mandatory. Anyone who chooses not to join the briefing may be eliminated from the tour without refund.

Please have all belongings you’ll be taking on the trek prepared before the safety briefing, as immediately after the briefing we will collect everyone’s belongings in individually labeled large plastic bags, and send them to our porters to prepare for the following day.

You will receive your belongings each evening once you get to your campsite. Therefore, anything you want to take with you during the day you should keep in a separate backpack (e.g. cameras, tripods etc.).

Before dinner, you will be given your helmet for the trip; the helmet will then be your responsibility for the duration of the tour. Please note that the Release Form needs to be signed at the safety briefing. After that, enjoy dinner with your team at around 7:30 pm at Oxalis headquarters, after which you will be transferred back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Phong Nha – Ban Doong Village – Hang En Cave

Enjoy breakfast at 8:00 am with your guide before departing at 9:00 am for the first leg of the expedition. You’ll leave extra luggage and any valuables at the Oxalis headquarters before heading to pick up the porter team and setting off for adventure.

After a 45 minute drive along Road 20 of the Ho Chi Minh Highway you’ll reach the trailhead, where you’ll start trekking for approximately 1 hour downhill through the forest, which is quite steep at times.

Walk for half an hour along a small stream to the minority village of Ban Doong, which is a real highlight for many on this expedition. Learn more about this unique ethnic group of people and enjoy lunch beside a small river.

After this point, you will be in the sun all afternoon with about 2 hours along a river, with very little shade. You’ll cross the river many times and so please expect to have wet feet for the whole day. In the summer, the water is only usually knee deep, but Gore-Tex boots will fill and hold the water so therefore they are not recommended.

You’ll then reach the entrance to Hang En Cave, home to thousands of swifts. Here you’ll be given your headlight and you will trek/boulder approximately 20-30 minutes to your campsite inside the cave.

The group should arrive at camp by 3:00 pm where you can enjoy swimming and washing within the underground river. Dinner will be served at the spectacular campsite with numerous photographic opportunities.

Anyone who is unable to complete any stage of this first day comfortably will be turned around to Phong Nha and will not be permitted to continue the expedition. This will be the decision of the cave experts on your tour. Should you be turned around, all tour costs will be forfeited.

Hang En Cave – Son Doong Entrance – Hand of Dog – SD Camp 1

You’ll again begin your day with a delicious breakfast at around 8:00 am. You’ll be in for a very tough day today so its best to enjoy a big breakfast, as you’ll need your energy!

Start your trek at 9:00 am through Hang En Cave for about 30 mins to reach the magnificent exit, made famous by many photographers over the past few years. You’ll scramble down to the river valley and then it’s an hour walk through the river, so your boots are going to be wet for most of the day; it is unavoidable, yet part of the fun!

You’ll then start climbing a steep hill for about 45 minutes with some rocky sections to start. At the top of the hill you’ll enjoy lunch, a safety briefing and fit your safety harness and prepare for your big journey underground! A steep descent with a couple of short rope climbs brings you at last to Son Doong entrance.

With your safety harnesses, you’ll then start the 80 m descent into the cave by making a number of short climbs, using ropes and safety lines with your guides’ assistance. There is no rappelling or abseiling at any point during the expedition. You’ll then enjoy a few more climbs and bouldering to reach the first and second river crossings inside the cave, which are no more than knee-to-thigh deep depending on the water levels. You should have a wash here, as it will be the last washing place for the day.

On your way to the first campsite in the first large passage of the cave, you’ll have to be extra careful as there are a number of big drops and scrambling over boulders along a rocky path before reaching one of the most spectacular views: Hand of Dog and daylight streaming through the cave thanks to the first doline! You will then scramble down to the first campsite of Son Doong around 3 – 4 pm and have the afternoon to soak up the views and rest your weary bodies. You’re in for another big meal with your team before turning in for the night.

Please note that there are no washing facilities at camp on this day.

SD Camp 1 – Watch out for Dinosaurs - Great Wall of Vietnam – SD Camp 2

Your day begins with a hearty breakfast with your team before a 9:00 am departure towards your second campsite in Son Doong Cave.

You’ll start with some rocky climbs, which are quite steep in some places, as you reach the first jungle within the cave at Watch Out for Dinosaurs. It will take about 1.5 hrs to travel within the cave from Camp 1 to Watch Out for Dinosaurs. After a short break you’ll be trotting down the rocky path to reach the enormous Green Gours, one of the most magnificent and famous photography spots on the tour!

A light lunch is provided with an incredible backdrop of the first doline. If you are lucky you may even catch some sunbeams, which make for truly spectacular photos!

It is then an easy walk through the cave past gigantic formations and plenty of cave pearls towards the light of the second doline and main jungle within the cave. Follow the path past the beautiful foliage reaching towards the light, to reach the underground jungle, unlike anything you could experience on the planet! Cross the jungle for around 45 minutes to reach the steep and sometimes slippery path down to your second campsite within Son Doong Cave. You will reach camp around 2 – 3 pm.

After a short rest at your campsite, you are back on your feet and heading deeper within the cave towards the Great Wall of Vietnam. You’ll pass through a very large dry passage with huge stalagmites and great views back to the second doline. Many new creepy crawlies have been discovered within this passage including white spiders, fish, woodlouse and shrimp species, so be sure to keep your eyes open.

You will reach at this point either a very large beautiful underground lake (where you’ll then paddle to reach the Great Wall of Vietnam) or you will find a fantastically adventurous muddy pit (at which you will need to trudge your way through for a few hundred meters to reach the wall). It is entirely optional if you wish to go further and reach the actual wall, as you will get very dirty in the mud and there are no bathing facilities on this day at camp (pack plenty of wet wipes if you decide on the plunge!).

You’ll be back at camp again around 6 pm to enjoy a sensational dinner with your team and delight yourself with an evening of games and entertainment, or simply relax and soak up the views at what is quite possibly the very best campsite in the world.

Quick note: you may use a pair of dry boots on this day, as aside from the mud, there are no water crossings! Also, there are no washing facilities at camp on this day.

SD Camp 2 – Fossil Passage – Nat Geo View Point – Hang En Cave

After refueling with another hot breakfast you’ll pack up camp and start heading back to the first doline, with a slightly different route through a small oxbow passage above the underground river with a very steep drop, where you will need to use a rope and safety line.

Once you have reached the first campsite around 11 am, you’ll have time for a short break before climbing down to the ancient fossil passage, where you will witness 350 million year old coral fossils! Enjoy a small wash in the pools and a hearty lunch before descending back to the main passage, crossing the river twice and proceeding to climb up to the entrance, again strapped in with your harness and safety lines.

Your group will appear out from the entrance of Son Doong around 2 – 3 pm, at which point you’ll have a chance to enjoy a small break and some snacks. Then head back towards the river valley, where you can enjoy a well-deserved and refreshing wash. Walk along the river back to Hang En for your final evening and celebration with porter team at this underground campsite. Feel free to bring any entertaining games or fun activities such as Jenga, a frisbee, card games, etc for everyone to join in together.

Hang En Cave – Ban Doong Village – Phong Nha

Wake up early and start your 10 km trek back to Road 20 after breakfast. You’ll follow the river along the valley and back through Ban Doong Village. You will enjoy snacks and fruit along the way before starting on what is quite a difficult climb back up the mountain for the last hour of your big adventure. Cold drinks await you at the top of the hill before a 45 minute drive back to Chay Lap Farmstay http://chaylapfarmstay.com/ where cool towels and a refreshing swimming pool are waiting for you. You will have an afternoon to relax after your long trek before enjoying a group farewell dinner with your fellow expedition team members.

Please advise our sales team in advance of your departure time so that they can arrange the logistics of your transfer back to the airport or train station. If you would like to extend your holiday in Phong Nha, let our team know so that we can assist you in booking extra nights at Chay Lap Farmstay.

Departure day

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and our driver will pick you up according to your departure time. Check out at the hotel will be at 12 pm regardless of your departure time. Again, please let us know in advance if you would like any additional night(s) at the hotel and we can secure that for you.

We wish you all the best in your onward travels!

Oxalis Adventure Levels

Oxalis-adventure-levels (2016 updated)

Image Map

Nuoc Nut Cave

Most of people can do this cave as long they can walk on flat trails (partly rocky) for about 30-60 minutes each way.

Please chat with us or send us a message if you have any questions.

Tu Lan Cave Encounter 2D1N

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 12km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • Elevation change up to 150m (between valley and top of mountain)
  • 1 km swimming in caves (from 200m - 500m each cave)
  • 3 km caving
  • 2 days and 1 night in jungle and caves
  • Requirements:
    • Basic trekking experience
    • Must be able to swim
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Hang Tien 1-day Discovery

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease:

  • 4 km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
    4 km caving
  • Requirements:
    • Basic trekking experience

Tu Lan 1-day Experience

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease:

  • 9km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • Elevation change up to 150m (between valley and top of mountain)
  • 100m swimming in caves
  • 1 km caving
  • Requirements:
    • Basic trekking experience
    • Must be able to swim
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Oxalis Adventure Tours staff (cave expert or guide) reserves the right to decline, accept or retain any person as a member of any party at any time without compensation or refund due to safety issue.

Please check Frequently Asked Questions or chat with us if you have any questions.

Hang Tien Endeavor 

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 8 km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • River crossings
  • 5.5 km caving
  • 2 days and 1 night camping in the jungle
  • Requirements:
    • Basic trekking experience
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to river crossings!

Hang En Cave Adventure 

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 20km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • Multiple river crossings: 30 times (knee deep, 10-50m wide river)
  • Elevation change up to 400m (between road and valleys)
  • 3 km caving
  • 2 days and 1 night in jungle and caves
  • Requirements:
    • Trekking experience & must be able to walk 10km in one day
    • Must be able to withstand hot trekking days
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 17km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • Elevation change up to 150m (between valley and top of mountain)
  • 1 km swimming in caves (from 200m - 500m each cave)
  • 4 km caving
  • 3 days and 2 nights in jungle and caves
  • Requirements:
    • Basic trekking experience
    • Must be able to swim
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Oxalis Adventure Tours staff (cave expert or guide) reserves the right to decline, accept or retain any person as a member of any party at any time without compensation or refund due to safety issue.

Please check Frequently Asked Questions or chat with us if you have any questions.

Hang Va Expedition

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 10km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • 3km caving in river caves (cold water, 17 degree Celcius, waist deep)
  • Elevation gain is 150m (between road and mountain top)
  • 20m traverse using rope and harness
  • 2 days and 1 night in jungle and caves
    Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Tu Lan Jungle Challenge

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 25km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • Multiple river crossings
  • Elevation gain is 150m (between road and mountain top)
  • 600m caving
  • 2 days and 1 night in jungle and caves
  • Requirements: 
    • Trekking experience & must be able to walk more than 10km in one day
    • Must be able to withstand hot trekking days
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Oxalis Adventure Tours staff (cave expert or guide) reserves the right to decline, accept or retain any person as a member of any party at any time without compensation or refund due to safety issue.

Please check Frequently Asked Questions or chat with us if you have any questions.

Tu Lan Expedition

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 37 km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • 3 km caving
  • 600 m swimming in caves (from 100 m - 300 m each cave)
  • Elevation change up to 150 m (between valley and top of mountain)
  • 1 abseil in a cave (darkness) 
  • 4 days and 3 nights in jungle and caves
  • Requirements:
    • Trekking experience, must be able to walk 15km in one day
    • Must be able to swim
    • Must be able to withstand hot trekking days
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Must be able to swimOxalis Adventure Tours staff (cave expert or guide) reserves the right to decline, accept or retain any person as a member of any party at any time without compensation or refund due to safety issue.

Please check Frequently Asked Questions or chat with us if you have any questions.

Son Doong Expedition

Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • 50 km jungle and mountain trekking
  • Elevation change up to 400m (between road and valleys)
  • Surface river crossing: 40 times (knee deep, 10-50m wide river)
  • 10 km caving including rope climbs, rocky terrain and scrambling
  • 80m descent with rope and harnesses
  • Underground river-strong current crossing
  • 5 days and 4 nights in caves
  • Requirements:
    • Regular running, trekking, caving or rock climbing (at least once per month). Other outdoor pursuits may be considered
    • Strong legs and good balance
    • Previous multi-day treks
    • General good health and fitness
      Note: Be prepared for your shoes to get very wet due to many river crossings!

Oxalis Adventure Tours staff (cave expert or guide) reserves the right to decline, accept or retain any person as a member of any party at any time without compensation or refund due to safety issue.

Please check Frequently Asked Questions or chat with us if you have any questions.

We Will Provide

  • Camping gear: tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag
  • Caving & safety gear: caving helmet, caving headlight, harness and gloves
  • Meals: breakfast (day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), lunch (day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), dinners (briefing day, day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • 1.5 L bottled water at the top of the trailhead/trekking point
  • Base Camp water filter and purifier (application by guide and porters)
  • Basic camping facilities with eco-friendly compost toilet using western toilet seat
  • First Aid Kit, Medical Rescue Equipment & Satellite Phone (application by cave experts & tour guide only)
  • Caving Expert from the British Cave Research Association
  • Professional English-speaking tour guide and guide safety assistants
  • Porter team to carry all gear and prepare all meals

You Will Need

  • 3 long quick dry, full length pants and 3 – 4 (easy to dry) shirts to wear during the trek; thick athletic leggings/running tights/yoga pants are acceptable pants (please make sure they are full-length and not see-through). For better photos, please consider bright colored shirts except white.
  • 2 pair of shorts and t-shirts to wear at campsite (plus your swimsuit for Hang En)
  • Trekking boots/shoes – difficult terrain, good footwear necessary. Recommended: Five-Ten Canyoneer 3. Gore-Tex/waterproof boots are NOT recommended as they do not drain well. Also consider bringing a backup pair of shoes
  • Underwear
  • 1 pair of flip flop (sandals) for campsite
  • 1 medium size towel
  • 4 – 5 pairs of calf-length close weave socks (not ankle socks or waterproof socks – no neoprene; SmartWool is a good brand; if you go with cotton, make sure it’s composed of 50% or less cotton)
  • Anti-fungal foot powder (talcum powder)
  • Wet wipes (very limited bathing inside the cave!)
  • Biodegradable soap and shampoo for use in rivers (only eco-friendly soap is acceptable, otherwise please plan to wash with wet wipes or just water)
  • Medium sized rucksack/backpack for daily belongings (most people find 15 – 20 L adequate; backpack must fit the helmet we will provide for you and cannot be strapped to the outside)
  • Water bottle at least 1.5 L
  • Personal items – toiletries, medication, camera, tripod, spare batteries (toiletries should also include feminine hygiene products for ladies, even if it’s “just in case”)
  • Sunscreen and hat
  • Small head-torch for use around camp
  • Rehydration tablets
  • ‘Compeed’/blister dressings
  • Medication – bring any essential medication and anything you take regularly (e.g anti-inflammatories). We supply drugs for emergency/unexpected conditions only.
  • AA/AAA batteries if needed (low quality only available locally)
  • Fleece, lightweight windproof, warm hat for evenings (February, March & early April only)

The following items are not required but highly recommended:

  • Sleeping mat (Therma-a-rest is a great brand); if you bring your own mat, it must fit in your plastic bag which the porters will carry
  • Gloves, as ours are one-size-fits-all (if you bring your own, please choose gloves with fingertips)
  • Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
  • Ankle gaiters to help prevent silt/gravel inside shoes (especially if you have shoes instead of boots)
  • Trekking poles; please only bring them if you are accustomed to using them
  • Dry bag in the event of rain (for clothing and personal items within your daypack); alternatively, a backpack cover would be a good idea especially for the rainier months of February – April
  • If you are serious about photography, please bring your tripod along with your camera (this must be able to fit in your daypack)

Important Notes: We will have porters carry any of your gear that you will not require during each day (e.g. camera equipment/clothes you do not need during the day can be taken ahead to the campsite for you). You will not be able to access this until you reach the campsite. Please respect our porters and do not bring too much luggage for them to carry (7 kg per person). No outdoor equipment is available in Phong Nha, and only limited items in Hanoi or Saigon.

Pricing And Availability

Important Note: The Son Doong Booking Form is both a booking and medical form, intended for our team to collect vital information about each potential customer. It includes a number of questions related to your fitness and medical history. Please provide all relevant information in the form; pre-existing medical conditions will not necessarily disqualify you from joining this tour, so be sure to disclose everything so that our Technical Advisory Team can make the best judgment as to whether or not you could completely this tour safely. If we find at any time that you have not completed the form honestly and in good integrity, we have the right to cancel your tour without refund. Also, be detailed in your answers, otherwise your reservation will be rejected – “regular walking”, “going to the gym” are not considered detailed.

While our system will accept bookings of up to 10 pax at a time, please note that your booking is not saved until your form is complete. We recommend booking in small groups or individuals so that you don’t lose your space to someone filling out the form quicker.

Thank you and we look forward to receiving your booking.

Updated: Son Doong Expedition 2016 tours are fully booked. There might be random availability due to cancellations so feel free to continue to check in with our calendar. Otherwise, please subscribe to our mailing list (link here) to receive updates about Son Doong Expedition 2017.

If you still have questions about this tour, please contact our local travel specialists who will be happy to answer all your questions

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