Son Doong Cave Expedition

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.

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: 64,500,000 VND or US$3,000/pax

Dong Hoi – Safety Briefing – Saigon Phong Nha Hotel

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 the local hotel (provided by us) 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.

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. Enjoy dinner with your team at around 7:30 pm at Oxalis headquarter, 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!

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.

Hang En Cave – Ban Doong Village – Phong Nha – Dong Hoi

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 Phong Nha. You will have a brief stop at the office to collect your luggage and valuables as well as pick up a small thank you gift from Oxalis, before a final 45 minute drive to Sun Spa Resort in Dong Hoi.

You can then enjoy the bath you’ve been awaiting for so long, a refreshing swim in the pool or a dip in the ocean. There is also a good spa at the hotel. In the evening, you can enjoy a group dinner with your fellow expedition team members.

Please advise the hotel of your departure time upon check-in so they can arrange your transfer back to the airport or train station on the following day.

Sun Spa Resort – Departure

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel (voucher provided) and your transfer to the airport will be arranged by the hotel reception. Be sure to confirm with them your departure information upon your arrival. Please let us know in advance if you would like any additional night(s) at the hotel and we can arrange that for you. There are some great seafood options we can suggest in Dong Hoi if you plan on staying an additional night or two.

We wish you all the best in your onward travels!

Oxalis Adventure Levels

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 question.

Tu Lan Cave Encounter

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

Tu Lan Cave Encounter

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

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 question.

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

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

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 question.

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

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 question.

Tu Lan Expedition

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

  • 30km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • Elevation change up to 150m (between valley and top of mountain)
  • 1 abseil in a cave (darkness)
  • 1 km swimming in caves (from 200m - 500m each cave)
  • 5 km caving
  • 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

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 question.

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

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 question.

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 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), dinners (day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  • 1.5 L bottled water at the top of the trailhead/trekking point
  • Katadyn (Swiss-made) 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)
  • 2 Caving Experts 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)
  • 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
  • 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!)
  • Bio-degradable soap and shampoo for use in rivers
  • 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 (Oxalis can supply water bottles if needed)
  • 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)

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

The booking for this expedition is not open yet. Please send us a message or email us (contact@oxalis.com.vn) to subscribe to our mailing-list. We will inform you via email as soon as this tour is open for booking. Thank you!

We will ask you to complete a number of questions related to your fitness and medical history once you have selected your dates. These questions are to help us ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trek and is not intended to exclude you. Please be detailed in your answers otherwise your reservation will be rejected – “regular walking”, “going to gym”, are not considered detailed. Your full payment is required by credit card if your reservation is accepted.

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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