Tu Lan Photography Discovery

This 2-day trek is an opportunity to escape civilization, pick up your camera and go deep into the rugged and untouched nature of the remote Tu Lan cave system: caves, karst mountains, jungle and waterfalls.

A completely different experience to any other cave system in the area, this photography tour maximizes your time in the jungle and caves with a wide variety of photogenic locations to capture your next best nature shot. One of the caves featured on this tour already had its beautiful formations featured in National Geographic by a world-renowned photographer.

Led by a professional caving guide and guide assistants, you’ll be presented with a range of viewpoints along with additional lighting to capture the best shots inside the caves, and some spectacular overlooks in the jungle.

It is a demanding tour as each day is extended to give you the longest time possible to capture your shots. You’ll also have the chance to capture some incredible nighttime photographs around the campsite and looking out of Ken cave.

This tour is intended for those who are serious about photography. You are responsible for your own camera and Oxalis does not provide lessons on how to use your camera, though some general guidance will be provided with regards to lighting the caves. Of course, our guides are always available to model for you in the caves if you need some perspective in your shots.

The rewards for this exploration also include watching flurries of butterflies surround camp in breeding months; sleeping under the stars, in a hammock, with the breeze floating lazily around you; sitting by a campfire; and listening to the beautiful waterfalls cascading nearby.

Please note that drones are not allowed on our Photography tour unless it is a private tour and permission has been granted by the Ministry of Defense for special purposes. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Videos about this tour: link 1 | link 2 | link 3 | link 4

Tu Lan Cave System on the news:  Theglobeandmail | Nomadasaurus 

Reviews on TripAdvisor: SR 1SR 2SR 3 | SR 4 | SR5

Download Itinerary (PDF)

Itinerary

Download Itinerary (PDF)

Quick Facts

  • Operating: from mid-Nov to mid-Sep (closed in October)

  • Duration: 2 days/1 night

  • Adventure Level: Easy for physically active guests (swimming necessary)

  • Availability: Twice per month

  • Small Group Tours: Average 2 - 8 pax

  • Minimum Age: 16 years

  • Tour Starts: 7:30 am - 8:00 am from any local hotel in Phong Nha

  • Tour Ends: 6:00 pm - 6:30 pm at any local hotel in Phong Nha

  • Price: VND 8,000,000/pax

Phong Nha - Tan Hoa - Tu Lan

You’ll be picked up at your hotel in Phong Nha between 7:30 am and 8:00 am, before venturing off to the village of Tan Hoa, located 70 km away. After a safety briefing and gear check, you need to sign our Release Form before it’s off and away for a full day of trekking. The trek begins with a 2.5 km march across fields of peanut crops, giant water buffaloes, towering corn stalks, and down to the Rao Nan River. The adventure accelerates with a 30 m climb up a rocky hill to a small jungle opening where you can catch your breath before a 100 m descent in elevation down to Hung Ton Valley. Lunch will be enjoyed in the Hung Ton Cave opening.

After lunch, we allow plenty of time for photography in Hung Ton Cave and throughout Kim Cave. With climbing, trekking, and swimming through river caves, this will surely be a highlight of your photography travel in Vietnam. Snacks are available during the afternoon. Arrive in campsite between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm and get ready for the best BBQ jungle dinner in the world (probably)! Optional shots include the exit of Hang Ken cave after dinner and maybe a shot of the stars if we are lucky. Sleep will come easily in comfortable hammocks or tents.

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Tu Lan - Tan Hoa - Phong Nha

The second day starts with a hearty breakfast at 7:30 am and more cave photography challenges.  Set off from the campsite and start cruising into Tu Lan cave entrance where there are opportunities for amazing shots of a blue lagoon. Making your way up to explore the dry part with some climbing and squeezing; at that point set up your tripod and capture some stunning shots of cave formations.

Walk through the forest path to the campsite for more jungle shots and enjoy a delicious lunch served next to the waterfall. After lunch, we will return the same way, through Kim Cave, To Mo Valley and Hung Ton Cave, giving you the opportunity for some last minute shots.

Arrival in Tan Hoa is followed by a chance to take in the scenery with a cold drink in hand. Showers are available for those who would like to clean up and change, and then departure back to Phong Nha is at around 5:30 pm, with arrival in Phong Nha by 7:00 pm.

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Oxalis Adventure Levels

Oxalis-adventure-levels (2016 updated) 1

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 Photography Discovery

Tu Lan Photography Discovery is easy for anyone who considers themselves physically fit and participates in regular outdoor activities, and moderate for anyone with limited outdoor experience. Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease, you have some basic trekking experience and be able to swim before taking part in the adventure.

  • 12 km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • 3 km caving with some bouldering
  • 1 km swimming in caves (from 200 m – 500 m each cave)
  • Elevation change up to 150 m (between valley and top of mountain)
  • 2 days and 1 night in jungle and caves

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 1-day Discovery

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

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

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 Tien Endeavor 

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

  • 13 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 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!

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

The Tu Lan Expedition is moderate-to-hard for anyone who considers themselves physically fit and who participates in regular outdoor activities, and not suitable for those without trekking experience. Please make sure that you have basic trekking experience, you are able to swim and your health is suitable for these activities with ease.

  • About 30 km jungle and mountain trekking, rocky terrain
  • About 5 km caving
  • About 800 m swimming in caves (from 100 m – 300 m each cave)
  • Elevation change up to 300 m (between valley and top of mountain – total of 1750m of ascent)
  • 4 days and 3 nights in jungle and caves

Oxalis Adventure Tours staff  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
  • 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. This tour is not for those with limited outdoor/trekking experience, poor medical condition, nor is it for children or expectant mothers.

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

We Will Provide

  • Camping gear: hammock/tent (with mosquito net), camp light, sleeping bag
  • Caving & safety gear: caving helmet, caving headlight, life jacket, gloves
  • Light PVC backpack (if you do not want to take your own, as it will get wet)
  • Dry bag (for clothing and personal belongings excl. electronics)
  • Basic canvas trekking boots (only if you do not have your own pair) sizes 36 – 46
  • Meals: picnic lunches, breakfast (Day 2), dinner (Day 1)
  • Professional English-speaking tour guide and guide safety assistant
  • Porter team to carry all camping gear and prepare all meals
  • Shared dry box for phones and small cameras (limited availability for larger cameras)
  • Water filter and purifier (used only by guide and porters)
  • Basic camping facilities with eco-friendly compost toilet using western toilet seat
  • First Aid Kit and Medical Rescue Equipment (application by guides and porters only
  • Secure Storage Facility at Oxalis Headquarters to store all luggage you will not be taking on the trek

In addition to the standard provisions Oxalis will also provide on this photography tour the following:

  • Special headlamp for photo tours only (Hope R2, 1500 lumens)
  • Underwater light torches
  • 2 Photography lights (R8, 3000 lumens)
  • Charging pack for camera batteries (limited quantity – availability depends on group size)
  • A set of walkie-talkies
  • Use of guides as photography models
  • General assistance regarding lighting the caves

You Will Need

  • Your own camera and lens
  • Tripods (this should be able to fit in your daypack)
  • Related camera equipment such as batteries, lens tissues/cloths (there is a chance of lenses steaming up)
  • Dry bag for general trekking gear if you feel more confident with your own; Oxalis provides semi-dry bags
  • Additional dry box for camera gear/lenses
  • Some small towels to protect your camera in the dry box, and dry your hands during photography
  • 1 long (easy to dry) pants and 2 long sleeved shirts to wear during the trek (quick dry)
  • 1 pair of shorts and t-shirt to wear at campsite and swim suit
  • 1 pair of trekking boots/shoes – difficult terrain, good footwear necessary. Gore-Tex/waterproof boots are NOT recommended as they do not drain well
  • 1 pair of flip-flop (sandals) for campsite
  • 1 medium size towel
  • 2 – 3 pairs of calf length densely woven socks (not ankle socks)
  • 1 change of clothes for after the tour
  • Personal items: mosquito repellent, sunglasses, hat, camera, underwear, toiletries

If you are trekking in the colder months (December to March) please bring additional warm clothes for the evening and extra change of long pants and shirt for swimming.

Please note this itinerary is a guide only and the tour will be slow and steady as guests feel the need to set up for particular shots. A lightweight windproof jacket may be useful, as moving slowly and stopping for photographs can get chilly in wet clothes.

Pricing And Availability

Our Tu Lan Photography Discovery is available only twice a month on a join-in basis (minimum 2pax). It is advised to book in advance as this is a popular tour and the number of guest is limited.

This tour is operated from November to mid-September (closed from mid-September to the first week of November).

FAQ: Tu Lan Cave Encounter

What if I am a solo traveler, can I join a group?

Solo travelers are most welcome and make up a large percentage of most groups.

Why do I have to sign your Release Form?

We require customers to sign our Release Form to confirm they accept this is an adventure tour and they have to follow our guide’s instructions and safety rules. Customers also accept they have some responsibilities for their own safety.

Which months of the year do you run this tour, and which are the best months to go?

If you enjoy swimming and warm weather, please book the tour from May to August. If you are looking for a warm campfire at night, and cooler weather, you can book the tour between November to April.

Note: Due to safety reasons, there is no swimming in the caves if the temperature is below 18 degrees Celsius.

What are the highlights of this tour?

This tour not only leads you to visit the biggest caves in Tu Lan, Hang Tu Lan and Hang Ken, but also enjoys different activities such as jungle trekking, caving, and rocky hill scrambling all during just a 2 day trip. It would be a perfect choice for those who have good physical fitness but not much trekking experience. It’s also one of the top choices during the region’s hot summers.

Can I arrive in Phong Nha on the morning of the tour and depart Phong Nha directly after the tour?

This tour starts with pickup between 7:30 – 8:00 am in Phong Nha and returns around 5:00 – 5:30 pm the following afternoon. You would be able to arrive on the tour morning by night bus from Hanoi or by train from many destinations. You would be able to depart by night bus to Hanoi or by train heading either north or south. Please be advised that there are neither early morning flights nor late evening flights which would accommodate arriving on tour morning or departing directly after the tour; only buses and trains are available at these times.

Do I need to know how to swim to do this tour?

Yes, you do. You have to swim on this tour. There will be swimming sections of approximately 100 m – 500 m throughout the tour. Life jackets will be provided by Oxalis and are mandatory regardless of your swimming ability.

Can I bring my camera on this tour?

Yes, you can. Most cameras can fit into the drybox which the tour guide will carry with him/her. If you have a large camera or long lens, please notify us in advance, as it may not fit into the drybox and you’ll need to make other arrangements for keeping it dry.

Will I visit Son Doong Cave on this tour?

This tour does not include Son Doong Cave because it ventures to the Tu Lan cave system located 70 km from Son Doong Cave.

How far in advance do I need to book this tour? How will I know my tour is confirmed?

We recommend booking this tour as soon as you can, as it’s one of our most popular tours. After you make a booking, a member of our team will follow up within 48 hours with your invoice, payment link, and further tour information.

How can I pay? Can I pay via credit card? What is your cancellation policy?

You can pay via credit card through the online payment link we will provide you with. We use the online payment platform OnePay which accepts Visa and Mastercard. If you live in Vietnam, you have other option to make a bank transfer.

Our cancellation policy for this tour requires a 7 day advance notice: if we receive your cancellation 7 days or more in advance of your tour, we will provide you a full refund. We do not provide refunds for tours cancelled less than 7 days prior to tour departure.

What can I do with the things that I don’t want to bring with me on tour? Can I leave them at your office?

You are welcome to leave behind extra luggage at our office. Anything you choose to leave behind will get tagged and placed securely in our locked storage room, however please note that Oxalis takes no responsibility for luggage or valuables left behind. Please do not bring anything of major value with you as we will not be responsible for these items.

How big are the caves? What if I’m claustrophobic?

The caves will all leave you in awe at their size. The size of each cave varies quite dramatically but in most passages, you will find ample room all around you and above your head. Therefore, you should not have any problem with claustrophobia in the caves. However, please make sure you are fine with how the fact that the caves are very dark (we will provide you with a headlamp).

How can I get to Phong Nha?

Please check the Arrival & Departure Guide on our website for more information

Where can I stay in Phong Nha?

Please check the Accommodation Guide on our website for more information

For more questions and answers, please visit our full FAQ page. We have collected lots of common questions that you might share with our previous customers.

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