24 year old visually impaired Austrian man explores caves in Vietnam
There’s a thin line separating ordinary from the extraordinary, and only a few have the courage to cross that line into a world of glory.
From Austria to Tu Lan Cave System
Meet Patrick Bitzinger! This 24 year old Austrian gentleman has a superpower that makes him an exemplary representation of the word “B-R-A-V-E”. When life threw a challenge at him in the form of visual impairment, he decided to face it with the spirit of a warrior, he indeed trains rigorously and hones his skills of swimming, cycling and running everyday.
Patrick and his lovely friends Annika Kafka & Nathalie Podda-Prewett, decided on traveling to Vietnam seeking the adventure of a lifetime. Having been friends for over 5 years, this wonderful trio has a special bond indeed! Much to our privilege & happiness, we had the opportunity to give these amazing people #TheOxalisExperience!
The Tu Lan Cave Encounter awaited them in the mystical jungles of the Tan Hoa commune. Before it all began, Patrick’s well-being on the tour was something we were slightly apprehensive about; since safety is one of our top priorities for all our adventure tours.
With careful consideration, we Oxalis arranged for their tour to be a private one with two safety assistants and two tour guides, namely Hung and Sang, as it would allow us to be best prepared for the challenges and also cater to their itinerary with highest suitability.
With excitement running through everyone’s veins, we embarked on a rather unusual adventure!
Here comes the real adventure into caves & jungles
With minor struggle and just a few slips here and there, Patrick tremendously outshined all the challenges that we expected him to face as we trekked into the dense jungle.
Annika, Nathalie and our tour guide Hung described the surroundings in the best manner and the smile on his face indicated that he could imagine it well. Every now and then, we’d find Patrick laughing and smiling while in conversation with everyone. With sweat slowly trickling down his face, Patrick ever so softly held onto the strap of our safety assistant’s backpack to be able to navigate through the rocky terrain.
There it was! The entrance of the mysterious cave stood powerfully in front of us and Annika described this scene to Patrick as Hung, Sang and our porters prepared the caving gear. With our Petzl Helmets & headlamps on, we ventured into the inviting darkness of the beautiful cave.
Once inside, Patrick’s stellar fitness allowed him to breeze through the difficult sections of the cave with very basic assistance from our team. Hung held his hand and helped him feel the fascinating formations in the cave!
As we got inside the pleasantly cold water inside the cave and began to swim, Annika, a swimming coach, could be seen beautifully getting across like a dolphin! Patrick had held onto the strap of our safety assistant’s bag with one hand and nonchalantly swam with the other! Nathalie was also thoroughly enjoying this cave swimming experience, while in informative conversation with Sang.
We trekked, caved, climbed, scrambled, swam and waded in the caves for several hours and the entirety of this adventure was made way more special with Patrick’s remarkable passion for adventure, his immovable determination and the wholehearted support from the whole team!
Conquered! Tu Lan Cave System 2-Day Adventure.
With a day full of jungle & cave adventures behind us, we made it to our stunning riverside campsite set in the wild. Once done devouring our delicious Vietnamese food, we relaxed and traded stories over some fruits and local rice wine. There sat Patrick, with a genuine smile on his face, taking in all the sounds and smells of the gorgeous nature that surrounded us. He did it. Despite the challenges, despite skeptical popular opinion, Patrick conquered the Tu Lan Cave Encounter and made a permanent mark of respect & admiration in all our hearts.
One of the top things to do in Vietnam, Annika, Nathalie & Patrick have felt #TheOxalisExperience and made it to our hall of fame! What’s stopping you?
Oxalis Adventure Tours
ONE DAY TOURS
If you are seeking a taste of the caves and really don’t have enough time then we recommend a one-day cave and jungle trek. We currently have three tour options for you to select, each with a slightly different style and suitability.
• Phong Nha National Park 1-Day: Our family adventure in the Phong Nha offers a great taste of untouched jungle and impressive wild caves. It is the easiest level of adventure but there is still 5km of trekking and 2km of caving, and optional swimming during warmer weather into one cave. It’s suitable for kids from 12 and above with good fitness, and so this makes for a great day for everyone! It costs VND 1,650,000 per person (USD 72).
• Tu Lan Experience – 1 Day: This is one of our original one-day tours and still one of the best adventures in Vietnam. This one-day tour includes rock scrambling, 50m swimming through a wild river-cave, and up to 9 km of trekking through the lush jungles. You will also strap yourself in for a 15m descent down a ladder. It costs VND 1,800,000 (USD 78) per person.
• Hang Tien Discovery – 1 Day: This one-day tour is perfect for trekking enthusiasts eager to see the largest cave of Tu Lan but without time for the two-day experience. Hang Tien is a dry cave so no swimming required, but still includes up to 4km of trekking through mostly flat jungle and about 500m exploring this incredible cave that will no doubt impress with its grandeur. It costs VND 2,000,000 per person (USD 87).
TWO DAY TOURS
Our most popular cave adventures start from two-days providing an immersive jungle and caving adventure, each targeting a slightly different kind of adventure-seeker, or perfect for those who want to combine a couple of tours to see different caves and areas on one trip to Phong Nha.
• Tu Lan Cave Encounter – 2 Days: Our most popular tour exploring the famous jungle area of Tu Lan. On this overnight camping excursion, you will trek through a number of different dry caves, swim up to 500m through a couple of river caves, witness outstanding cascading waterfalls underground as featured in National Geographic, and spend the night at our jungle camp beside a gorgeous waterfall. It includes 12km of trekking and 3km of caving in total and is for those with a good adventurous spirit. It costs VND 5,500,000 per person (USD 239).
• Hang En Cave Adventure – 2 Days: For two days, this is our best-value-for-money tour that includes one of the most jaw-dropping natural landscapes you will see in this lifetime. This cave is considered the second largest cave in Vietnam and third largest in the World, and it also makes up one night of the original five-day Son Doong Cave Expedition being so close to the largest cave in the world. It includes visiting Ban Doong Ethnic Village, located in the jungle, and a magnificent campsite on a sandy beach inside the cave. It includes 22km of jungle trekking at times quite rocky, multiple knee-deep river crossings, and elevation change of 400m (the ‘hill’ you won’t forget), and 4km of caving. This is a level 3 adventure on a scale of 1 to 6. It costs VND 7,600,000 per person (USD 330).
• Hang Tien Endeavor – 2 Days: A two-day trek into the jungle to see the largest dry cave of the Tu Lan area, exploring 5.5km of this truly stunning cave, with a variety of karst formations. This 13km trek is suitable for those not too keen on cave swimming or too many hills, but still up for an adventure. This is a level 4 adventure between 1 and 6, with 6 being the most challenging. It costs VND 6,500,000 per person (USD 283).
• Hang Va Expedition – 2 Days: A technically challenging, but equally rewarding two-day caving adventure in the heart of Phong Nha National Park. This tour takes you deep into the jungle to one of the most spectacular river-caves, with formations not seen anywhere else in the world! It involves rock scrambling, wading through an underground river, bouldering and rope-traversing within the cave, to reach the rarest tower cone formations. This involves quite a lot of technical work due to safety, but is not overly difficult, it includes 10km of trekking and 3 km of caving. This is a level 4 adventure, with 6 being the highest. It costs VND 8,000,000 per person (USD 348).
Now, if you really want to increase the adventure and soak up the wild jungle of Vietnam, with plenty of time to relax and enjoy the area, we highly recommend a three-day caving tour of our Tu Lan or Hang Tien.
• Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer – 3 Days: This tour incorporates the very best of Tu Lan with two different jungle campsites besides stunning waterfalls, 3km of cave exploring through a number of caves, 1km of cave swimming and visiting some additional areas not included on our shorter experiences. Our three-day tour is very popular and tends to be booked out so get in quick to enjoy this thrilling jungle adventure. It includes 17 km of jungle trekking and with quite a bit of swimming you will need to have a good level of fitness. It is not for the faint-hearted, but still only considered level 3 adventure level compared to level 4 of the Hang Tien 3-day tour. It costs VND 8,000,000 per person (USD 348).
• Hang Tien Exploration – 3 Days: This three-day tour stands out for combining a taste of Tu Lan with some river cave swimming, before crossing a mountain range to reach the valley for Hang Tien – the most astounding dry caves in the region, where you will enjoy trekking, bouldering over various rocky terrains to witnessing breathtaking patterned calcite walls & ceilings of Hang Tien. It’s challenging and definitely more suited to adventure enthusiasts who have trekking experience and prefer more challenging routes. It includes a total of 22km of trekking, 6.5 km of caving and an elevation change of 150m over one particular hillside. You will get wet, you will be challenged, but you will not be disappointed. Hang Tien is located adjacent to the Tu Lan area so you will enjoy the best of both worlds – a level 4 adventure out of 6 adventure levels. It costs VND 8,500,000 per person (USD 370).
FOUR & FIVE-DAY TOURS
For those looking for the ultimate adventure experience in Vietnam, and thriving for the real grand expedition of the world, you should opt for these 4-day journeys to explore the entire cave system of Tu Lan and the largest cave on Earth
• Tu Lan Expedition – 4 Days: You will also explore all of the extraordinary caves in Tu Lan, including Kim Cave and Secret Cave that boasts phenomenal natural falls and karst formations inside these two unbelievable river caves. Complete a trek through Hang Tien Cave – famed for its vastness and magnificent formations. Our secluded jungle campsites are spectacular and mostly different from those visited on our shorter treks in the same region. This is a perfect alternative expedition for those who are unable to do Son Doong Expedition, still it’s challenging and not recommended for those without experience. It includes an additional night at Chay Lap Farmstay before the tour to ensure you are well rested and ready to depart early the following day. Level 5 on our 6 adventure levels. It includes 30km of jungle trekking, 5 km of caving, about 800m swimming through caves and one abseil in a cave in the pitch black – highly adventurous! It costs VND 15,000,000 per person (USD 652).
• Son Doong Expedition – 4 Days: By now you would have seen some pictures of Son Doong Cave, and even they don’t do it justice. The record-breaking Son Doong Cave is hands-down one of the most stunning places on this planet Earth. The expedition is tough, but not too difficult so long as you have a strong resolve to achieve. It is surely one of the newest wonders of the world. Son Doong is not just another cave tour – it is life-changing to say the least. It includes 25km of trekking, 9 km caving including rope climbs, and the 90m ascent of the Great Wall of Vietnam using a ladder, elevation change of 400m and many river crossings inside and outside the cave. Level 6 on our adventure levels. It costs VND 69,800,000 per person (USD 3000).
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? Visit our FAQs section where we have a lot of answers for your questions and concerns. https://oxalis.com.vn/faq-general/
WANT TO SEE VIDEOS OF OUR TOURS? Visit our youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/OxalisAdventurTours
WANT TO CHAT LIVE WITH OUR ADVENTURE CONSULTANT? Please look at the green icon at the right corner on your screen below to talk to our Adventure Consultant.