Earlier this spring, Oxalis received an email from a very special family indeed. This family was represented by Tina, a Wish Coordinator at Make-A-Wish® Minnesota, who wrote to us on behalf of a tenacious young man and his family. For those who may not be familiar with Make-A-Wish®, the foundation’s mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
Tina explained that Robert, the young man she wrote to us about, had expressed that more than anything else in the world he wanted to see the world’s biggest cave. We learned of his thirst for adventure, his love of caves and the outdoors, and his extensive hiking and camping experiences. We spoke to Robert’s mom Jennifer and heard stories of his strength, determination and ability to overcome. Through her testimony, we recognized that she just wanted for her son that which he wanted most: the chance to live life to the fullest and join us for a great adventure. After some discussions with the ever-patient Tina, and chats with our cave expert/technical advisory team, we all decided that the best fit for him would be a private 3-day tour into the wild jungle and caves of Tu Lan.
Located over an hour from Phong Nha and nestled into an expansive and beautiful river valley, the Tu Lan caves system is comprised of a variety of thrills and amazing scenes: hiking, swimming, and spelunking through caves with dry passages, river passages, and some of the most beautiful formations around. A tour to Tu Lan includes trekking through lush jungle, camping in the remote jungle and a cave, and swimming through mysterious river caves. We planned their tour for early August, and also set up a homestay for the evening before their tour in the village located next to the Tu Lan caves system, for an added cultural experience and chance to see how the true local Vietnamese live.
Robert’s family was high-spirited as they set off on the morning of their excursion with Oxalis tour guide Vu leading the way. Vu is a gentle yet strong leader, hailing from Hue, and he has just completed his first year on the Oxalis team. As Jennifer recounted after the tour, “Our entire family loves Vu. He was the perfect match for us. He is such a genuine soul and we felt completely safe with him as our leader.” (Great work Vu!).
Over the course of the next three days, Vu, the porter team, and Robert’s family made their way past both physical obstacles including caves and jungle, and many mental obstacles as well. As Jennifer confided in us, her daughter Elizabeth especially overcame some past fears. Whereas she had once been a bit tentative of trying new things and traveling too far from home, she developed a new found desire to travel more and has even said that she is homesick for the jungle since arriving home! Her fears most likely stem from worrying about her brother, but by the time she reached the end of the tour, she had witnessed her brother’s strength and gained some of her own. She loved swimming through the caves, and her sister Hannah loved climbing up through the steep and tight spots, such as in Tu Lan cave. All of the kids were in awe of the countryside and villages, and gained a new self confidence in themselves and their abilities. They discovered the joys of international travel and immersion in different cultures.
With Jennifer hoping to return to conquer Son Doong, Elizabeth planning to return for another trek after her collage graduation, and Robert’s love of the caves, Oxalis certainly hopes to welcome this incredible family back to Phong Nha in the future.
@Robert: We wish you all the best and are proud to have been able to help you achieve your dreams, albeit on a slightly smaller scale than Son Doong. Thank you for trusting Oxalis to do our part in fulfilling your aspirations to journey through the Vietnamese wild with us! We couldn’t be happier to hear from your mom that the trip was even better than you imagined and exactly what you wanted.
@Make-A-Wish Minnesota: You are a fabulous organization serving a very worthy cause and we are thankful that you connected us with Robert and his family. All our love and best wishes,
Oxalis Adventure Team
Pictures provided by Robert’s family
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/
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