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Exploring the underground river inside Son Doong

General cave exploration history from 1990 to 2019 in Quang Binh Province

The British Cave Research Association has been exploring caves in Vietnam since 1990 until present.

In Quang Binh which is the most important area for cave exploration in Vietnam, 350 caves have been explored and mapped. The 4 main systems explored in Quang Binh are the Phong Nha cave system 94km, the Hang Vom cave system 55km, Nuoc Mooc cave system 23km and outside the National Park the Tu Lan cave system 25km.

These systems have some of the best caves in the world including Son Doong Cave the worlds largest cave, Hang Khe Ry the world’s longest river cave and the longest cave in Vietnam and Hang En the third largest cave in the world. The area is not fully explored and many more caves will be discovered in future years.

Many of the caves are in the World Heritage site of Phong Nha Ke Bang massif which is one of the largest area’s of limestone in the world. The limestone rocks are around 450,000,000 million years old, the oldest in South East Asia and very well protected by the National Park. This area is very special yielding some of the best caves yet discovered in the world and probably the best caving region in the world.

A number of the caves under strict control are used for adventure tourism and in fact Quang Binh is the fastest growing tourist destination in Vietnam because of this and is locally known as the kingdom of caves.

Below are the details of caves have been found in Quang Binh until 2019.

Son Doong Cave

Son Doong Cave is located in the heart of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province of Central Vietnam. Only recently explored in 2009-2010 by the British Cave Research Association, Son Doong Cave has only been open to the public since 2013. All research and tourist expeditions have thus far have been organized and led by local adventure tour company Oxalis, in partnership with British Cave Research Association and with the permission of the government of Vietnam. 

Find more information about Son Doong Cave here.

Hang En Cave

Currently considered to be the 3rd largest cave in the world by volume after  Son Doong Cave and Deer Cave in Malaysia, Hang En is quickly becoming one of the most recognisable and impressive caverns on the planet.

Find more information about Hang En Cave here

Hang Va Cave

Hang Va is one of the most treasured caves in all of Phong Nha National Park, home to some of the rarest formations seen anywhere in the world. Hang Va is located deep in the park quite close to the world-famous Son Doong Cave, and it is thought to be part of the same system.

Find more information about Hang Va Cave here

Nuoc Nut Cave

Nuoc Nut Cave was first discovered in 2003 by a Phong Nha local man and British Cave Research Association members who continued surveying the areas around Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. With a total length of almost 2.2km, Nuoc Nut Cave is probably about 2 million years old.

Find more information about Nuoc Nut Cave here

Tu Lan Cave System

Tu Lan Cave System is comprised of over 10 caves in all, some of which were originally discovered and explored in 1992, and some of which were just found in the past couple years. The stalactites and stalagmites are enormous and breathtaking. One of the caves in the Tu Lan cave system, Ken Cave, even had it’s beautiful formations featured recently in National Geographic by world renowned photographer Carsten Peter.

Find more information about Tu Lan Cave System here

Hang Tien Cave System

Hang Tien is the biggest dry cave in the Tu Lan Cave System and the enormity of this cave can be understood by the fact that Hang Tien 2 itself is almost 3km long and has a vertical range of about 100m. During the summer, Hang Tien is a dry cave but when the rainy season arrives, all the water basins in the areas gather into this place, creating a large river flowing in the cave. When the water recedes, the beautiful natural jade lakes in the cave will be formed and also create fabulous karst formations that are incredibly unique.

Find more information about Hang Tien Cave here

Diving Expedition To The Underground River of Son Doong

A team of British divers have dived the terminal sump of Hang Son Doong with support from Oxalis. In extremely challenging conditions, the sump was dived to a depth of -77m making it the deepest cave dive in Vietnam.  The cave was also extended by a further 60m despite the difficulties of route finding in very poor visibility and the significant depths.

 

Diving in the sump the passage turned sharply to the left and descended very steeply in a vast tunnel. Due to the very low visibility of only 2 metres it was very difficult to make progress. The start of the sump was measured at a depth of -93m and going deeper. The divers were able to locate a roof at -60m and the floor an unknown depth below.

Some dives required nearly 2 hours of safety stops (decompression) before being able to safely return to the surface.

 

The divers were using compressed air and therefore unable to dive any deeper without significant risk to themselves. In order to dive deeper or further into the cave they will need to plan to dive to a depth of up to -120metres and use special mixed gases of air and helium. Dives to this depth are extremely challenging and will require dives of up to 5 hours which will be predominantly to allow for decompression. Even if the divers are able to find the way on and start to ascend to the surface, they will still to make safety stops before surfacing into any new cave passage.

Dive History

  • 16.03.19
    Martin Holroyd, Recce dive of terminal sump to -25m
  • 02.04.19
    Chris Jewell dived the terminal sump to -60m with no confirmed passage found.
  • 03.04.19
    Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson continued with exploration and search for the way on. Passage believed to be entered and Jason reached a depth of -77m, the maximum limits for the divers on compressed air.
    Chris Jewell searched off the line laid by Jason and located the roof of the new tunnel at -61m. Due to the poor visibility it had not been possible to establish the size of the passage. Only by a combination of each dive were the divers able to find the way on.

Oxalis Adventure Tours Activities

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-DayOur 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 DayThis 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 decent down a ladder. It costs VND 1,800,000 (USD 78) per person.

• Hang Tien Discovery – 1 DayThis 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 DaysOur 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 good adventurous spirit. It costs VND 5,500,000 per person (USD 239).

• Hang En Cave Adventure – 2 DaysFor 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 DaysA 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 a 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 DaysA 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).

THREE-DAY TOURS

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 DaysThis 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 DaysThis 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 DaysYou 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 DaysBy 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 alot 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 cornor on your screen below  to talk to our Adventure Consultant.