Safety River Crossing on adventure activities

River crossing on foot is perhaps one of the most fun experiences to have out in the wilderness and is a part of most adventure tours operated by Oxalis. While this is a fun and exciting activity, depending on the depth of the river and the how strong the current is, river crossing must always be done in a safe manner, under the supervision of trained individuals or things can go wrong in the blink of an eye.

River Crossing on Oxalis Adventure tours

As mentioned earlier, river crossing is an essential part of almost all adventure tours by Oxalis and it certainly adds charm to an adventurous journey in various ways. Crossing a river on foot isn’t something you get to do on a daily basis, but on an Oxalis adventure tour, it is part of the jungle trekking and you will certainly enjoy this experience as your body would be facing a variety of adventurous challenges throughout the journey!

All the Tu Lan Cave System adventure tours have one thing in common; crossing the Rao Nan River in the initial phase of the adventure, before entering the dense tropical forest! Similar to the Tu Lan tours, you will find multiple river crossings on the Hang Va Expedition, up to 40 times river crossing on the Hang En Adventure and multiple surface and underground river crossings on one of the top bucket list experiences in the world – Son Doong Expedition!

Crossing Rao Nan River- Oxalis Adventure
Hang En Trails
Hang En Trails 2
Hang Va Expedition - Underground river
Son Doong Cave 5

The water level while crossing these rivers is usually knee deep or even lower in normal conditions; this makes it a very fun and enjoyable activity, and doesn’t drown out much energy from an adventurer. However, given the fact that one must always be prepared to take on contingencies, Oxalis makes sure all the tour going staff is meticulously trained for crossing rivers safely in circumstances of high water level!

Importance of safety while river crossing

Oxalis Adventure regularly conducts safety training and refreshers for the tour guides, porters, guide assistants and safety assistants in order to ensure full preparation during any contingencies. River Crossing is one such activity and maintaining safety while doing it, is highly important in situations involving a higher water level or unexpected floods. If the water level is too high, it is imperative to stick to alternatives like finding a different route, using a boat or cancelling the trip altogether; crossing a flooded river can be extremely dangerous and is not worth the risk.

River crossing on foot in normal water level conditions requires no special techniques or equipment. On the other hand, crossing a river when the water level is high requires an understanding of certain safety techniques, equipment and support from other (safety assistants or tour guides). Read on to find out about the different safety techniques and equipment used for crossing a river in high water level conditions.

Safety equipment used for river crossing

The primary equipment used for crossing a higher water level river, on Oxalis tours:

·      Line

River crossings may be assisted with the use of a line across the river. The line can be used for support as a handline or with a sling and karabiner to float across if swept off your feet. The line must never be angled at 90° to the current. It must be angled with the downstream end at a suitable exit point and must be releasable.

(9)Throw Bag with floating rope

·      Throw bags

A throw bag is a rescue device with a line stuffed loosely into a bag. The rope pays out through the top when the bag is thrown to a swimmer in the river.

·      Helmet

On all Oxalis Adventure tours, you will be provided with Petzl caving helmets, which can be worn during river crossing as well; in order to protect the head from injuries in case of a slip and fall.

Life Vest-2

·      Floatation device

This is a highly reliable life jacket that keeps an adventurer afloat under all circumstances.

Things to consider and pay attention to

When crossing a flooded river, it is crucial to consider the following variables:

river crossing.00_01_16_14.Still024

1.     Depth of the water

The depth of water will be a limiting factor and needs to be determined prior to attempting a crossing. As a general rule the depth of water that can be crossed will be to the height of the buoyancy jacket as it will then start to lift the person off their feet.

2.     Speed of the water

Water velocity has a significant effect on the ability to cross water and can easily wash people off their feet.

3.     The underwater conditions

The river bed will present a number of obstacles such as boulders, slippery cobbles, silt, vegetation and strainers. This problem is increased when the visibility is poor as any obstacle cannot be seen. Prior to entering the water, it must be ensured that everyone has been briefed and safety measures have been put in place. This will include location of throw bags, areas to swim to. A visual check upstream must be made before crossing for any debris floating downstream and downstream safety must be in place, along with a safety assistant with a throw bag.

Consideration must be given to the river features downstream and the ability to swim to shore if someone is washed away. In particular, eddies should be identified and everyone should be made aware of where to swim should they be swept away. A safe location to enter and exit the river must be identified.

Methods for crossing a river

There are a number of techniques that can be adopted for river crossings dependent on the depth and confidence of the group.

1. Individual

This can be completed in lower water levels. Where possible start upstream and walk at an angle across the river to a downstream exit. This technique allows the water to push you across and is generally more stable that trying to walk upstream. A safety assistant is always positioned downstream to supervise. Before crossing, it is important to always look upstream.

Moving water will impart pressure on the upstream side of your legs. This will also create a small eddy on the downstream side of the legs. The safety assistant will always be standing upstream when providing assistance on a river crossing. This allows the eddy produced by their legs to provide a calmer area for those needing assistance.

2. Line abreast

In lower energy water this technique may be considered; the adventurer must face the direction of travel and the person upstream should be the most experienced and strongest person as they take the force of water. This creates an eddy for other team members and a pole can be used to assist or link arms.

3. Line Astern

This method is suitable for higher energy water, as it requires the group to face upstream with the most experienced, strongest person at the front. They will take the force of water and create an eddy for the rest of the team. They can assist by applying gentle pressure on the front person to maintain stability. To move, the person at the front will shout “step” and the group move together to step sideways. The method is helped by use of a pole to provide support or check the river bed.

All the safety practices and training at Oxalis Adventure is conducted under the supervision of cave experts from the British Cave Research Association (BCRA), and is led by their technical advisor from BCRA – Mr. Martin Holroyd, a former training team leader at the Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) in Yorkshire, UK.

To know more about our safety in tour, visit Oxalis’s equipments or learn more about another BCRA cave expert who has been in Phong Nha for 29 years to explore caves – Howard Limbert.

Oxalis Adventure Tours Activities


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 descent 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).


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 a 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 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).


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).


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 a lot of answers for your questions and concerns. https://oxalis.com.vn/faq-general/

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