Safety is number one priority for both customers and staff at Oxalis Adventure. Oxalis uses only top quality equipment imported mainly from France, England and Switzerland. All guides are follow a comprehensive training programme and are regularly assessed. No inexperienced guide will be allowed to run a tour and only fully qualified and experienced guides will be in charge of any tour that Oxalis runs.
Oxalis Adventure tours are exactly what the name implies an adventure. However we know that it is possible to run adventures tours without comprising safety in any way
Oxalis Adventure has run tours into caves in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam for the last 8 years. During that time we have had no episodes of danger due to water and flooding. The reasons for this are as follows:
- All our cave tours are run only in the dry season and we stop any tours during the wet rainy season between mid-September and early November.
- Most of the caves we run tours to have multi entrances which allow us to enter and exit at different places.
- The caves we run tours into are generally huge and flooding is not considered to be a risk due to the high size of the cave passages which do not flood like smaller caves.
- If an unusual forecast such as a tropical storm is expected we change the tour itinerary to ensure safety.
- All tours are run by experienced guides and caving experts who are very experienced in safety.
- All river crossings on tours with high water are always done either by boat or using safety ropes to ensure safe crossings. All guides and customers will use a life jacket in these situations. All guides are trained in river crossing techniques and river rescue.
- All cave tours have been designed by British Cave Research Association cavers who have vast experience in caving all over the world as well as Vietnam.
- On all tours no risks are taken and with safety the priority all tours are tailored to meet the abilities of the customers are on the tour and the weather conditions at that time.
- Specially designed equipment imported from Europe is used on all tours, such as caving helmets, lights, harnesses, ropes, karabiners floating ropes, throw bags etc. Full instructions are provided and guests are supported at all times by the safety team.
- The number of guests per tour is strictly controlled and supported by a number of guides and safety assistants.
- All tours must follow the safety rules and guidelines.
Oxalis has developed an internal Adventure Level system that can help guests to assess the suitability of each tour for them. These levels are based on several years of collecting information from guests, cave experts and Oxalis management staff. If you are still not sure about your ability, please talk to one of our Adventure Consultants to seek more advice. More detailed descriptions of each tour can be found in the ‘Which Tour?’ section.
Adventure Level 1 · Easy
- 1 day tour
- Easy trekking
- Less than 5km of trekking
- Total Elevation gain: 50m
- 2-3km of easy kayaking
Adventure Level 2 · Moderate
- 1 or 2 day tour
- Easy to moderate trekking
- 5-12km of trekking including up to 3km of caving
- Total elevation gain: 150m for 1 day and 250m for 2 days
- Swimming in caves (50-150m length)
- River crossings
- 10m ladder climb with safety rope
Adventure Level 3 · Moderate
- 1 - 3 day tour
- Moderate trekking (very rocky terrain for Tien tours)
- 8-22km of trekking including 3-5km of caving
- Total elevation gain: 350-450m
- Swimming in caves (Wild Tu Lan 50-150m)
- River crossings
Adventure Level 4 · Challenging
- 2 - 3 day tour
- Moderate trekking - very rocky terrain
- 10-22km of trekking including 3-5km of caving
- Total elevation gain: 200m for 2 days, 900m for 3 days
- River crossings
- Swimming in caves (100m)
- 20m traverse using ropes and harnesses (Hang Va with instruction and supervision)
Adventure Level 5 · Tough
- 4 day tour
- Moderate to hard trekking- very rocky terrain
- 30km of trekking including 5km of caving
- Total elevation gain: 900m
- River crossings
- Swimming in caves (50-150m)
- 15m underground abseil using ropes and harnesses (with instruction and supervision)
Adventure Level 6 · Tough
- 4 day tour
- Moderate to hard trekking - very rocky terrain
- 25km trekking
- 7k of caving which includes rope climbs, rocky scrambling, and the 90m ascent of the Wall of Vietnam (technical sections with instruction, supervision and safety equipment).
- Total elevation gain: 800m
- Surface and underground river crossings
- 3 nights camping underground
Oxalis Adventure currently employs 26 adventure guides and 60 safety assistants who are responsible for safety during all Oxalis adventure tours. The safety requirements for each tour are implemented by the Technical and Operations Directors and the Technical Training Officer, who also ensure that the guides and safety assistants have received the necessary training.
Prospective guides are selected from recently graduated applicants and will have a 2 month assessment period, before receiving a contract as a training guide if suitable.
A training guide will follow a 6-month training programme, including theory and practice of all first aid and safety techniques. They will also learn how to run the tour, deliver the safety briefing and pass on knowledge to the guests. This will include assisting the senior guide on tour and leading level 1 tours under supervision.
After an in depth appraisal and assessments by the Technical and Operations Directors and the Technical Training Officer they may be promoted to the Junior Guide level
Will lead Level 1 & 2 single day tours, and work as a second guide on multi day and level 3 tours.
Will start by leading all level 1-3 tours. Receive training and assessment to progress to level 4-5 tours, after minimum 6 month’s experience. After a further 6 month’s training and assessment will lead level 6 with cave expert.
Will need to show good leadership and problem solving skills to reach this level. Will be involved with guide training and managing guide teams for Team Building and filming groups.
All safety assistants will be competent in the use of life lining, safety harnesses, river crossing, and assisting guests over difficult terrain etc. After training and assessment they will assist with the abseil and flying fox.
Adventure guides and safety assistants follow the Company training programme, including theoretical and practical training, with assessments and updates. Oxalis has a well established training programme and training is recorded and monitored. Off season (from mid September to mid November each year), further training is conducted, including first aid, technical safety (such as cave rescue and river rescue) and other tour related skills.
Every month the Technical Training officer Mr Martin Holroyd will develop a training programme to train all guides and safety assistants according to their level.
Below are training photos and videos:
I see that a lot of tours have swimming do I need to be a really good swimmer?
No you do not need to be an expert swimmer. Basic swimming skills, plus confidence in the water are necessary. The length of the swim varies from 50-150m, but you will always wear a life vest and be supported by the guide and safety assistants. This is one of our most popular activities.
In the cold weather, or if you really cannot swim, you can use the raft or boat.
Do I need to provide any caving equipment such as helmet, ropes or harness?
No, we will provide all the technical equipment necessary for all caving activities. All our equipment is imported from Europe and meets European Safety Standards. It is inspected every time before use, so you do not need to worry about the condition of the equipment.
What if we don’t know how to use the equipment?
Before you use any equipment you will receive full instructions from the guide or caving expert. All technical sections will be supervised, and the safety team will operate the life lining equipment.
What kind of lights do you provide?
We provide lights by Pezl and Hope, according to the tour. Petzl lights are waterproof and ideal for wet caves. Hope lights are very bright and excellent for the huge passages in Son Doong Cave. We always carry spare lights and batteries.
Can I still join a tour if I am afraid of heights?
Provided your fear is not extreme, you should be fine, as our team will support you. Any steep or vertical sections will have additional safety measures such as ropes. If in doubt, please contact the Sales team and discuss your concerns in more detail.
Why do we need to tell you about any medical conditions?
Everything we ask is for your own safety, not to exclude you from any tour. Our tours are run in remote locations where medical care is limited to basic first aid. So if you have any medical condition, we want you and our guides to be prepared for anything.
Everything you tell us will be kept in confidence and only those who need to know will be informed. In particular, we need to know about any allergies, especially to food, so we can avoid those things.
What are the biggest medical concerns I will face?
Common problems are dehydration/heatstroke, sprains, scratches, grazes and blisters. Make sure you drink enough water, protect yourself from the sun and sharp rocks.
Do I need to bring a first aid kit.
No, you do not need a first aid kit, we always carry one. However, if you need any particular medication, you should bring enough with you. Be aware that not all brands of medication are available in Vietnam. If you have a pre-existing problem, you should also bring enough dressings, supports etc. We will provide any necessary items for injuries sustained on tour.
Do I need to bring a water filter? How do we get drinking water?
Oxalis will provide filtered and boiled water in all the campsites. Each group will have a water filter with them in case you need more water during the day’s trek.
Will I have to squeeze through any really narrow parts?
No, there is nothing you really have to squeeze through, but some sections may be quite narrow. You will always have the support and encouragement of the guide and safety team.
Will we encounter any wild animals? Will this be dangerous?
The majority of wild animals are very shy of humans, so if they hear or see us, they will run away. We may encounter snakes, but either the guide or safety assistant will always go in front to check for them. Always follow their instructions if you meet a snake.
We may also find centipedes, caterpillars, mosquitos and bees, which can sting or irritate the skin, plus Poison Ivy and sharp thorny plants.
Leeches are often present in the jungle. They do not carry any disease so you should not worry about them. Long trousers tucked into your socks will protect you.
It is advisable to follow our recommendations to wear good footwear, long trousers and long sleeve shirts.
What will happen if it rains heavily when we are on tour?
In general, heavy rain during the dry season does not have too much impact. However, our guides and safety assistants are well trained, and know when to cross the rivers and when to use the boats. They are trained in a number or river crossing techniques, so you can still cross the rivers in some situations and enjoy the adventure whilst being safe.
What if the weather’s really cold?
If we are experiencing cold weather, the Sales team will recommend some additional clothing. Also we may reduce the amount of swimming and use the boats and rafts.
How hot will it be in the summer?
The Sales team will advise you about the likely weather conditions when you book the tour. In the summer months the temperature will often be 35C and sometimes nearly 40C. You should always prepare suitable sun protection in the summer time (hats, sun cream, sun glasses etc). On most of the tours it is easy to cool down by swimming, or sitting in the water.