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Shoes that make expeditions to the world’s largest cave possible!

“Good shoes take you great places!”

In today’s age, shoes play a very vital role in our daily lives, especially if you lead a very active lifestyle with frequent outdoor experiences. Shoes serve different purposes; fashion, regular wear, utility, adventures and so on! It is important to understand what use you’re going to put your shoes to.

In this article we’ll talk about the most appropriate kind of shoes for adventurous journeys, expedition to the world’s largest cave – Son Doong in particular! For an expedition as massive as the Son Doong Expedition, the importance of preparation is always emphasized. Proper or improper shoes in this regard make a very significant difference to your experience during the Son Doong Expedition.

About Son Doong Cave

The majestic Son Doong Cave sits gloriously in the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam. The Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in the Quang Binh province of central Vietnam holds some of the most beautiful natural wonders in all of Asia and even the world. Mountains, rivers, caves, jungles, valleys, you name it! What makes Phong Nha one of the best places in Vietnam is the fact that you’ll find a very wide array of activities to choose from, places to see, things to try, traditions to learn and much more!

The Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is home to the world’s most gigantic and astonishing caves; the most prominent ones being the world’s biggest cave – Son Doong, the third largest cave in the world – Hang En, the cave with the rarest cave formations ever seen – Hang Va, one of the most marvelous and extraordinarily mysterious cave systems in the world – Tu Lan Cave System and other spectacular caves like the Phong Nha cave, Paradise Cave and Dark Cave.

Son Doong Expedition
Ryan Deboodt
Hang En Cave (2)
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Hang Va (Oxalis Adventure) (4)
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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. Son Doong Cave has the largest cave passage in the world, and was only explored in 2009. Two large rivers, Khe Ry and Rao Thuong, join together to form Son Doong Cave. The cave follows a large fault line 100m wide, which contributes to the huge size of the passages. The Phong Nha Ke Bang limestone is around 400 million years old, but Hang Son Doong is less than 3 million years old.

Hang Son Doong
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Hang Son Doong
Son Doong Cave

About the Son Doong Expedition

The Son Doong Expedition is considered to be one of the top reasons to visit Vietnam. The biggest adventure company in Asia – Oxalis Adventure, is based right here in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park and is the only official tour operator in the world allowed to conduct expeditions to Son Doong. This journey to the wild, exploring Son Doong Cave requires more than 25 porters, safety advisors & guides. You will explore the entire length of Son Doong Cave, Hang En Cave and visit Ban Doong ethnic minority village.

Imagine trekking straight into the depths of the world’s largest cave which can fit a Boeing 747 flying through the largest passage, on the Son Doong Expedition, an expedition unlike any other. Son Doong Cave is a masterpiece of nature with otherworldly landscapes, enormous stalagmites and statuesque stalactites – hanging from the ceiling and rising from the ground like an alien species. The real jungle inside the cave will amaze you in every way, while misty clouds envelope the scene. The fossil passage will give you the opportunity to understand the formation of this ancient limestone.

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93 2010 Hang Son Doong climbing above the Gaarden of Edam
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The following are the real highlights of the Son Doong Expedition:

•  Climb the Great Wall Of Vietnam

•  Spectacular views of the dolines

•  Amazing camp sites

•  2 nights camping inside Son Doong Cave (largest cave in the world)

•  1 night camping in Hang En Cave (third largest cave in the world).

•  The most delicious food.

•  Portable lighting equipment to capture stunning photographs

•  25km of Jungle Trekking and 9 km of caving

•  Visit Ban Doong Ethnic Minority Village

There will be plenty of time for photography and to explore the cave and all adventurers are expected to be fit, and have some previous trekking experience (not necessarily climbing or caving experience) to enjoy this expedition without any physical hassles.

Shoes that made it to the Son Doong Expedition

Trekking in Vietnam and especially on your Son Doong Expedition in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park will have you zoned into the beauty of Mother Nature in its true essence. Even though any physically active person with basic trekking experience can conquer this expedition, it is necessary to understand the fact that this is indeed a physically demanding and challenging journey. Choosing the right shoes will undoubtedly allow you to enjoy this expedition to the fullest!

1. High Quality Trekking Shoes

Carrying a pair of high quality trekking shoes is highly recommended while venturing into the jungle and caves on the Son Doong Expedition! Gore-Tex/waterproof boots are NOT recommended as they do not drain well. If you are comfortable with your own shoes, which are Gore-Tex, feel free to use them. However, it’s highly recommended to get non-waterproof trekking shoes with good grip that drain faster, as you’ll get to be part of lots of river crossing, wading and even swimming activities (optional) on the expedition; in a nutshell – your feet will be wet for the majority of the day! It’s best to find a shoe/boot with the softest and stickiest rubber sole, as this ensures the best grip.

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We recommend using:

•   Salomon XA Enduro: This shoe has been designed to stabilize your feet on tough mountain terrain, while properly hugging them.

•   Salomon Speed Cross 4 boots La Sportiva X2: This shoe is highly cushioned, provides exceptional grip on all surfaces and is very lightweight.

•   Bestard Canyon Guide boots/shoes: These are considered to be one of the most ideal shoes for caving due to the terrific grip, durability and protected comfort.

We also advise you to consider bringing a backup pair of shoes.

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2. Oxalis Basic Trekking Shoes

For travellers who don’t bring appropriate trekking shoes, Oxalis Adventure provides an option of using their jungle boots of basic quality for jungle trekking and river crossing. These are canvas style Cambodian Military boots that are quite rugged and considered suitable for jungle trekking. You’ll observe that these boots have been designed with two small openings to allow proper drainage of water during an arduous trek including lots of activity in the water.

However, with regards to an intense adventure tour like the Son Doong Expedition, it is not recommended to wear these boots into the jungle and cave for a duration of 4 days and 3 nights. The reason for this is the fact that the material of these boots makes them quite tight in the toe area along with the ankle area. On a long and physically demanding trek to the Son Doong Cave, you might develop painful blisters due to this. As mentioned above, Oxalis only offers these boots as an alternative choice for those without proper trekking shoes and these jungle boots come in 36 – 46 European sizes but please prepare trekking socks/densely-weaved socks or insoles to use with them to avoid blisters.

3. ‘Dep Ro’ – Plastic sandals

When you do this adventure tour with Oxalis Adventure, you’ll observe that the tour guides and porters don’t wear shoes. They wear locally designed plastic sandals known as ‘Dep Ro’. You’re bound to find yourself curious and concerned about this.

During busy season, the tour guides have to be on tour almost every other day of the month. In wet conditions, constant use of the same shoe for long durations can cause bad blisters, while these sandals keep the guides team blister free and comfortable even in the long run. ‘Dep Ro’ or plastic sandals require a fair level of getting used to. It is bound to be really difficult to feel a proper grip while getting over slippery surfaces in highly muddy conditions. In a nutshell, these sandals will only provide comfort and convenience in the jungle with regular use and being properly accustomed to wearing it.

We don’t recommend our adventurers to wear ‘Dep Ro’ during your journeys in any of our adventure tours especially Son Doong Expedition tour. Deciding to wear these sandals will actually put you at a higher risk of harming yourself while making your way across different challenging terrain, crossing rivers with strong current and even in situations where you’d have to boulder over rocks.

Among other skills that adventurers need, wisely deciding what to wear for a large scale adventure like the Son Doong Expedition is also highly important. So, before you arrive in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park for your exciting adventure, make sure you spend some time selecting the right shoes based on the information provided above!

Tell us how your shoes made your adventure awesome and share with us pictures on our Facebook fanpage and Instagram of how they looked after going through the wild!

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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-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).

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 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).

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 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.