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27 Things to know before travelling to the Son Doong Cave in Vietnam

If you’re planning to participate in any cave tours around the world, Vietnam deserves to be on top of your list. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, in the central region of Vietnam is actually home to some of the world’s biggest, most astounding and rarest caves and cave systems ever seen and explored by humankind on Earth. 

It would interest you to know that the World’s Largest Cave, ‘Son Doong Cave’, majestically rests in the glorious Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam.

With an effort to quench the thirst of curiosity that travellers have when planning to explore the Son Doong Cave, we’ve made a handy list of the 27 things you should know before travelling to the mighty Son Doong Cave in Vietnam:

Before the tour

1.

Tour Operator

Oxalis Adventure, based in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam, is the official and only adventure tour operator in the world that conducts tours in the Son Doong Cave. The rights to visit Son Doong Cave have been awarded by the Vietnamese Government to Oxalis Adventure since 2013, until now and for 2019 and 2020 season. Oxalis is selected due to their professionalism, safety and environmental conservation efforts.

2.

Tour Price

Exploring the Son Doong Cave is a once in a lifetime experience and Oxalis Adventure sets the price of this glorious journey at USD 3000. The price includes accommodations before and after the trek, National Park fees; technical advisor, guide, safety assistant team; all meals, safety and camping equipment.

3.

Suitable time for the tour

The Son Doong Expedition still has plenty of availability throughout the 2019 and 2020 season, and whilst your preferred date might be booked, just check the calendar to find the best available date for your Son Doong Cave Expedition. Many websites incorrectly state that Son Doong Cave is booked out years in advance, but since the new itinerary of the is changed (going through Son Doong Cave instead of going back), the Government has increased the number of guests allowed to visit the cave in one year, there are now plenty of places available. However, don’t leave it too long to make your booking as you might miss out.

Simply book your journey here: https://oxalis.com.vn/tour/son-doong-cave-expedition-4d3n/; email us at [email protected] or reach our Son Doong adventure specialist directly at hotline: +84 919 900 042

4.

Duration & Season

The Son Doong Expedition pans out over 4 days and 3 nights in the flawless jungle and caves of the region. Keep in mind that there will be 2 days extra on the itinerary for logistical and important activities before and after the tour.

You can participate in the Son Doong Expedition anytime between January to August every year. There are no departures for Son Doong Expedition in other months, as Phong Nha might experience extreme weather conditions due to rainy season.

5.

Nature of the tour

This is not a classic tour. A journey with Oxalis Adventure, to the Son Doong Cave, is in the form of an Adventure Expedition, with numerous adventurous activities to enjoy. Despite the fact that there is plenty of sightseeing and rest involved, this expedition is considered to be quite challenging, physically and mentally. As long as you have the spirit to do it, you’ll enjoy every single moment on this adventurous journey in the World’s Biggest Cave.

6.

Local Registration

It is important to know that your passport will be collected on Day 1 of the expedition and will be returned to you once the tour ends. This is done for registering your entry to the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park authorities. Your passport will be kept safe and secure at the Oxalis office.

7.

Difficulty level

The Son Doong Expedition isn’t easy in any way; only physically active guests with regular trekking experience are recommended to participate in this expedition. However, we’ve had a majority of guests who found it quite arduous to finish, but upon completion of the Son Doong Expedition, they defined it to be an experience of a lifetime; it makes you realize how strong you really are and that every challenge is indeed all in the mind.

If you’re planning to join the Son Doong Expedition, we recommend you to have training regime and stick to it, to be in good shape while on the journey. Your training regime should primarily be focused on cardiovascular exercises to build stamina and some body weight exercises to maintain reasonable strength.

8.

Age Eligibility

Only the individuals above the age of 18 years and physically active with regular trekking experience are eligible to participate in the Son Doong Expedition. We don’t technically have an upper limit on the age of a guest. We’ve had really fit senior citizens of over 75 years in age and they conquered the Son Doong Expedition in spectacular fashion!

During the tour

9.

Safety in the tour

Oxalis Adventure prioritizes safety at the very top. The Oxalis staff is highly trained and all the activities are conducted under the expert technical guidance and supervision of our British Cave Research Association (BCRA) members. Apart from this, all the tour guides, porters and safety assistants of Oxalis Adventure are meticulously trained in all safety and rescue activities and operations. You’re in the safest hands when doing the Son Doong Expedition.

10.

Equipment in the tour

All the equipment (safety & general) provided to you by Oxalis Adventure on the expedition, is of the highest quality and comes with international attestation. Oxalis uses only the best internationally acclaimed brands while operating adventure tours, such as Petzl, the world’s leading caving gear brand. All the harnesses, ropes, helmets, headlamps, karabiners, camming devices etc. are of top notch quality.  Given the challenging nature of the Son Doong Expedition, Oxalis never compromises on the quality at any point and provides and assists the guests with the best of appropriate equipment required to take on the Son Doong Cave.

11.

Distance Covered

While you’re on this expedition, you’ll be trekking for more than 25 km in the jungle and mountains, which includes caving for 9 Km that includes rope climbs, rocky terrain and scrambling (including a 90m climb up the calcite wall called the “Great Wall of Vietnam” inside the Son Doong Cave). There are also multiple surface and underground river crossings (10-50 m Wide River).

On every step of this long adventurous journey, you’ll be enchanted by unique sights and the beauty of the jungle along with the adrenaline pumping activities will make you forget all about exhaustion! Throughout the whole distance, you’ll be completely safe under the guidance of our professionally trained tour guide, safety assistants and of course the cave expert from the British Cave Research Association (BCRA).

12.

The Caves You Explore

On the Son Doong Expedition, you not only explore the World’s Largest Cave – Son Doong, but also the World’s Third Largest Cave – Hang En Cave. You also get to spend a night camping inside the Hang En cave. This is another reason that the Son Doong Expedition receives such popularity worldwide, as you get to be a part of the world’s biggest caves over a time span of 4 days and 3 nights!

13.

Technical Sections

As Son Doong is the world’s biggest cave, it has many parts that aren’t that easily accessible without some technical caving and professionally guided traversing. If you don’t have much experience in climbing or using ropers for traversing, don’t you worry; Oxalis Adventure’s professionally trained team will have your back at all times and help you breeze through such activities. Some parts of the expedition are fairly technical and the Oxalis team will assist you with all the necessary safety equipment and help you get through the technical sections with less difficulty.

On this expedition, you won’t be required to rappel or abseil. However, there is an 80 m descent into the cave which is done through a zig-zag hike down and rock climbing in small portions, with appropriate safety equipment and under the support of our trained team; no previous experience? No problem!

14.

Swimming

Swimming is not a requisite for the Son Doong Expedition, as there are no required swimming sections. However, you have the option to take a dip and enjoy a swim at the Hang En cave – the world’s 3rd largest cave.

15.

Food on tour

You won’t believe it until you see the scrumptious spread laid out in front of you. Each Son Doong Expedition is conducted in the company of two local Vietnamese chefs, along with a team of assistants to prepare the best meals you will try in Vietnam; all the meals are prepared daily and maintain the highest level of freshness.

We all love Vietnamese food, but when you are enjoying delicious Chicken or Pork BBQ with Lemongrass and chilli at your campsite, sitting underground, miles away from civilization, after a big day trekking, it’s an experience you will never ever forget. The chef team is fantastic and always tries and caters to anyone with food allergies or special requirements. You name it, they have dealt with it!

16.

Overnight camping

There are hardly any cave tours in Vietnam where you get to camp inside a cave. However, on the Son Doong Expedition, you’ll get to spend your nights camping inside caves with 3 different campsites; Hang En campsite, Son Doong Camp 1 and Son Doong Camp 2. You will be provided with a high quality tent, equipped with two mattresses, one pillow and a sleeping bag to make sure you sleep comfortably on your adventure. You would love to learn more about the amazing overnight camping tours in Phong Nha as well!

17.

Composting Toilets

At the campsites, you’ll be using composting toilets, which is an environmentally conservative method. A composting toilet works in a way that all the human waste gets decomposed and becomes a fertilizer in a matter of some months. Everything that is taken into the jungle and cave is returned back out the same way. The composting toilets are also cleaned and taken out on a regular basis, in order to maintain the standard of hygiene. And if you happen to receive a nature call when not at the campsite, the tour guide will guide you to the nearest and most appropriate spot in the jungle; it’ll be a memorable experience, as you’ll have a toilet with the best view in the world!

18.

Luggage

All your packed luggage that you’d require at the campsites will be carried safely by the Son Doong Expedition porters of Oxalis Adventure in advance and will be kept secure at all times. All the luggage that you decide to actually carry yourself while trekking should just consist of basic items like sunscreen, water (filtered water provided by Oxalis) etc. This is recommended so that you can maximize your trekking and caving experience without having to worry about carrying a heavy load. Besides that, if there’s any luggage you don’t wish to tag along, you can keep them at the Oxalis Adventure headquarters storage, where it’ll be kept safe in a personal locker.

19.

Valuable Items

Oxalis recommends not carrying valuable items like jewelry or money on the expedition, as there might be a possibility of such items getting damaged or lost during the trek through the jungles. It’s advised to keep such items in the safe lockers provided at the Oxalis office storage space.

20.

What to wear

It is recommended to wear full sleeve t-shirts and long pants (preferably quick dry), along with non-waterproof trekking shoes that drain water easily, on this expedition. This is to protect yourself from factors like sunburn, rashes, thorns, poison ivy, insects etc.) To learn more about the details of what to carry, kindly check the packing section on the Oxalis website.

21.

Wildlife

Owing to the fact that Son Doong Cave is an eco-system in itself, there is certain kind of wildlife in and around the cave. However, it’s highly unlikely for you to come across anything that’s dangerous. While on the trek, you might encounter some geckos, butterflies, beautiful bugs or snakes (highly unlikely). Inside the cave, you can hear bats flying around. The Oxalis staff will keep you safe and share knowledge with you about special flora and fauna seen along the way.

22.

Using a drone/flycam

You’ll only be only allowed to use a drone inside the National Park if you have a clearance certificate from the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Quang Binh Province government, Vietnam Ministry of National Defense and the government of Vietnam. Unless you’re a professional & licensed, attempting to get a drone inside Son Doong Cave isn’t recommended.

23.

Electricity and external communication

While you’re on the Son Doong Expedition, you won’t have access to any electricity and your communication devices like phone, tablet etc. will be completely out of network coverage for 4 days and 3 nights; kindly inform your close ones about this in advance, so as not to cause any distress. Oxalis staff will be carrying a satellite phone that’s only used in emergency situations.

24.

Son Doong is a cave that built a village and changed lives

You should know that by being part of the Son Doong Expedition, you’re not just doing another adventure tour; you become part of a legacy. Since the day Oxalis Adventure was associated with Son Doong, the lives of the locals of Phong Nha have changed for the better. Son Doong Cave is not just another cave, it’s a blessing of nature and also a world in itself that’ll make you believe in the extraordinary.

After the tour

25.

Other activities in Phong Nha

Son Doong Cave is located in Phong Nha National Park, in Central Vietnam. Phong Nha is rapidly becoming an adventure hub in Asia, thanks to the Son Doong Cave, and there is now a range of other caving tours offered in the area. Tu Lan Cave System – where you will find yourself swimming through river caves and camping in some of the most pristine jungle valleys complete with stunning waterfalls. Many trekking enthusiasts usually combine a Son Doong Expedition with jungle trekking and caving tours to Tu Lan to get their added jungle and trekking fix.

If you wish to stick around in Phong Nha and relax after your Son Doong Expedition, you can check out What to do in Phong Nha or our Phong Nha Travel Tips for more information!

26.

Live like a local

Phong Nha is now home to over a 100 accommodations that are close to the gorgeous Son River, the surrounding rice fields and hidden valleys. These accommodations are not too fancy, but you won’t find anything like it in Vietnam, as the people here are what really set Phong Nha apart – you will be greeted with smiles and friendly faces no matter where you stay. You might even be lucky enough to find yourself staying in a homestay run by one of the Son Doong porters! Check out our top 10 accommodations in Phong Nha or the 9 new homestays in Phong Nha that we love!

27.

Beaches and Seafood

Thinking where you can just lay back and chill after your Son Doong Expedition? Just a 45 minute drive from Phong Nha, Dong Hoi City (where you will fly into and out of when visiting Phong Nha), has some of the best seafood in Vietnam. This city is famous for having some of the most exotic seafood available in the country, along with two gorgeous beaches; the Nhat Le beach and Bao Ninh beach. Check out the top best dishes in Dong Hoi that you cannot miss!

The World’s Largest Cave, ‘Son Doong Cave’ and its most-wanted jungle trekking & cave expedition is the dream of every true adventurer and nature lover, when it comes to cave tours in Vietnam or around the world.

Check out the availability for this expedition today for your 2019 & 2020 journey: https://oxalis.com.vn/tour/son-doong-cave-expedition-4d3n/ or contact hotline for support +84 919 900 042

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.