Caving in Vietnam's newly discovered caves

Vietnam is putting caves on the map — literally. This year alone, 57 have been discovered in the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

By Stephanie Cavagnaro
Published 21 Oct 2016, 09:00 BST, Updated 7 Jul 2021, 17:00 BST
Son Doong cave, Vietnam
Son Doong cave, Vietnam.

Son Doong: A speleologist's special
You can tell a cave is pretty spacious when it accommodates a jungle and a river within its walls — as is the case for Vietnam's Son Doong. However, despite its jaw-dropping proportions, the world's largest cave has seen fewer visitors than the summit of Mount Everest. Just 640 people are permitted to visit Son Doong in 2017 and, understandably, these limited spaces are highly sought after — 300 spots were snapped up within 20 hours during the first round of sales in August.

The second lot of tickets will be available for purchase on 15 November, each costing a hefty 67,500,000VND (£2,330). Oxalis Adventure Tours is the only operator permitted to run tours to the cave.

Each five-day tour requires more than 25 porters and cooks, a tour guide, two cave experts and two park rangers. The expedition includes camping, caving, knee-deep river crossings and 31 miles of trekking.

Caving in
Not one of the lucky 640? Oxalis began tours to Hang Va (known for its stalactites) in February, while new tours to Hang Tien started in July. A more intrepid version of the Tu Lan tour will run from January 2017, with bouldering, swimming and abseiling on offer.

Meanwhile, the 57 new caves discovered in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park this June have a combined length of 12.4 miles and offer the potential for tourism in the future.

Published in the November 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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