Son Doong Cave is in the heart of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in the Quang Binh province of Central Vietnam. Only recently explored in 2009-2010 by the British Cave Research Association, the cave has only been open to the public since 2013. Less people have seen the inside of Son Doong cave than have stood on the summit of Mount Everest.
It’s proudly that the first one finding out Son Doong Cave is a Vietnamese local man named Ho Khanh. In 1990 while out on a hunting mission, Ho Khanh accidentally stumbled across the cave but not dared to come in and also forgot about the cave later. One day, in an opportunity of chatting with the two caving experts Howard and Deb Limbert from the British Cave Research Association (BCRA), Ho Khanh told them that he had found a cave with clouds and a river inside. Howard and Deb were intrigued and urged Ho Khanh to try and rediscover the cave. After many failed attempts, they began to think this elusive cavern might remain lost in the jungle forever. Luckily, in 2008 while out on another food gathering trip, Ho Khanh re-found the mysterious cave and studiously took note of the path on how to get there. In 2009 he led Howard, Deb and a team of professionals back to the cave for the first expedition to enter what would later become known as Son Doong Cave, or ‘Mountain River Cave’.
A cave is so massive that a Boeing 747 could fly through its largest cavern. A space so mesmerizing that it forces you to question whether you are still on this planet at all. Foreign landscapes found nowhere else, enormous stalagmites rising from the ground and statuesque stalactites hanging from the ceiling like an alien species. Jungles emerge from inside the cave itself, a scene so surreal that you have to see it to believe it. Misty clouds envelop the whole scene, a result of the cave’s own localized weather system. Passages adorned with ancient fossils offer evidence of the millions of years that have passed on this Earth. As you approach the jungle just outside the entrance, the rush of cool wind that cascades out brings to life everything inside of you. Hazy, cold and exhilarating, it is apparent that there’s something magical waiting just beyond the opening to the cave. The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam contains the oldest karst system in Asia, between 400~450 million years old. Hang Son Doong itself is relatively young, with the analysis of sediment dating it to be only 3 million years old. Formed on the edge of a fault zone, Hang Son Doong has been carved out by the mighty Rao Thuong River as it erodes away the limestone, forming the enormous tunnel beneath the Annamite Mountains. Giant sinkholes, known as dolines, have collapsed sometime up to 300,000 years ago, creating massive openings to the outside world. Cave pearls have the size of baseballs have been formed by water dropping from the ceiling. The first expedition had been halted by an 80m high calcite barrier, which was jokingly dubbed the ‘Great Wall Of Vietnam’.
It wasn’t until their second expedition in 2010, when the Great Wall was finally climbed and the end of the passage was found, that Hang Son Doong was determined to be the largest cave in the world. At over 5km long, with sections reaching up to 200m tall and 150m wide, Hang Son Doong is large enough to house an entire New York City block, complete with 40 story skyscrapers. With a total measured volume of 38.5 million cubic meters, this comfortably surpasses Deer Cave in Malaysia, which was considered to be the previous record holder. Stalagmites up to 80m high have also been surveyed, the tallest every encountered.
To reach Hang Son Doong, adventurers must first pass through the Ban Doong ethnic minority village. The only village located inside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, less than 40 people makes up the population of Ban Doong.For many people, being able to visit Ban Doong and meet its welcoming villagers becomes a highlight of their trip. Ban Doong offers a view of way of life that has been unchanged for centuries.
Not until August 2013 when Son Doong Cave was officially be discovered under the Adventure tour type organized strictly by Oxalis Company. The itinerary of this tour is considered as difficult route which the travel distance on foot (crossing the forest, springs, climbing slope, discovering cavern, etc) is nearly 60 km only in 5 days. Tourists who want to register for the tour must pass through a physical test and already possess the basic survival skills. Therefore, according to statistics of Oxalis, at peak time, there are up to 3,500 tourists arrive at Phong Nha – Ke Bang every week but only 8 people of them are qualified to discovered Son Doong.