We all travel for different reasons – to meet new people, interact with new cultures, experience new adventures, get outside of our comfort zone, the list is endless. But what we can all agree on is that we want to see places that will amaze us, places that we only usually see on the discovery channel or on social media and saw to ourselves -’WOW! I wish I could go and see that place’. However, when most of us travel we miss the opportunity to see these jaw dropping places because they may be off the tourist trail or we simply are not aware of them. But for those that do make the journey to these places they are etched in their memories forever. So let me tell you about a place that should be on your bucket list that you may not have even heard of or seen before, but when you do prepared to be left speechless.
First discovered in 1990 by a local farmer while on a hunting trip and hidden deep in the jungle of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park lies is the largest cave in the world – Son Doong Cave. With enough room to fit a skyscraper and it’s own hidden jungle complete with a large fast flowing subterranean river you will think that you have stepped into another world. The local farmer that discovered it, Ho Kanh, returned home after it’s discovery in 1990 and forgot the exact location of it, and there it remained undisturbed for another 18 years, until 2008, when Ho Kanh stumbled across it again. This time he recorded the exact location and returned in 2009 with a group of scientists.
The cave has only been open to the public since 2013 so it is no surprise that fewer people have been inside the cave than have climbed to the top of Mount Everest. The cave has 2 areas (dolines) where the ceiling of the cave has collapsed which allows sunlight to enter sections of the cave and has resulted in the growth of it’s own indoor jungle but also gives an awe-inspiring sight when you can see the sun’s ray piercing through the cave and illuminating parts of the cave. This sight alone is worth a visit to the cave, along with some of the tallest known stalagmites in the world some of which are up to 70 m tall.
As the scientists that first arrived to explore the cave they found a huge 80m calcite barrier, which was dubbed ‘The Great Wall of Vietnam’ that prevented them from going any further inside and it wasn’t until 2010 that this barrier was climbed and the end of the cave was reached, 9km from its entry point and thus it was discovered to be the largest cave in the world.
Access to the caves is only by foot through the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which consists of only one village with a population of less than less than 40 people. This makes the journey to the cave even more special as it takes a huge amount of effort, time and adventure to get to the location of the cave.
Son Doong Cave is located 15km deep inside the jungle within Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, far away from any residential area and highway and takes you 1.5 days trekking to reach . It takes several hours to get through the absolutely dark cave entrance with safety rope and 3 more days to discover the whole cave. Therefore the National Park does not allow anyone to make their own way into the cave but with a licensed tour operator with a limited number of places available per year and with a maximum up to 10 people at a time.