Caving in Phong Nha, Vietnam

Time to get your boots dirty and your clothes wet, Phong Nha is waiting for you.

Pong Nha, Vietnam
Pong Nha, Vietnam

Phong Nha national park found in the central to northern areas of Vietnam is said to be one of the most prestigious in South East Asia. This could be because it is also the place where you will discover the world’s largest cave. Son Doong cave runs 5km deep, 200 metres high, 150 metres wide and has a total volume of 38.4×106 cubic metres.

I would imagine that this would increase the reputation of any national park, let alone a park that already has some of the best outdoor activities and a number of cave systems. In this area of Vietnam you can find around 300 grottos and caves, and also the world’s longest underground river. Yes I know, this place is full of record holders. That’s not all, I almost forgot to mention that Phong Nha park is regarded by the British Caving Association as the top cave in the world due to its top four records: the longest underground river, the highest and longest cave, broadest and most beautiful fine sandy beaches inside the caves, and the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.

So let’s all be honest here, I could stop talking now really. This place has already sold itself, but as hard as it is I will entice you even further. Going into the national park kind of feels like a short take from a Jurassic Park movie because of the massive Hollywood sized sign mounted on the side of a mountain. This gives you the impression that you may be walking into a tourist trap, but thankfully a closer look reveals that this is nothing but a somewhat unstylish sign and the place itself is nothing if not incredible.

But the caves aren’t everything in this park and there are loads of room for exploring. Either grab a scooter or a bicycle and you can be on your way to a full day’s activity. Make sure to leave plenty of time for exploring as you don’t want this to eat into your caving expeditions, which can take days.

Within the national park itself you will have to pay a number of entry fees. There are separate fees for fresh water pools and caves found outside the main park area and another fee for the inner park. All you need to budget for then is your accommodation, which is abundant in this area and the majority of them are well-kept. Renting a motorbike or a bicycle would be an added bonus to the park’s enjoyment.

When it comes to the outdoor activities, plan wisely as this can eat into your travel budget significantly. Activities will vary from kayaking to caving, zip-lining, climbing and air ring rafting. Caving would undoubtedly be the most costly since it is a highly skilled activity that will include guides, equipment, meals etc. However it is something that I would not suggest that you leave Phong Nha without doing. With regard to all the activities to do outside the inner entrance of the park, you can reach every destination by bike.

Some of the top caves to see and explore in Phong Nha are Phong Nha cave itself which is popular for all the reasons mentioned above, Son Doong cave, which is the world’s largest known cave and therefore the longest expedition of adventure caving, the Vom cave systems, known for their underground picturesque scenery, and the most recently explored and opened to the public cave systems of Hang Va and Hang Nuoc Nut, which are known for their vast calcium pools and underground rivers mixed with a selection of rare calcium tower cone formations found at the end of the Hang Va cave system.

These expeditions should be the priority for exploring this area. They are specifically tailored for the adventurer, explorer, photographer and videographer. Only the company Oxalis have been granted permission to carry out these expeditions that are offered to the public; every expedition is tailored to suit your ambitions and your skill level. Everything is monitored and has been laid out in a joint effort by the Oxalis team and the British Caving Society, who up until this day remain in the area exploring and discovering new cave systems.

In all my years of taking on tours, expeditions and treks, I have never come across such a well-organized expedition.

Time to get your boots dirty and your clothes wet, Phong Nha is waiting for you.