- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Go to Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
At more than 200m high, 150m wide and 5km long, the Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam is so big it has its own river, jungle and climate.
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 Hang Son Doong than have stood on the summit of Mount Everest. Join us on this otherworldly expedition and become one of the lucky few who have had the life changing experience of exploring the world’s largest cave.
With ceilings towering over 200 metres high in places, the cave is a humbling and belittling experience. The entrance is quite small and mist from the cave, caused by the cooler air inside meeting the hot air outside, rises into the surrounding forest. Visitors must descend 80m down a steep wall with the use of harnesses and ropes. The huge temperature difference also creates moving clouds of mist, especially near the two karst windows, which gives the cave its magically surreal atmosphere. It is amazing to be 3-4km inside the cave. The dimensions of the cave are incredible and to camp for five nights in the biggest cave in the world is not something most of get to do in our lifetime.
HOW WAS SON DOONG CAVE FIRST DISCOVERED?
From an early age, local man Ho Khanh used to spend weeks on end trekking and maneuvering his way through the jungles of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, searching for food and timber to earn a modest income.
In 1990 while out on a hunting mission, Ho Khanh stumbled across an opening in a limestone cliff and moved forward to investigate. As he approached he noticed clouds billowing out of the entrance, and could hear the sounds of a river raging from somewhere inside the cave.
When he could feel a strong wind also blowing out from the cave, he decided to move on without further inspection. By the time he had returned to his home a few days later, he had forgotten its exact location and thought no more of it.
At the same time two members of the British Cave Research Association (BCRA), Howard and Deb Limbert, were basing themselves in Phong Nha to conduct exploratory cave expeditions in the area. While chatting with Ho Khanh one day, he mentioned to the caving experts 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 more.
In 2008 while out on another food gathering trip, Ho Khanh found the mysterious opening again 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 Hang Son Doong, or ‘Mountain River Cave’.