Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha Vietnam: All You Need to Know
Son Doong Cave (Vietnamese: Hang Sơn Đoòng) in Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is considered the World ‘s biggest natural cave known. The cave is located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang cave complex. Hang Son Doong Cave is part of an underground system that connects more than 150 other caves in Vietnam near the border with Laos. The New York Times ranked Son Doong cave at number 8 out of 52 places on the list of places to visit in 2014.
- Location: Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam
1. Where is Son Doong Cave Located?
Son Doong is located is in Tan Trach commune, Bo Trach district, Quang Binh province, Central Vietnam. It lies close to the country's border with Laos and is part of an underground system that links over 150 Vietnam caves. Distance Son Doong Cave to Hanoi is about 520km, to Hue City is about 245km, to Danang city is about 330km.
2. History of Son Doong cave in Vietnam:
- Formation of Son Doong Cave: 2 to 5 million years ago, river water flowed through a limestone area buried along a fault and eroded it into a huge underground tunnel, where parts of the ceilings fell to form holes and become Son Doong's cave arch today.
- Discovery of the Cave: Son Doong was discovered accidently in 1991 by a local man – Mr Ho Khanh, a local looking for a shelter to hide from the rain while going through the forest. But his role in its discovery did not stop there. When the British Cave Royal Association (BCRA) came to Quang Binh in 2007, he reported his findings and accompanied them in looking for the cave. He could not remember its exact location but continued looking for it on his own after they left to eventually lead Howard and Deb Limbert of BCRA to it in 2009.
3. How big is Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha?
With a length of nearly 9 kilometers and a volume of about 38.5 million cubic meters, Son Doong Cave is recognized as the largest natural cave founded in the World. Its highest cave arch is about 200 meters high and its maximum width is 150 meters.
To visualize just how big Son Doong Cave is, imagine fitting a 40-storey building in it and 15,000 Olympic swimming pools. It is about 5 times the size of other caves nearby, including Hang En Cave, which is the third largest cave in the world.
4. Remarkable World Records of Vietnam ‘s Son Doong Cave
Son Doong Cave was certified by the Guinness World Records, the World Record Association, and the World Records Union as the largest cave in the world. This cave was also recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
5. TOP 5 must-see natural wonders inside Son Doong Cave:
- The world’s largest natural cave
As a UNESCO-recognized site, Son Doong is one of the most captivating natural wonders on Earth. Exploring it requires some effort since you will need to trek through forests, cross rivers, and climb steep hills.
However, the inside is a surreal underground paradise filled with diverse wildlife and pristine natural formations like stunning dolines, stalactites, and stalagmites that were formed millions of years ago.
- The natural “Great Wall” of Vietnam
This is the highest stalagmite in Son Doong's many skyscraping flowstone walls. Reaching almost 100 meters high, the wall stands as an impressive natural masterpiece.
You can take up the challenge of conquering the stalagmite to exit Son Doong, which will certainly be an unforgettable feat. However, you need to equip yourself with the necessary gear and follow the safety instructions.
- The breathtakingly diverse ecosystem
Son Doong is a stunning subterranean world with lush vegetation and unique flora and fauna. As you traverse the cave’s labyrinth, you will be able to witness nature thriving in some of the most unexpected places. It is both a humbling and awe-inspiring experience, reminding you of the powerful forces of nature and the resilience of life.
- The enormous stalagmite and stalactite system:
Part of Son Doong's allure comes from the enchanting stalagmite and stalactite system in the cave. Not only is it strikingly beautiful, it also tells the story of the cave's formation, with droplets of mineral-rich water slowly accumulating over millions of years. With formations reaching 70 to 80 meters high, the stalagmites and stalactites in Son Doong are truly awe-inspiring.
- The wondrous cave pearls:
Another unique sight inside Son Doong is the cave pearls. These are glossy formations formed by the concentration of calcium salts in the water dripping from the ceiling to the floor of the cave. Although you cannot touch them, you can feast your eyes and take photos of them.
6. What is the Best Things to do in Son Doong Cave?
- Camping in one of the world’s most beautiful caves
To fully explore Son Doong, you can camp inside overnight. There are two viable sites on the edges of the sinkholes, so you can sleep under the stars and wake up to warm sunbeams. It is definitely something you want to try at least once in your life.
- Swimming in the underground lake and river
There is nothing quite like splashing and floating in Son Doong's rivers and lakes after trekking for a while. The water is clean and cool for you to enjoy the most relaxing and refreshing experience. However, it is important that you follow the instructions of the guides here. In some areas, the water can flow very fast, making it dangerous to swim in.
- Take Instagrammable photos with breathtaking backdrops:
Son Doong offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the wonders of nature in all their splendor. And don’t forget to pose in front of the towering calcite speleothems and otherworldly rock formations to take home your mesmerizing photos.
If you do not like taking photos of yourselves, just capture the amazing moments of nature, like when the sun shines through the sinkholes of the cave or when the misty clouds envelop the flourishing greenery.
7. Quick Travel Guide to Son Doong Cave in Vietnam:
- How to Get to Son Doong cave?
It is possible to get to Son Doong’s entrance from Son Trach town, which is 50 kilometers north of Dong Hoi city. But you can only enter the cave for exploration via a Son Doong Cave Tour by Oxalis Adventure. The tour will provide transportation for you from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha in the form of a 40-minute ride.
- When is the Best Time to visit Son Doong Cave?
You can book a Son Doong Cave Tour anytime from January and August, as the weather / climate is better with better temperature and water level for Trekking, Hiking, Taking Photos,…
- January - March: The weather is slightly chilly but not foggy, so you can fully admire the grandeur inside the cave and take beautiful clear photos.
- April - May: This is when the seasons are changing, so the sun is not harsh and there are few downpours. You can trek without worrying about the weather.
- June - August: It is much hotter in Son Doong during this period. However, the heat makes wading in the cave's cool streams even more refreshing.
- Things you need to know about Son Doong cave tour:
The only tour operator licensed to organice Trips to Son Doong is Oxalis Adventure, so you should book their tour, which lasts for 6 days and 5 nights. The price of a tour about 3.000USD/Person, making it the most expensive tour in Vietnam.
However, for a surreal once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is worth every dime. Plus, the price already covers the services of a technical advisor, guide, safety assistant team, accommodation, food, and equipment.
Son Doong Cave Tours are available from January to August, but there is a limit on the number of visitors each year. You will need to make a booking in advance for a chance to come to the cave.
Son Doong cave tour is a challenging trekking expedition, where you will cross rivers and scramble through rocky terrains. So, you should have a certain level of fitness to enjoy the journey. Visitors lacking adequate fitness or having health conditions may not be eligible for the tour. Also, note that you need to be at least 18 years old.
In addition to exploring the inside of the cave, the tour also includes visiting Doong Village and especially Hang En Cave, where a Peter Pan movie was filmed.
- Travel Notes for visiting Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh:
To ensure that you will have a safe and enjoyable time exploring Son Doong Cave in Phong Nha National Park, don’t forget to bring:
- Trekking clothes: These should be light, quick-drying, and not too thin. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are recommended to protect yourself from branches, insect bites, etc.
- Trekking shoes and socks: To venture through the mixed terrain comfortably and safely, you need a good pair of trekking shoes. Shoes with rugged soles that drain easily are your best bet.
Your socks should be thick but breathable and come up to your calves. Bring at least 4 to 5 pairs to change if needed.
- Trekking backpack: You will need one to carry the helmet and headlamp given to you by Oxalis. It will be handy for stashing other personal items as well.
- Camping clothes: Staying at the campsite, you want to be in something comfortable. Consider shorts and shirts, unless you come in the cold months.
If you come between December and March, bring long pants and long-sleeved shirts. It is also not a bad idea to have a light jacket or coat.
- Camping items: Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, towels, and foot-drying powder are things you should bring along to have the best experience at Son Doong. You should also carry wet wipes and dry shampoo, as there are no bathing facilities near the campsites.
See Also: Best Things to Do and to See in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
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