There are many outdoor adventure destinations you could include on a luxury tour of Vietnam. Travelers can climb the cloud-obscuring 3143 meters tall Fansipan Mountain in Sapa or explore the wonders of the Ba Be national park. However, nothing will quite compare to the once in a lifetime luxury experience of trekking through the largest cave in the world. Hang Son Doong cave, which translates to mountain river cave, has remained undisturbed by human’s interference for millenniums. The wild and dramatic landscape of the cave will leave you breathless.
To enter the cave is a privilege granted to very few people on earth, which is reflected in the price, the four-day trek will set you back $3000 per person. However, glowing Trip advisor reviews promise it’s worth every penny. The Vietnamese government has limited the number of guests allowed on the expedition to 300-500 per year, in the hopes of conserving its natural beauty. One trip a week departs between February and August with up to 10 participants. You’ll have to be patient to go on this unusual luxury tour, as the waiting list is currently up to two years. You’ll have to pass a rigorous health and fitness test to qualify for the trip, previous trekking experience is also advised.
Hang Son Doong cave (Source: Internet)
Discovering the world largest cave
The inconspicuous entrance to the cave was first discovered in 1991, by a local man named Ho Khanh. He was trekking through the Phong Nha Ke Bang national park in search of agarwood and timber, which he used to make a modest income. He was unable to enter the cave at the first discovery of it due to safety concerns. The cave remained undiscovered until 2009, when Khanh and the British cave research association located it again. What they found waiting for them down in the unknown darkness, was a glimpse of what the earth might have looked like 100 million years ago.
As you approach the opening of the cave on the best luxury tour of Vietnam, you are surrounded by vast green tree covered mountains as far as the eye can see, creating a layered effect in the distance. Found here is the Ban Doong ethnic minority village. The 40 inhabitants happily share with visitors their well-preserved remote area and intriguing culture, which similarly to the cave has remained unchanged for centuries.
It’s a slippery steep slope down into the cave, which was what hindered Khanh from entering the cave all those years prior. Now ropes are used to ensure the safety of explorers. Looking up from the bottom of the 50-meter-tall chamber, you can see a beam of natural light shining down from the opening, but artificial lights are needed to see in the majority of the cave. It’s difficult to grasp the true scale of the mammoth chamber, which is large enough to comfortably allow a Boeing 747 airplane to fly through or fit an entire block of New York buildings. From an aerial view, humans look like tiny ants.
A calm pool of water lies on the cave floor, as still and uninterrupted as its surroundings. Deeper inside the cave you will find a contrastingly fast stream of water coursing through the cave. It’s this water that formed the contours of the cave over thousands of years of erosion. The water level in the cave is low enough to walk through, apart from during the rainy season when it floods. Experts have considered a theory that the real water source could be coming from an even bigger undiscovered cave, which will lead you to wonder what else is out there waiting to be revealed.
A Campsite inside the world’s largest cave (Source: Internet)
Watch out for dinosaurs
Located in Quang Binh province the UNESCO protected cave is around five kilometers long and 200 meters tall at its highest point. Experts estimate Hang Son Doong to be 250 – 500 million years old, dating back to either the Picene or late Miocene geological era. It was formed by water slowly eroding the soft limestone, carving out the hundreds of intricate stalagmites present today. The cave is also home to the world tallest stalagmite named ‘The hand of dog.’ The explorers who discovered the stalagmite were so in awe of its impressive size they originally wanted to call the soaring 70-meter-tall stalagmite ‘The hand of God.’ They humorously revised it to the more humble title, they were conscious of becoming caught up in the moment and overdoing it.
As you journey further into the cave you’ll come across the area known as ‘Watch out for dinosaurs,’ a fitting name for the vast forest. You would be forgiven for half expecting that prehistoric beasts are still hiding down here, amongst the ancient fossils.
Watch out for dinosaurs (Source: Internet)
The first of two dolines is next on the caves itinerary. A doline is a hole on the surface of the ground caused by some form of collapse, found in limestone regions. The doline was formed in the last 500,000 years, practically a recent event in comparison to the caves lifetime. The ceiling could no longer support its own weight so caved in creating the massive skylight. Vegetation similar to the jungle above is able to bloom in these conditions unlike in the dark depths of the cave. However, some organisms have flourished within the darkness including some species of bugs which weren’t known to inhabit Vietnam.
The second doline is much bigger than the first, which has allowed the area to blossom into an ecologically rich jungle. This doline was a result of a fracture in the rocks surface caused by the earth’s movement. Trekkers can bask in the beauty of the 30-meter-tall trees bursting with exotic birds, monkeys, and snakes. Rare and endangered species are able to thrive in the hidden gardens, out of reach from the destruction of the human race. You could easily lose yourself in the immense sea of trees, forgetting that you’re even still in the world’s largest cave.
Doline two (Source: Internet)
Hang Son Doong cave will be an unforgettable other-worldly addition to your luxury tour of Vietnam. You won’t regret parting with your money to pay the hefty price tag. This truly is a luxury not many people will ever have the chance to experience, so if you can, seize the day!
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