An Amazing World Underneath The Earth - Son Doong Caves

Son Doong Cave is now the largest cave in the world and has understandably been the attention of many film companies such as the BBC, National Geographic, Japanese and Brazilian teams. It also featured in National Geographic Magazine in 2011.

Location

Son Doong Cave is in the heart of the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province. This incredible cave was only explored in 2009/2010 by the British Cave Research Association.

Exploring Son Doong caves – Follow the steps of explorers

On the way to the cave, you will follow the jungle river to find the entrace

On the way to the cave, you will follow the jungle river to find the entrace

Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is a part of the Truong Son mountain range. The whole national park is situated in a large limestone massif, which has made possible the formation of hundreds of caves and grottoes. Most of these are connected and it is estimated that the total length of these cave systems are over 200 kilometers. Many caves remain unexplored.

The entrance of Son Doong caves

The entrance of Son Doong caves.

This opening was found in 1991 by a local man named Ho Khanh. Till 2009, he was able to find the way back and explore the hole with a group of British explorers.

The entrance is quite small and mist from the cave. Photo by John Spies/Barcroft Media

The entrance is quite small and mist from the cave. Photo by John Spies/Barcroft Media

The entrance is a slippery slope downward into darkness. Exploring the cave without lighting is impossible. Visitors must descend 80 meters down a steep wall with the use of harnesses and ropes.

The formed river of Son Doong

The formed river of Son Doong

There is a large and fast river flows through Son Doong. It is the water which has formed the cave over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. In the rainy season, this place would be completely impassable.

The first large cavern of Son Doong caves is large enough that a Boeing 474 could fly through itAt the first large cavern, there are many kinds of stalagmites, that have slowly formed over thousands of years.

The Hand of Dog

Standing on The Hand of Dog

And the stalagmite rising toward the cave ceiling, well above the others is called the Hand of Dog, has over 70 meters tall. This may be the tallest stalagmite in the world.

Doline One of Son Doong, named Watch Out for Dinosaurs

Doline One of Son Doong, named Watch Out for Dinosaurs

The Doline makes Son Doong very special compared to other caves. In Son Doong, daylight comes through the doline and make it possible for vegetation within the cave. They are similar to the jungle above, since it is still connected through wind and rain.

Inside doline one

Inside doline one

According to geologist, this doline was formed within the last 500,000 years, at a point where the cave ceiling simply couldn’t support its own weight. It collapsed because of weaknesses in the rock.

Determining the exact age of Son Doong is hard. The cave system has formed during such an extremely long time, the river slowly carving at the soft limestone. Scientists estimate the cave is between 2 and 5 million years old.

The beautiful but short section between the two dolines

The beautiful but short section between the two dolines

Below Doline One is a short section between the two collapsed dolines. This section is pure fossil, and there has been no major flooding of this part of the cave in recent geological history. This part has been somewhat undisturbed by the elements, which has made possible the formation of the beautiful gours you can see here. They have formed from water dripping from the ceiling.

You can see the doline two right behide the landscape section

You can see the doline two right behide the landscape section

Keep going deeper, there will be one small section, cover a few hundred meters, is a barren landscape that doesn’t get any sunlight at all.

Phytokarst formation in Son Doong cave

Phytokarst formation in Son Doong cave

A huge field of phytokarst, which look like plants, slanted toward the sun and become an unique scene on the way to the Doline Two. The closer you get to daylight, the larger the greenery.

The beautiful field of phytokarst in Son Doong

The beautiful field of phytokarst in Son Doong

All the way up toward the sinkhole, the ferns increase in size and color this place in green.

This is the Garden of Edam

This is the Garden of Edam

This doline is much larger than Watch out for Dinosaurs, streching about 163 meters across the base, and has a thicker forest more similar to the jungle above. This doline probably didn’t collapse because of weak rock. It is estimated that the collapse happened because of it’s location is the intersection of two major fault lines, whose combined instability. Today the doline holds a veritable forest of its own, hosting tall trees and a forgiving landscape for birds and bugs alike.

“Cave pearls”

“Cave pearls”

Leaving the Garden of Edam behind, entering into the lower, darker, passages of the Son Doong, the artificial lighting is a must. Without a headlamp, you would be stumbling in complete darkness. During caving, you can see many kind of crawlies.

Look out for creepy crawlies in Son Doong

Look out for creepy crawlies in Son Doong

Son Doong is a living environment, changing every day. The end of cave is normally a muddy trench, leading into the last stretch of the cave. Now, because of heavy rains, this section has flooded and formed a lake. This is where your expedition ends.

The end of Son Doong cave

The end of Son Doong cave

A lingering mystery is the origin of the river water flowing through the area called Passchendaele. While all the water flowing through the first section of the cave, up to the first doline, has been mapped – experts are still trying to figure out where the innermost water flow from.

The exploration journey of explorers

The Son Doong tour for visitors

The map and route of Son Doong tour

The map and route of Son Doong tour

Recently, there are open tours for visitors to discovery Son Doong caves. The tour can be only treking the cave or include the journey to explore Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.

Visitors on Son Doong tour. Photo by Ronald Fritz

Visitors on Son Doong tour. Photo by Ronald Fritz

This journey to the wild, exploring Son Doong Cave requires more than 25 porters, safety advisors & guides. You will explore the entire length of Son Doong Cave, Hang En Cave, and visit Ban Doong ethnic minority village.

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