An expedition to world’s largest cave
Update: May 21, 2015
Since the broadcast of En Cave and Son Doong Cave in the north-central coast province of Quang Binh on the ABC’s Good Morning America program last week, many people have been captivated by the spectacular images of Son Doong.

Son Doong is appealing to adventurers because of its unique beauty and structure as well as the danger and difficulties associated with the trip. It is located in the heart of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province. Discovered in 2009-2010 by the British Cave Research Association, the cave has only been opened to the public since 2013.

According to the Good Morning America program, the cave’s chamber is big enough for two 747 Boeing planes and high enough to fit in an 80-storey skyscraper. The cave was established by a flowing river through a limestone mountain for two million years forming the largest underground chamber on earth.

To get to Son Doong, firstly people have to pass through En Cave. However, many adventurers have had to quit their journey halfway due to strength problems. Tourists need both mental and physical fitness and skills for the trip, from letting themselves soaked in stream water to climbing up high stone walls, holding ropes and groping on slippery stone surfaces.

Any mistake could leave consequences, from injury to life threat. Thus, a trip to Son Doong is ranked as an expedition not an adventure. And what you experience in this journey is something beyond your imagination.

There are days you are half in the water wading the stream or river while the rest of the body is soaked in sweat. There are also days you don’t have a chance to take a shower and have to stand your dirtiness and stinking smell.

To get to some instant beautiful places in the cave, including Edam Garden or Hand of Dog, tourists have to go in the dark of the cave’s entrails with only a light equipped on their specialized hats.

The first camping night inside En Cave is something that you have never imagined as you are exhausted after a long day in a soaked body. It is not the same feeling of admiring wonderful pictures of the caves on the Internet that were created by expensive cameras and lighting systems.

According to Howard Limbert from the British Cave Research Association, who joined Ho Khanh, the cave’s finder, to help bring Son Doong to the world in 2010, what photographers have captured of the cave is more beautiful than reality. Those who wish to take wonderful pictures of the cave should consider the possibilities of bringing their devices during a tough journey like this.

However, the attraction of a trip to Son Doong is its difficulties and challenges to explore the beauty of Mother Nature. The trip isn’t made to please normal tourists who wish to have a comfortable experience. It is said that the journey to Son Doong is a big challenge compared to the conquer of Fansipan, called the Roof of Indochina, which is located in the northern province of Lao Cai, about 9 km from Sapa town.

There are at least ten people who are cave and security experts to serve a trip of 30 explorers, apart from porters who help carry goods, do the cooking and filter water.

To prepare for such a challenging trip to Son Doong, people are recommended to practice short journeys to Tu Lan and En caves which are also in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

According to Limbert, there have been hundreds of caves discovered in Viet Nam but just a few of them are for people with special interest and good health to explore, such as Son Doong. Some caves like Phong Nha and Thien Duong are popular for normal tourists to come to take pictures. However, the numbers of people who can come to the final point of Phong Nha Cave are rare and they are only cave explorers.

So it is a reminder for all tourists that they should not be mistaken the Son Doong trip is a simple and pleasant experience. Tourists can contact Oxalis Adventure Tours, a leading adventure tour operator in Vietnam with its headquarters in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, to book a seven-day, six-night trip to Son Doong Cave at a price of VND64.5 million (US$3,000) per person.