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Exploring Hang Son Doong Cave, an exhilarate outdoor adventure

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If you're thinking of an adventurous nature vacation, (more like a workout vacation) Hang Son Doong cave is the place to go. The mysterious, cave in Vietnam has its ecosystem, climate, jungles, and river inside it; it’s a new dimension to outdoor adventure. It hides in rugged Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam’s Quang Bihn province Southern East Asia. This underground reality is exceptionally massive; a 40-Story skyscraper could fit into it with the end length unseen. Even your concept, thoughts or expectations of how grand a trip to this place could be they will be exceeded ten-fold. The journey to this cavern is not for the faint of heart though. It is two days of intense trekking through the jungle and crossing the river to reach the entrance. Campers spend the night inside it. And each Campsite has a compost toilet for your use

A brief history of Hang Son Doong

It is mind-boggling to comprehend until about six years ago this grandiose and impressive cavern was not known. It occupies a space of over 3.1 miles long, 660 ft. High and 490 ft. Wide. Scientists say the figure could be more significant if today’s modern facilities explored the real length of it. It came to be almost 3 million years ago by water eroding away the limestone underneath the Mountain. When the limes were weaker, the ceiling collapsed and created a huge hole that enlarged over time allowing a lush jungle to take root. The cave also referred to as ‘Mountain River Cave,’ remained untouched by man until the 1990s. A local farmer, Ho Khanh discovered it while trekking through the jungles of the Park looking for timber (to earn a modest income). Due to a sudden torrential downpour from nowhere, the old man looked for shelter in case it turned out to be flash floods. He trotted into the mouth of Hang Son Doong cave by chance and not knowing the value of the discovery; He soon forgot its location. In 2006, Ho Khanh mentioned to the British explorers in Phong Nha – Ke Bang about the cave he saw in the area. Because he couldn't remember where it was, the explorers with the help of their sophisticated equipment and digital maps tried to find it, but in vain. The entrance to this cave is tiny and easy to miss. In 2009, the old man rediscovered it, but he did not go in as it is too steep a drop. To access inside of cave Hang Son Doong, you have to rappel 80M down with a rope and harness. So he led the British cavers there and hence making the British explorers become the first people to go inside. The explorers had to return many times to overcome certain obstacles. Inside, they could see a light-filled space above a cliff but had no idea what lay behind it. They named the 60-meter calcite wall the Great Wall of Vietnam. In 2003 this enormous cavern opened to the public for tour. Until now though, few people have been inside the space of this spectacular wonder.

Why it should be #1 on everyone’s bucket list

Through the entrance of the cave, there is an eerie mist that seeps out of its gaping mouth. A closer look and you see a steep drop with strange roaring sounds bellow out from its depths (talk about creepy), the environment inside is surreal though, the sweet jungle fragrance that emits from inside is almost cloying, and the view of the waterfall gushing over the rocks breathtaking. The Lake and the gentle, pleasant sound of water as it moves along in a river curving through the forest look magical. From every direction, you will hear the hums and chirps of insects and song of birds. Dolines (collapsed ceiling) allow sunlight and air into the jungle at the right spacing along the entire length of the cave. Along with the fame of being massive, it is familiar for a variety of natural landscapes with abundant vegetation. Scientists have discovered plants that are unknown, which is a phenomenon indeed. The Primitive wild forest is habitat for monkeys, flying foxes, and Swift Birds among other creatures. In the cave there are bats, but not to worry as they don’t carry rabies or other infectious diseases, they're harmless. You must respect them too, don't touch them or disturb them in any. The wet floor and interior walls of the cave grow thick layers of moss and algae, People walk along slick formations that host different micro-organisms, insects, and small animals. Explorers also noticed it is a jackpot of rare pearls. These formed over hundreds of years; as water laden with minerals dripping from a cave’s ceiling falls and dries up, it leaves layers of calcite crystals on grains of sand forming the small mineral pearls the size of baseballs. Giant stalactites and bat roosts hang from the ceiling while Jungles thrive deep inside. Stalagmites rounded, irregular, hollow cones, which are concave upwards standing towering 80-meter tall. The passageways embellish ancient fossils. Subterranean formations are unique to anything on the surface in the complexity of the design. The sheer beauty of all this has explorers naming it the Garden of Edam.

Adrenaline-charged challenges you will face touring Son Doong

This excursion promises unforgettable experiences and challenges. You may wonder • How you will go through the small and misty entrance; the area as it is quite expansive. Only the entry point is small; there is no claustrophobia at all. Also, the hovering clouds of mist seeping out of the cave are due to more cooling air below meeting the hot jungle air above; it’s nothing to worry about. • If all explorers have to descend the 80m down a steep wall with the use of harnesses and ropes; yes. The tour requires somewhat fitness. You have to be capable enough of endurance hikes, rock climbing and sustained cardio as it involve a lot of physical activities. • Is the cave floor flat; No. It is anything but flat. It is uneven with loose stones littering the floor and rocks and covered with giant boulders. Comfortable footwear is crucial. You need to find a pair of boots with the softest and stickiest rubber possible, for a good grip. Also, expect your shoes to submerge in water or mud during the tour.

Climatic Conditions experienced in the city vs. inside the cavern

1. Winters in Vietnam are icy. They last from November to February with temperatures of 8-15 degrees. Inside the caves, winter temperature drop to 18 – 23 Celsius. So dress extra warm. 2. Summers are scorching hot and begin in June to August. Degrees go up to 32-40 Celsius. In summer, the cavern’s temperature is 22 – 25 Celsius. Okay weather to wear shorts and t-shirts. Floods occur during mid-September and mid-November every year. They are not continuous though. The floodwater recedes when the rain stops, but the floodwater remains high for close to a week. Before planning your trip, it is wise to check the weather in advance. This way you're best prepared to have the most enjoyable time.

Vietnam Culture

This beautiful country has intriguing cultural appeal, with breathtaking natural landscapes. The energetic cities and historic seaside towns are lively with activities. Vietnamese esteem several significant holidays; • Tet holiday (2017 it was in late January) • Reunification Day (starts April 30 – May 1) • Independence Day (2nd September) Tet holiday varies yearly as the lunar calendar dictates. It is the most significant holiday in the country. Transportation shuts down for around five days during this time. If you plan your travel there during the holiday season, book your transportation in advance to avoid getting stranded. The market is also shut down for about a week. You will not be able to buy anything in Phong Nha. Please Plan well if you choose to travel there during these holidays.

Cavers Gear

• In winter bring warm clothes, Waterproof jackets, fleece jackets. • Long pants and long sleeves add extra protection against stinging plants, mosquitos’ sharp rocks, thorny bushes, and other jungle elements. • You will need to carry a backpack for your camera, helmet (since you won’t need it everywhere inside the cave) and personal things. • If you usually hike with trekking poles, you can bring them with you. • Eye -Glasses can fog up in the humidity of the jungle or cave some people prefer contact lens for this reason.

Tips

• Most places in Phong Nha do not accept credit card. • They exchange USD only, and the bills must be in perfect condition. • Power outages are frequent in Phong Nha. Meaning ATM's will not work. You need to plan for emergency and bring some VND (their currency) with you before your arrival in Phong Nha.

Conclusion

So far, Hang, Son Doong explorers are countable. The government in Vietnam has granted only one company to facilitate this. To take part in the tour, the damage for the life-changing adventurer is around 4,000 USD each. (Excluding flights, accommodations, and the like). But it is worth every penny! A restricted number of 500 travelers can visit each year. These help to cut the environmental impact and still maintain the high level of safety. You’re required to make a reservation four months in advance.

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