Hang Son Doong, in central Vietnam, is the world’s largest cave. It’s about 9 kilometers long, and more than 200 meters wide and 150 meters high. It has a river, two jungles, and a chamber that could easily fit the Statue of Liberty on top of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. And somehow, despite its size, Hang Son Doong remained hidden from the world until 2009!
In 2014, the first tourists were allowed into the cave (only 220 of them!), and I was lucky enough to get a spot on one of the tours. From August 10 to 16, I got to hike through this amazing cave with 7 other tourists, 3 cavers, and about 20 porters.
To give you a sense of the layout of the cave, below is a map of Son Doong. The main highlights of the cave are two collapsed sections, called dolines, and named “Watch out for Dinosaurs” and “Garden of Edam”. The dolines are really what make Son Doong so special: they allow sunlight into the cave, which allows for the spectacular jungles to grow.
To get to the cave, you have to first fly to Dong Hoi, then drive for 45 minutes to Phong Nha, then drive for another hour into the jungle, hike for about 5 hours to Hang En (the world’s third largest cave), camp in Hang En for a night, and then hike again for about another 6 hours to finally reach the first camp in Son Doong.
One of my fellow tourists, Dekel, took a drone with a GoPro into the cave. It was incredible to see the thing fly around and it really made it clear how gigantic this cave is –– it’s so large that it is often difficult to maintain a sense of its size. I’ll link to Dekel’s video footage when he gets it online (it’s pretty amazing!).
And some choose to schlep it through the mud to the Great Wall of Vietnam (which is pretty much the end of the cave). I chose to hang back and get a photo of those who went on to the Wall. The light that you can see is coming from the only other opening to the cave, which is just beyond the Wall.
Before hiking back to the first camp, we have a brief lunch and the porters catch a quick flick at the world’s smallest cinema in the world’s largest cave:
The unbelievably cool and awesome porters coming through the Garden of Edam:
After having a freezing cold bath surrounded by razor sharp rocks, we get back to the first camp. I’ve never felt so tired in my life! (Photo credit: Ken.)
On the last day in Son Doong, we move pretty quickly to get back to Hang En, our final camp for the trip
I have to say, Son Doong was one the most amazing trips I’ve been on in my life. Tons of thanks to Deb, Bamboo, Watto, Jamie, all the porters, and Aya, Alex, Dekel, Hussein, Ken, Paul, and Vojti for such an awesome and unique trip! I couldn’t recommend it to others more highly! If you want to go, get in touch with Oxalis tours.