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The largest cave on earth, Son Doong in Vietnam is so large that it has its own eco-system!
What Is It?
The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the largest known cave passage in the world; 5 kilometres long, 200 meters high, 150 meters wide. It has a jungle, a river and could also fit a 40 storey skyscraper within its wall. That is humongous!
What’s in it?
Until 2009, Deer cave in Malaysia was considered the largest cave, which is in fact just one half of Son Doong. The Vietnamese cave was discovered by a local man and since then the place has become a focal point for all the nature enthusiasts, photographers and adventure aficionados. It is located right in the middle of the Phong Nha-ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, spread into 885 square kilometres.
Also Read: A Survival Guide for Vegetarians in Vietnam
Various tour companies conduct one-day boat tours as well as 5-day camping tours inside the cave. Reaching the largest cave involves a hike of 22 kilometres and with about 30 river crossings. Every year the government permits 500 passes for the tourists and each individual is made to sign a lengthy release form in the beginning.
The hike through the national forest is considered to be one of the toughest and most dangerous. It is home to 23 “red book” enlisted or endangered species. The trek starts at an angle of whopping 45 degrees and beware of those leeches and snakes and poison ivy plants (you know why they make you sign a release form right?). On reaching the cave, you will have the most spectacular view in front of you. Also the turquoise blue lake with sandy underground beach will stun you. These gigantic caves are so big that they have a climate of their own. The clouds gush out of the caves in a way that it looks like smoke is coming out of a dragon.
As you progress inside the largest cave you will be mesmerised by the millions of years old calcium formations hanging from the ceiling of the caves like icicles. Everywhere there are beautiful naturally occurring rock structures that you can trek on to get the better view of inside the cave. Also the exorbitant feeling of witnessing these caves is a once in a lifetime kind.
Cost: The permits cost ₹1.92 lacs
How To Reach: Cave expeditions depart from Phong Nha, a small village about 45 minutes’ drive from the nearest town, Dong Hoi City. Most travellers arrive via bus or train from Da Nang, Hue or Hanoi. It is also possible to fly from Ho Chi Minh City via Dong Hoi.
Staying Options: Cheap backpacker and also home stay accommodation is plentiful in Phong Nha. Rooms cost around ₹2254 a night, including breakfast.
Dining Options: Phong Nha Bamboo Café is a must visit place, which does Vietnamese dishes as well as burgers.
Travel Essentials: Gum boots, insect repellant, jacket, torch.
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