Note: For photography enthusiasts and professionals alike, we are continuing our Son Doong Photography tours for the 2017 season. This tour will be focused on capturing unique images within Son Doong with lighting support and porters carrying up to 20 kg your personal equipment. Sign up now at Son Doong Photography Tour.
With your team of more than 25 porters plus safety experts and guides, you’ll explore over six days, the entire length of Son Doong Cave, Hang En Cave, as well the Ban Doong ethnic minority village.
Imagine trekking straight into the depths of the world’s largest cave on an expedition unlike any other. A cave that can fit a 747 flying through its largest cavern – a truly foreign landscape, with enormous stalagmites and statuesque stalactites, hanging from the ceiling and rising from the ground like an alien species.
A jungle within a cave, that’s almost so unreal that you have to see it to believe it. Misty clouds enveloping the whole scene, evidence of the cave’s own weather system. Fossil passageways that give proof of the cave’s ancient existence!
There is no rush on this tour and there is plenty of time for photography and to enjoy the cave. However you need to be very fit, and have previous experience trekking (but not necessarily caving or climbing) to enjoy this adventure tour.
Note: Due to safety and conservation matters, the government of Quang Binh allowed Oxalis is the only operator bringing tourists to Hang En/Son Doong cave. Letter Number 1213/UBND-VX dated on August 03, 2016 of the Government of Quang Binh Province.
Customers are expected to make it to Son Doong entrance without assistance. Anyone who cannot do so will be turned around. We maintain the right to turn around any customers who cannot follow safety, conservation, or trekking rules, and anyone who refuses to follow the instructions of the guide team. Customers who are turned around will not a receive a refund of any kind.
Dong Hoi – Safety Briefing – Local hotel in Phong Nha
Arrive in Dong Hoi by no later than 2 pm on the afternoon of your briefing day, where you will be met by a member of our team and transferred to either Oxalis Home Hotel or Ho Khanh’s Homestay. Both are located just next to the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. You’ll then have the rest of the day to rest, relax and wander around the village of Phong Nha. You will be required to purchase your own breakfast and lunch on this day.
Around 5:30-6:00pm you will congregate in the hotel restaurant before transfer to Oxalis Headquarters, where you’ll meet your technical advisor and guide team for your safety briefing and equipment check. The briefing is mandatory. Anyone who chooses not to join the briefing may be eliminated from the tour without refund. Please have all belongings you’ll be taking on the trek prepared before the safety briefing and ready to bring to Oxalis, as immediately after the briefing we will collect everyone’s belongings in individually labeled large plastic bags, and send them to our porters to prepare for the following day. You will receive your belongings each evening once you get to your campsite. Therefore, anything you want to take with you during the day you should keep in a separate backpack (e.g. cameras, tripods etc.). Before dinner, you will be given your helmet for the trip; the helmet will then be your responsibility for the duration of the tour. Please note that the Release Form needs to be signed at the safety briefing. After that, enjoy dinner with your team at around 7:30 pm at Oxalis headquarters, after which you will be transferred back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Day 1: Phong Nha – Ban Doong Village – Hang En Cave
Enjoy breakfast at 8:00 am before departing at 9:00 am for the first leg of the expedition. You’ll leave extra luggage and any valuables at the Oxalis headquarters before heading to pick up the porter team and setting off for adventure.
After a 45 minute drive along Road 20 of the Ho Chi Minh Highway you’ll reach the trail-head, where you’ll start trekking for approximately 1 hour downhill through the forest, which is quite steep at times. Walk for half an hour along a small stream to the minority village of Ban Doong, which is a real highlight for many on this expedition. Learn more about this unique ethnic group of people and enjoy lunch beside a small river.
After this point, you will be in the sun all afternoon with about 2 hours along a river, with very little shade. You’ll cross the river many times so please expect to have wet feet for the whole day. In the summer, the water is only usually knee deep, but Gore-Tex boots will fill and hold the water so therefore they are not recommended (please see our detailed FAQ for footwear recommendation).
You’ll then reach the entrance to Hang En Cave, home to thousands of swifts. Here you’ll be given your headlight and you will trek/boulder approximately 20-30 minutes to your campsite inside the cave. The group should arrive at camp by 3:00 pm where you can enjoy swimming and washing within the underground river. Dinner will be served at the spectacular campsite with numerous photographic opportunities.
Anyone who is unable to complete any stage of this first day comfortably will be turned around to Phong Nha and will not be permitted to continue the expedition. This will be the decision of the guide team on your tour. Should you be turned around, all tour costs will be forfeited.
Day 2: En Cave – Son Doong entrance – Hand of Dog – SD Camp 1
You’ll again begin your day with a delicious breakfast at around 8:00 am. You’ll be in for a very tough day today so it’s best to enjoy a big breakfast, as you’ll need your energy!
Start your trek at 9:00 am through Hang En Cave for about 30 mins to reach the magnificent exit, made famous by many photographers over the past few years. You’ll scramble down to the river valley and then it’s an hour walk through the river, so your boots are going to be wet for most of the day; it is unavoidable, yet part of the fun.
You’ll then start climbing a steep hill for about 45 minutes with some rocky sections to start. At the top of the hill you’ll enjoy lunch, a safety briefing and fit your safety harness and prepare for your big journey underground. A steep descent with a couple of short rope climbs brings you at last to Son Doong entrance.
With your safety harnesses, you’ll then start the 80 m descent into the cave by making a number of short climbs, using ropes and safety lines with your guides’ assistance. There is no rappelling or abseiling at any point during the expedition. You’ll then enjoy a few more climbs and bouldering to reach the first and second river crossings inside the cave, which are no more than knee-to-thigh deep depending on the water levels. You should have a wash here, as it will be the last washing place for the day.
On your way to the first campsite in the first large passage of the cave, you’ll have to be extra careful as there are a number of big drops and scrambling over boulders along a rocky path before reaching one of the most spectacular views: Hand of Dog and daylight streaming through the cave, thanks to the first doline! You will then scramble down to the first campsite of Son Doong around 3 – 4 pm and have the afternoon to soak up the views and rest your weary bodies. You’re in for another big meal with your team before turning in for the night.
Please note that there are no washing facilities at camp on this day.
Day 3: SD Camp 1 – Watch out for Dinosaurs – Great Wall of Vietnam – SD Camp 2
Your day begins with a hearty breakfast with your team before a 9:00 am departure towards your second campsite in Son Doong Cave. You’ll start with some rocky climbs, which are quite steep in some places, as you reach the first jungle within the cave at Watch Out for Dinosaurs. It will take about 1.5 hrs to travel within the cave from Camp 1 to Watch Out for Dinosaurs. After a short break you’ll be trotting down the rocky path to reach the enormous Green Gours, one of the most magnificent and famous photography spots on the tour! A light lunch is provided with an incredible backdrop of the first doline. If you are lucky you may even catch some sunbeams, which make for truly spectacular photos.
It is then a walk through the cave past gigantic formations and plenty of cave pearls towards the light of the second doline and main jungle within the cave. Follow the path past the beautiful foliage reaching towards the light, to reach the underground jungle, unlike anything you could experience on the planet! Cross the jungle for around 45 minutes to reach the steep and sometimes slippery path down to your second campsite within Son Doong Cave. You will reach camp around 2 – 3 pm.
After a short rest at your campsite, you are back on your feet and heading deeper within the cave towards the Great Wall of Vietnam. You’ll pass through a very large dry passage with huge stalagmites and great views back to the second doline. Many new creepy crawlies have been discovered within this passage including white spiders, fish, woodlouse and shrimp species, so be sure to keep your eyes open.
You will reach at this point either a very large beautiful underground lake (where you’ll then paddle to reach the Great Wall of Vietnam) or you will find a fantastically adventurous muddy pit (at which you will need to trudge your way through for a few hundred meters to reach the wall). It is entirely optional if you wish to go further and reach the actual wall, as you will get very dirty in the mud and there are no bathing facilities on this day at camp (pack plenty of wet wipes if you decide on the plunge).
You’ll be back at camp again around 6 pm to enjoy a sensational dinner with your team and delight yourself with an evening of games and entertainment, or simply relax and soak up the views at what is quite possibly the very best campsite in the world.
Quick note: you may use a pair of dry boots on this day, as aside from the mud, there are no water crossings! Also, there are no washing facilities at camp on this day.
Day 4: SD Camp 2 – Fossil Passage – Nat Geo View Point – Hang En Cave
After refueling with another hot breakfast you’ll pack up camp and start heading back to the first doline, with a slightly different route through a small oxbow passage above the underground river in which there is a very steep drop, where you will need to use a rope and safety line.
Once you have reached the first campsite around 11 am, you’ll have time for a short break before climbing down to the ancient fossil passage, where you will witness 350 million year old coral fossils. Enjoy a small wash in the pools and a hearty lunch before descending back to the main passage, crossing the river twice and proceeding to climb up to the entrance, again strapped in with your harness and safety lines.
Your group will appear out from the entrance of Son Doong around 2 – 3 pm, at which point you’ll have a chance to enjoy a small break and some snacks. Then head back towards the river valley, where you can enjoy a well-deserved and refreshing wash. Walk along the river back to Hang En for your final evening and celebration with porter team at this underground campsite.
Day 5: Hang En Cave – Ban Doong Village – Phong Nha
Wake up early and start your 10 km trek back to Road 20 after breakfast. You’ll follow the river along the valley and back through Ban Doong Village. You will enjoy snacks and fruit along the way before starting on what is quite a difficult climb back up the mountain for the last hour of your big adventure. Cold drinks await you at the top of the hill before a 45 minute drive back to Chay Lap Farmstay where cool towels and a refreshing swimming pool are waiting for you. You will have an afternoon to relax after your long trek before enjoying a group farewell dinner with your fellow expedition team members.
Please advise our sales team in advance of your departure time so that they can arrange the logistics of your transfer back to the airport or train station. If you would like to extend your holiday in Phong Nha, let our team know so that we can assist you in booking extra nights at Chay Lap Farmstay.
Enjoy breakfast at the Chay Lap Farmstay and our driver will pick you up according to your departure time. Check out time at Chay Lap Farmstay is 12 pm regardless of your departure time (unless you are staying extra days, which we highly recommend). Again, please let us know in advance if you would like any additional night(s) at the hotel and we can secure that for you.
We wish you all the best in your onward travels!
Please make sure that your health is suitable for these activities with ease.
Phong Nha Caves staff (cave expert or guide) reserves the right to decline, accept or retain any person as a member of any party at any time without compensation or refund due to safety issue.