27 Things to know before travelling to the Son Doong Cave in Vietnam
If you’re planning to participate in any cave tours around the world, Vietnam deserves to be on top of your list. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, in the central region of Vietnam is actually home to some of the world’s biggest, most astounding and rarest caves and cave systems ever seen and explored by humankind on Earth.
It would interest you to know that the World’s Largest Cave, ‘Son Doong Cave’, majestically rests in the glorious Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam.
With an effort to quench the thirst of curiosity that travellers have when planning to explore the Son Doong Cave, we’ve made a handy list of the 27 things you should know before travelling to the mighty Son Doong Cave in Vietnam:
Before the tour
1. Tour Operator
Oxalis Adventure, based in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam, is the official and only adventure tour operator in the world that conducts tours in the Son Doong Cave. The rights to visit Son Doong Cave have been awarded by the Vietnamese Government to Oxalis Adventure since 2013 till now. Oxalis is selected due to their professionalism, safety and environmental conservation efforts.
2. Tour Price
Exploring the Son Doong Cave is a once in a lifetime experience and Oxalis Adventure sets the price of this glorious journey at USD 3000. The price includes accommodations before and after the trek, National Park fees; technical advisor, guide, safety assistant team; all meals, safety and camping equipment.
Thanks to this support from the Quang Binh tourism industry, Son Doong Expedition now only costs $2500 till the end of 2021.
3. Suitable time for the tour
The Son Doong Expedition still has plenty of availability throughout the 2021 season, and whilst your preferred date might be booked, just check the calendar to find the best available date for your Son Doong Cave Expedition. Many websites incorrectly state that Son Doong Cave is booked out years in advance, but since the new itinerary of the is changed (going through Son Doong Cave instead of going back), the Government has increased the number of guests allowed to visit the cave in one year, there are now plenty of places available. However, don’t leave it too long to make your booking as you might miss out.
Simply book your journey here: https://oxalisadventure.com/tour/son-doong-cave-expedition-4d3n/;
Email us at [email protected] or reach our Son Doong adventure specialist directly at hotline: +84 919 900 357.
4. Duration & Season
The Son Doong Expedition pans out over 4 days and 3 nights in the flawless jungle and caves of the region. Keep in mind that there will be 2 days extra on the itinerary for logistical and important activities before and after the tour.
You can participate in the Son Doong Expedition anytime between January to August every year. There are no departures for Son Doong Expedition in other months, as Phong Nha might experience extreme weather conditions due to the rainy season.
5. Nature of the tour
This is not a classic tour. A journey with Oxalis Adventure, to the Son Doong Cave, is in the form of an Adventure Expedition, with numerous adventurous activities to enjoy. Despite the fact that there is plenty of sightseeing and rest involved, this expedition is considered to be quite challenging, physically and mentally. As long as you have the spirit to do it, you’ll enjoy every single moment on this adventurous journey in the World’s Biggest Cave.
6. Local Registration
It is important to know that your passport will be collected on Day 1 of the expedition and will be returned to you once the tour ends. This is done for registering your entry to the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park authorities. Your passport will be kept safe and secure at the Oxalis office.
7. Difficulty level
The Son Doong Expedition isn’t easy in any way; only physically active guests with regular trekking experience are recommended to participate in this expedition. However, we’ve had a majority of guests who found it quite arduous to finish, but upon completion of the Son Doong Expedition, they defined it to be an experience of a lifetime; it makes you realize how strong you really are and that every challenge is indeed all in the mind.
If you’re planning to join the Son Doong Expedition, we recommend you to have a training regime and stick to it, to be in good shape while on the journey. Your training regime should primarily be focused on cardiovascular exercises to build stamina and some body weight exercises to maintain reasonable strength.
8. Age Eligibility
Only the individuals above the age of 18 years and physically active with regular trekking experience are eligible to participate in the Son Doong Expedition. We don’t technically have an upper limit on the age of a guest. We’ve had really fit senior citizens over 75 years in age and they conquered the Son Doong Expedition in spectacular fashion!
During the tour
9. Safety in the tour
Oxalis Adventure prioritizes safety at the very top. The Oxalis staff is highly trained and all the activities are conducted under the expert technical guidance and supervision of our British Cave Research Association (BCRA) members. Apart from this, all the tour guides, porters and safety assistants of Oxalis Adventure are meticulously trained in all safety and rescue activities and operations. You’re in the safest hands when doing the Son Doong Expedition.
All the equipment (safety & general) provided to you by Oxalis Adventure on the expedition, is of the highest quality and comes with international attestation. Oxalis uses only the best internationally acclaimed brands while operating adventure tours, such as Petzl, the world’s leading caving gear brand. All the harnesses, ropes, helmets, headlamps, karabiners, camming devices etc. are of top notch quality. Given the challenging nature of the Son Doong Expedition, Oxalis never compromises on the quality at any point and provides and assists the guests with the best of appropriate equipment required to take on the Son Doong Cave.
11. Distance Covered
While you’re on this expedition, you’ll be trekking for more than 25 km in the jungle and mountains, which includes caving for 9 Km that includes rope climbs, rocky terrain and scrambling (including a 90m climb up the calcite wall called the "Great Wall of Vietnam" inside the Son Doong Cave). There are also multiple surface and underground river crossings (10-50 m Wide River).
On every step of this long adventurous journey, you’ll be enchanted by unique sights and the beauty of the jungle along with the adrenaline pumping activities will make you forget all about exhaustion! Throughout the whole distance, you’ll be completely safe under the guidance of our professionally trained tour guide, safety assistants and of course the cave expert from the British Cave Research Association (BCRA).
12. The Caves You Explore
On the Son Doong Expedition, you not only explore the World’s Largest Cave - Son Doong, but also the World’s Third Largest Cave – Hang En Cave. You also get to spend a night camping inside the Hang En cave. This is another reason that the Son Doong Expedition receives such popularity worldwide, as you get to be a part of the world’s biggest caves over a time span of 4 days and 3 nights!
13. Technical Sections
As Son Doong is the world’s biggest cave, it has many parts that aren’t that easily accessible without some technical caving and professionally guided traversing. If you don’t have much experience in climbing or using ropers for traversing, don’t you worry; Oxalis Adventure’s professionally trained team will have your back at all times and help you breeze through such activities. Some parts of the expedition are fairly technical and the Oxalis team will assist you with all the necessary safety equipment and help you get through the technical sections with less difficulty.
On this expedition, you won’t be required to rappel or abseil. However, there is an 80 m descent into the cave which is done through a zig-zag hike down and rock climbing in small portions, with appropriate safety equipment and under the support of our trained team; no previous experience? No problem!
Swimming is not a requisite for the Son Doong Expedition, as there are no required swimming sections. However, you have the option to take a dip and enjoy a swim at the Hang En cave - the world's 3rd largest cave.
15. Food on tour
You won’t believe it until you see the scrumptious spread laid out in front of you. Each Son Doong Expedition is conducted in the company of two local Vietnamese chefs, along with a team of assistants to prepare the best meals you will try in Vietnam; all the meals are prepared daily and maintain the highest level of freshness.
We all love Vietnamese food, but when you are enjoying delicious Chicken or Pork BBQ with Lemongrass and chilli at your campsite, sitting underground, miles away from civilization, after a big day trekking, it’s an experience you will never ever forget. The chef team is fantastic and always tries and caters to anyone with food allergies or special requirements. You name it, they have dealt with it!
16. Overnight camping
There are hardly any cave tours in Vietnam where you get to camp inside a cave. However, on the Son Doong Expedition, you’ll get to spend your nights camping inside caves with 3 different campsites; Hang En campsite, Son Doong Camp 1 and Son Doong Camp 2. You will be provided with a high quality tent, equipped with two mattresses, one pillow and a sleeping bag to make sure you sleep comfortably on your adventure. You would love to learn more about the amazing overnight camping tours in Phong Nha as well!
17. Composting Toilets
At the campsites, you’ll be using composting toilets, which is an environmentally conservative method. A composting toilet works in a way that all the human waste gets decomposed and becomes a fertilizer in a matter of some months. Everything that is taken into the jungle and cave is returned back out the same way. The composting toilets are also cleaned and taken out on a regular basis, in order to maintain the standard of hygiene. And if you happen to receive a nature call when not at the campsite, the tour guide will guide you to the nearest and most appropriate spot in the jungle; it’ll be a memorable experience, as you’ll have a toilet with the best view in the world!
All your packed luggage that you’d require at the campsites will be carried safely by the Son Doong Expedition porters of Oxalis Adventure in advance and will be kept secure at all times. All the luggage that you decide to actually carry yourself while trekking should just consist of basic items like sunscreen, water (filtered water provided by Oxalis) etc. This is recommended so that you can maximize your trekking and caving experience without having to worry about carrying a heavy load. Besides that, if there’s any luggage you don’t wish to tag along, you can keep them at the Oxalis Adventure headquarters storage, where it’ll be kept safe in a personal locker.
19. Valuable Items
Oxalis recommends not carrying valuable items like jewelry or money on the expedition, as there might be a possibility of such items getting damaged or lost during the trek through the jungles. It’s advised to keep such items in the safe lockers provided at the Oxalis office storage space.
20. What to wear
It is recommended to wear full sleeve t-shirts and long pants (preferably quick dry), along with non-waterproof trekking shoes that drain water easily, on this expedition. This is to protect yourself from factors like sunburn, rashes, thorns, poison ivy, insects etc.) To learn more about the details of what to carry, kindly check the packing section on the Oxalis website.
Owing to the fact that Son Doong Cave is an ecosystem in itself, there is a certain kind of wildlife in and around the cave. However, it’s highly unlikely for you to come across anything that’s dangerous. While on the trek, you might encounter some geckos, butterflies, beautiful bugs or snakes (highly unlikely). Inside the cave, you can hear bats flying around. The Oxalis staff will keep you safe and share knowledge with you about special flora and fauna seen along the way.
22. Using a drone/flycam
You’ll only be only allowed to use a drone inside the National Park if you have a clearance certificate from the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, Quang Binh Province government, Vietnam Ministry of National Defense and the government of Vietnam. Unless you’re a professional & licensed, attempting to get a drone inside Son Doong Cave isn’t recommended.
23. Electricity and external communication
While you’re on the Son Doong Expedition, you won’t have access to any electricity and your communication devices like phone, tablet etc. will be completely out of network coverage for 4 days and 3 nights; kindly inform your close ones about this in advance, so as not to cause any distress. Oxalis staff will be carrying a satellite phone that’s only used in emergency situations.
24. Son Doong is a cave that built a village and changed lives
You should know that by being part of the Son Doong Expedition, you’re not just doing another adventure tour; you become part of a legacy. Since the day Oxalis Adventure was associated with Son Doong, the lives of the locals of Phong Nha have changed for the better. Son Doong Cave is not just another cave, it’s a blessing of nature and also a world in itself that’ll make you believe in the extraordinary.
After the tour
25. Other activities in Phong Nha
Son Doong Cave is located in Phong Nha National Park, in Central Vietnam. Phong Nha is rapidly becoming an adventure hub in Asia, thanks to the Son Doong Cave, and there is now a range of other caving tours offered in the area. Tu Lan Cave System - where you will find yourself swimming through river caves and camping in some of the most pristine jungle valleys complete with stunning waterfalls. Many trekking enthusiasts usually combine a Son Doong Expedition with jungle trekking and caving tours to Tu Lan to get their added jungle and trekking fix.
If you wish to stick around in Phong Nha and relax after your Son Doong Expedition, you can check out What to do in Phong Nha for more information!
26. Live like a local
Phong Nha is now home to over a 100 accommodations that are close to the gorgeous Son River, the surrounding rice fields and hidden valleys. These accommodations are not too fancy, but you won’t find anything like it in Vietnam, as the people here are what really set Phong Nha apart - you will be greeted with smiles and friendly faces no matter where you stay. You might even be lucky enough to find yourself staying in a homestay run by one of the Son Doong porters!
27. Beaches and Seafood
Thinking where you can just lay back and chill after your Son Doong Expedition? Just a 45 minute drive from Phong Nha, Dong Hoi City (where you will fly into and out of when visiting Phong Nha), has some of the best seafood in Vietnam. This city is famous for having some of the most exotic seafood available in the country, along with two gorgeous beaches; the Nhat Le beach and Bao Ninh beach. Check out the top best dishes in Dong Hoi that you cannot miss!
The World’s Largest Cave, ‘Son Doong Cave’ and its most-wanted jungle trekking & cave expedition is the dream of every true adventurer and nature lover, when it comes to cave tours in Vietnam or around the world.
Check out the availability for this expedition today for your 2021 & 2022 journey: https://oxalisadventure.com/tour/son-doong-cave-expedition-4d3n/