Our Son Doong Cave Expedition will take you deep into the heart of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam, on one of the most thrilling adventure tours in the world. 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.
Discovering Son Doong cave, the world’s largest cave on an expedition
Experiencing the highest cave adventure level with running, trekking, caving or rock climbing
Sightseeing enormous stalagmites and statuesque stalactites, hanging from the ceiling and rising from the ground like an alien species
Enjoy breakfast at 8:00 am with your guide 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 trailhead, 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 and 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.
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.
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 its 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.
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 an easy 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.
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 with 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. Feel free to bring any entertaining games or fun activities such as Jenga, a frisbee, card games, etc for everyone to join in together.
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 Phong Nha. You will have a brief stop at the office to collect your luggage and valuables before transferring to a local hotel in Phong Nha.
You can then enjoy the shower you’ve been awaiting for so long, or you could even go for a dip in the river. In the evening, you can enjoy a group farewell dinner with your fellow expedition team members.
Please advise our sales team in advance of your departure time for the following day so that they so 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 the hotel.
There are no washing facilities at camp on day 2
On day 3, you may use a pair of dry boots on this day, as aside from the mud, there are no water crossings!
-Sleeping mat (Therma-a-rest is a great brand); if you bring your own mat, it must fit in your plastic bag which the porters will carry
Gloves, as ours are one-size-fits-all (if you bring your own, please choose gloves with fingertips)
-Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
-Ankle gaiters to help prevent silt/gravel inside shoes (especially if you have shoes instead of boots)
-Trekking poles; please only bring them if you are accustomed to using them
-Dry bag in the event of rain (for clothing and personal items within your daypack); alternatively, a backpack cover would be a good idea especially for the rainier months of February – April
-If you are serious about photography, please bring your tripod along with your camera (this must be able to fit in your daypack)
Important Notes: We will have porters carry any of your gear that you will not require during each day (e.g. camera equipment/clothes you do not need during the day can be taken ahead to the campsite for you). You will not be able to access this until you reach the campsite. Please respect our porters and do not bring too much luggage for them to carry (7 kg per person). No outdoor equipment is available in Phong Nha, and only limited items in Hanoi or Saigon.
Meals as indicated in ititnerary
Camping gear: tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag
Porter team to carry all gear and prepare all meals
Caving Expert from the British Cave Research Association
1.5 L bottled water at the top of the trailhead/trekking point
Base Camp water filter and purifier (application by guide and porters)
Professional English-speaking tour guide and guide safety assistants
Basic camping facilities with eco-friendly compost toilet using western toilet seat
First Aid Kit, Medical Rescue Equipment & Satellite Phone (application by cave experts & tour guide only)
What’s Not Included
Sunscreen and hat
1 medium size towel
Water bottle at least 1.5 L
Small head-torch for use around camp
1 pair of flip flop (sandals) for campsite
Wet wipes (very limited bathing inside the cave!)
Bio-degradable soap and shampoo for use in rivers
2 pair of shorts and t-shirts to wear at campsite (plus your swimsuit for Hang En)
Trekking boots/shoes – difficult terrain, good footwear necessary.Recommended: Five-Ten Canyoneer 3. Consider bringing a backup pair of shoes
4 – 5 pairs of calf-length close weave socks (not ankle socks or waterproof socks – no neoprene; SmartWool is a good brand; if you go with cotton, make sure it’s composed of 50% or less cotton)
Anti-fungal foot powder (talcum powder)
Medium sized rucksack/backpack for daily belongings (most people find 15 – 20 L adequate; backpack must fit the helmet we will provide for you and cannot be strapped to the outside)
3 long quick dry, full length pants and 3 – 4 (easy to dry) shirts to wear during the trek; thick athletic leggings/running tights/yoga pants are acceptable pants (please make sure they are full-length and not see-through). For better photos, please consider bright colored shirts except white
Personal items – toiletries, medication, camera, tripod, spare batteries (toiletries should also include feminine hygiene products for ladies, even if it’s “just in case”)
Medication – bring any essential medication and anything you take regularly (e.g anti-inflammatories). We supply drugs for emergency/unexpected conditions only.
AA/AAA batteries if needed (low quality only available locally)
Fleece, lightweight windproof, warm hat for evenings (February, March & early April only)
For more information about Vietnam tours, please visit our website. Have a nice trip!