At the beginning of 2015 we were lucky enough to take part in a 5-day expedition to Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest cave. Run exclusively by the adventure tour company Oxalis, we had been spending a few months in the town of Phong Nha, close to where the cave is located. Through a number of cancellations and an opportunity to do some work with Oxalis, we had been given the opportunity to visit this true wonder of the world.
Hang Son Doong was discovered in 1990 by Ho Khanh, a local man who was out hunting in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. While seeking refuge from an approaching storm he found a large opening in the side of a cliff, with clouds billowing out. He neared the entrance and could hear a river deep inside. The steep and dangerous rocks meant that Ho Khanh was unable to explore further, and he left once the storm passed.
Around the same time Howard and Deb Limbert, two caving experts with the British Cave Research Association, were living in Phong Nha spelunking in the area. Over dinner one night Ho Khanh mentioned his find to Howard and Deb, but admitted that he had now forgotten where it was. Knowing that the presence of clouds and an underground river meant something substantial was there, Howard and Deb urged Ho Khanh to try and find it again. For the next two decades their search turned up nothing.
However things were to suddenly change, and in 2008 while on another hunting mission Ho Khanh found himself in a section of the jungle he recalled to be near the entrance he found all those years ago. He managed to find it, and carefully retraced his steps back to Phong Nha village to report his discovery to Howard and Deb. The monsoon season soon kicked in, and the exploration would have to wait until the following year.
In 2009 Ho Khanh returned, this time with the aid of the BCRA. They began their exploration of the cave, which led them to a giant wall that hindered any further progress. In 2010 they managed to scale the wall, which they called the “Great Wall Of Vietnam”, and find the other exit to the cave. At this point they realised that the cave was the biggest ever discovered. Named Hang Son Doong, meaning “Mountain River Cave” in Vietnamese, it is now open to small expedition groups.
The discovery of the world’s largest cave in one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam has brought about an incredible surge in community-based tourism, which is positively affecting the lives of many locals. Besides the ecological marvels of what lies beneath the jungle, the way people are able to benefit their lives from its existence is one of the real wonders of Hang Son Doong.
More people have stood on the summit of Everest than have stood inside Hang Son Doong, and we were one of the lucky few to get to experience this impeccable adventure. This is our photo journey to the heart of Hang Son Doong.
About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd
Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
24 thoughts on “A Photo Journey Inside Hang Son Doong – The World’s Largest Cave”
Wow, awesome pictures of Hang Son Doong! Nowadays the waiting line is about 3 years so you can really be lucky to having this experience tucked away already! I wish I can go some day as well 🙂
Thank you so much Chris. We appreciate it. That is right. There is only allowed so many people in the cave a year to protect it. The company, Oxalis, that has the contract for the tours, protects the cave very well. Everything that goes in, comes out. There is a path in and out that is follow by the adventurers so no vegetation is damaged. We really hope you put your name on the list. It is an experience of a life time and definitely worth waiting for. Safe travels
Hey..great trip guys. I have a question for you. How much did it cost the tour to Hang Son Doong cave with Oxalis? I was there in 2013 but at that time the expedition cost soooooo much!!!
Hi Enrici, thank you so much. It was a trip of a lifetime. AMAZING! It definitely cost a bit and is worth every penny. It is a big expedition and their mission is to protect the environment. Last we heard it was about $3000 USD but it may have changed. Send them an email. They are very quick in replying. https://oxalis.com.vn/cave/son-doong-cave/
All the best
This is a superb post with stunning images. I think we have just found something new to add to our bucket list!
Thank you so much Steve and Julie. It was a highlight of our Vietnam trip. Definitely get there soon. The area is changing and so it things with the cave. We heard they might be putting in a cable car. Very sad. The town Phong Nha is an amazing place also. People who usually go on a cave tour go in and out and don’t see much of the town. Stick around if you go. It is a beautiful place with so many wonderful guesthouse. Happy planning.
What a great photo-essay. This had been on my bucket list until I saw the price of the expedition. Thanks for taking me there via the post. Maybe I will need to find a way to afford this afterall. Oh, and what an awesome way to propose 🙂
Thank you so much. That was a surprise. I had no idea it was coming. Jarryd definitely got me. We understand about the price. It is an expensive tour but so are many other tours in the world. Personally, we think it is worth every penny and it is a once in a life time experience. We loved every minute of it. It is a massive expedition with 10 guests, 23 porters, 2 cooks, 2 guides and 2 caving experts. Everything that goes in, comes out. We hope you do get there one day until then happy travels. 🙂
Great overview and pics! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for reading Gaz.
We had seriously contemplated visiting here last year, but the price was more than we could afford at the time and deterred us. You were indeed incredibly fortunate to have visited there! WOW! Maybe one day I’ll get there. Loved the photos! <3
Hi Hali, thank you for your comment. It all depends if you really want to do it. If you definitely do, you’ll find a way to save up the money. For us it was a once in a life time experience. We did look at the money and thought, “you only live once, let’s do it”. We were so glad we did. Personally, we think it is worth every penny. It is a massive expedition with 10 guests, 23 porters, 2 cooks, 2 guides and 2 caving experts. Everything that goes in, comes out. A lot of work come behind the tour that the guests don’t see. We got to the meeting point early and watched all the porters pack up everything. It was amazing to watch. Each were carrying about 25 kg on their backs and that is light for them. Hope you get there one day. All the best
What an amazing story! Hang Son Doong is one of the largest caves in the world, definitely. There are a few others just as big! Including the one in Borneo at Mulu caves. We’ve been to that one and it is awesome! However at 3k a person a trip to San Doong isn’t exactly feasible without some help from a magic fairy money godmother lol. We recently did another trek with Oxalis and aren’t they a great company! You guys got very lucky. And what an incredible story to tell everyone about where you got engaged! Not every day people do that in one of the biggest caves in the world 🙂
Hi Mica, we are so happy you did a tour to one of the caves with Oxalis. They definitely are a great company. There are a lot of big caves in the world. Hang Son Doong has the largest known cave passage cross-section in the world and i think Mulu caves is the longest but don’t quote me. We would love to get to Borneo one day and explore the Mulu Caves. Bet it is was a great adventure. As for the price…. Personally, we think it is worth every penny and it is a once in a life time experience. We loved every minute of it. It is a massive expedition with 10 guests, 23 porters, 2 cooks, 2 guides and 2 caving experts. Everything that goes in, comes out. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes that guests do not see. A gorilla tour in Africa is $1000 USD per hour….. now that is crazy. But we’d definitely still do it. 🙂 Happy travels
Thanks so much for bringing me there with you! I don’t have the best health right now so travel mainly to eat (a great sitting activity) but hope to do things like this when I’m healthier. Thanks again for sharing!
You’re welcome Sarah. Hope your health improves soon and you get a chance to do some caving again 🙂
Hey guys! So cool to finally see your trip to Hang Son Doong! Looks like a truly amazing experience- And, nice job with the photos, they turned out awesome!
Absolutely brilliant, that. What an adventure. Superb photography, as well. I love stories like this. I’m chilling out in Spain at the moment, which is lovely, but this post has given me itchy feet! Good job I’m off to South America in the new year! Love your blog, you two.
Glad you enjoyed our post Carolyn. Enjoy South America! I’m sure you’ll have a sick time. We’ve never been unfortunately.
I posted before I remembered to add, Congratulations!!!
Thanks for the great post! I am on the 12 March 2016 5-day expedition and was already waiting with great anticipation. Your post has me drooling…
You’re going to love it mate! Definitely one of the best things we have ever done.