Son Doong Cave – 7 days
Trip location – Phong Nha National Park
Our Son Doong Cave Expedition will take you 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.
With your team of more than 25 porters, safety experts and guides, and over six days you’ll explore the entire length of Son Doong Cave, Hang En Cave as well as visiting the Ban Doong ethnic minority village deep in the jungle. Best trekking months here are March & April.
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 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!
As you approach the jungle just outside the entrance, the rush of cool wind that cascades out brings to life everything inside of you. It’s misty, cold and exhilarating; it’s apparent that there’s something magical waiting just beyond the entrance to the cave.
Safety is absolutely paramount on all trips operated by Oxalis Adventure Tours and hence two of the very best caving experts from the UK will accompany each tour of Son Doong Cave. Ropes, safety harnesses, lights and helmets are necessary to enter Son Doong and these are all provided from European manufacturers such as Petzl and Mammut.
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 fit, and have previous experience trekking, but not necessarily caving or climbing, to enjoy this adventure tour.
$3,025 usd per person
Day 1: Dong Hoi > Safety Briefing > Saigon Phong Nha Hotel (D)
Arrive in Dong Hoi by no later then the afternoon of day 1 where you will be met by our guide and transferred to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.
You’ll be dropped off at the Saigon Phong Nha Hotel where you’ll have the rest of the day to rest, relax and wander around the village. You will be required to purchase your own breakfast and lunch on this first day.
At 5:30 pm you are required to meet in the hotel restaurant where you’ll meet your cave experts and guide team for your safety briefing and equipment check.
Please have all belongings you’ll be taking on the trek prepared in your room before the safety briefing as immediately after 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 small back pack (e.g. cameras, tripods etc.).
Enjoy dinner with your team at around 7:30 pm at the hotel restaurant.
Day 2: Phong Nha > Ban Doong Village > Hang En Cave (B, L, D)
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel at 8:00 am with your guide before departing at 9:00 am for the first leg of the expedition.
You’ll make a brief stop at the market to pick up any last minute supplies, as well as the Oxalis office to drop off your luggage and any valuables.
After a 45 mins drive along Road 20 of the Ho Chi Minh Highway you’ll reach your trekking point, 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 will have wet feet for the whole day. In the summer, the water is only usually knee deep, but gortex boots will fill and hold the water so 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 helmet and trek/bouldering approximately 20-30 mins 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 cannot join the expedition. No refund will be offered.
Day 3: Hang En Cave > Son Doong Entrance > Hand of Dog > SD Camp 1 (B, L, D)
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 a photographer over the past few years.
You’ll scramble down to the river valley and then it’s an hour’s walk through the river, so your boots are going to be wet for most of the day and it is unavoidable!
You’ll then start climbing a big hill with a couple of rope sections where you’ll need to pull yourself up, and in one point strap into a safety line. You’re then at the entrance of Son Doong Cave where you’ll enjoy lunch and countdown to your big journey underground!
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 and with your guides’ assistance. There is no rappelling or abseiling involved.
You’ll then enjoy a few more climbs and bouldering to reach the first and second river crossing inside the cave, which is no more than knee-to-thigh deep depending on the water levels. You should have a wash here, as it will be the last place before reaching your first campsite in Son Doong Cave!
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 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 your campsite 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. There are no washing facilities on this day.
Day 4: SD Camp 1 – Watch out for Dinosaurs – Great Wall of Vietnam – SD Camp 2 (B, L, D)
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. After a short break you’ll be trotting down the rocky path to reach the enormous Green Gours!
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 photographs!
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 mins to reach the steep and sometimes slippery path down to your second campsite within Son Doong Cave.
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!
You will reach at this point a very large beautiful underground lake, where you’ll then paddle to reach the Great Wall of Vietnam, or you will find a muddy pit for hundreds of meters, at which you will need to trudge your way through 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 again enjoy a fantastic dinner with your team and enjoy an evening of games and entertainment, or simply relax and enjoy 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!
Day 5: SD Camp 2 – Fossil Passage – Nat Geo View Point – Hang En Cave (B, L, D)
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 your first campsite, 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 climbing up to the National Geographic viewpoint. You will then descend back to the main passage, cross the river twice and proceed to climb up to the entrance, again strapped in with your harness and safety lines.
At the entrance of Son Doong you’ll have a chance to enjoy a small break and some snacks, before heading back towards the river valley, where you can enjoy a deserved wash! Walk along the river back to Hang En for your final evening and celebration with porter team at this underground campsite.
Day 6: Hang En Cave – Ban Doong Village – Phong Nha – Dong Hoi (B, L, D)
Wake early and after breakfast start your 10 km trek back to Road 20.
You’ll follow the river along the valley and back through Ban Doong Village. You will enjoy lunch 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 mins drive back to Phong Nha. You will have a brief stop at the office to collect your luggage and valuables as well as pick up a small thank you gift from Oxalis, before a final 45 mins drive to Sun Spa Resort in Dong Hoi.
You can then enjoy a well deserved wash and either swim in the pool or enjoy the beach. There is also a good spa at the hotel if you would like to treat your body with some pampering! You’re then free to grab dinner at any time you want with a voucher you’ll be provided.
Please advise the hotel of your departure time on the following day upon check-in so they can arrange your transfer back to the airport or train station.
Day 7: Sun Spa Resort – Departure (B, L,)
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel (voucher provided) and your transfer to the airport will be arranged by the hotel reception. Be sure to give them your departure information.
Please let us know if you would like an additional couple of nights at the hotel and we can arrange! There are some great seafood options in Dong Hoi if you plan on staying an additional night!
- Hard (60+ kms) for physically active guests (swimming is necessary)
- Regular Departures (February to August)
- 10 guests per departure
- 18 years old
- Camping gear: tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag
- Caving & safety gear: caving helmet, caving headlight, harness and gloves
- Dry bag (for clothing and personal belongings)
- 2 Caving Experts from the British Cave Research Association
- Professional English-speaking tour guide and guide safety assistants
- Porter team to carry all gear and prepare all meals
- Katadyn (Swiss-made) water filter and purifier (application by guide and porters)
- Basic camping facilities with eco-friendly compost toilet using western toilet seat
- First Aid Kit, Medical Rescue Equipment & Satellite (application by cave experts)
- Meals (B= breakfast, L= lunch, D= dinner)
Things to bring
- 2 long (easy to dry) quick dry pants and 4 -5 shirts to wear during the trek
- 2 pair of shorts and t-shirt to wear at campsite (plus your swim suit for Hang En)
- Trekking boots/shoes – difficult terrain, good footwear necessary. 5:10 Canyoneering boots highly recommended for this trip. Otherwise, good quality trekking boots/shoes such as Keen/Merrell/Salomon.Gore-Tex not recommended. (Oxalis can supply basic jungle boots sizes 38-44).
- 1 pair of flip flop (sandals) for campsite
- 1 medium size towel
- 3-4 pairs of calf length close weave socks (not ankle socks or waterproof socks!)
- Anti-fungal foot powder (talcum powder)
- Wet wipes (very limited bathing inside the cave!)
- Biodegradable soap and shampoo for use in rivers
- Small rucksack/backpack for daily belongings
- Water bottle at least 1.5 Litre (Oxalis can supply water bottles if needed)
- Personal items – toiletries, medication, camera, tripod, spare batteries
- Sunscreen and hat
- Small head-torch for use around camp
- Rehydration tablets
- ‘Compeed’/blister dressings