The Shondong Cave was discovered in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province relatively recently, in 1991. The first scientific research confirming its gigantic size was carried out just 6 years ago. Measurements made by speleologists have shown that the Deer Cave of Malay, previously considered the largest cave in the world, will have to yield the palm to the new natural sight. The site is located 250 meters above sea level in Phongnya Kebang National Park, 70 km west of the provincial capital Dongkhoi and about 500 km south of Hanoi.
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Video: Phong Dong Cave
Story of the discovery
The Vietnamese and world public’s belated introduction to the enormous cave is a great confirmation that we don’t know everything about planet Earth. There are vague rumors that Shondong was used as a reliable bomb shelter during the Vietnam War, but the official year of discovery is 1991. That’s when a local man, trying to hide from the rain, ducked into the thicket and suddenly found himself in a cave of staggering proportions. He hesitated to go further away from the entrance: An incomprehensible and frightening noise was heard from inside. It turned out later, it was the water of the underground river.
For many years the discoverer hesitated to return to the cave, and to find it in the jungle was a problem, but in 2009 he became a guide for the British expedition cave explorers. The first attempt was unsuccessful: Advancement was hampered by a calcite wall height of 60 meters. The following year, researchers have found a way to overcome it, held all the measurements and announced a new world record.
The entrance to Shondong Cave Shondong, the world’s largest cave Natural light A tent camp inside the cave
The Underworld of Shondongdong
Fongnya Kebang National Park opened on the site of karst underground passages. Shongdong is part of a complex system of labyrinths reaching the borders with Laos, penetrating the limestone rock. The cave was formed about 5 million years ago by the painstaking work of a river that carved its way through the rocks. The result is a giant tunnel consisting of 150 halls, up to 200 m high and 150 m wide. In some places the upper ceilings collapsed, and in the cave began to penetrate the sunlight, provoking the emergence of veritable underground gardens. Interest in Shondong woke up after the photos of Carsten Peter, who acted on the assignment of the National Geographic magazine, were published. Huge halls, calm waters of the underground river 2,5 km long, high domes, stalagmites up to 70 m high, verdant slopes of the limestone rocks – all this could not but attract attention of potential tourists.
Rare cave pearls fill the terraces of a dried-up lake in Shondong Young stalagmites Resting at the underground lake Ray of Light
Tips for travelers
From the nearest tourist sites, Shondong is separated by a 10-kilometer walk through the jungle. The cave can only be accessed outside the rainy season, which lasts from October to February in Central Vietnam, otherwise the underground river can overflow and make parts of the route impassable. The giant was only opened to visitors in 2013. On the first visit it was visited by only 6 people, including guests from Russia. Each had to pay $3,000 for a week’s stay in a tent in the cave. In subsequent seasons, the rate has not changed, but despite the high prices, the queue of those who want to get inside has not decreased. In 2015, 500 travelers were permitted to visit Shondong between March and August.
Attractions in Fongnya Kebang Park
Tourists who didn’t make the coveted list shouldn’t feel bad: in addition to Shongdong, there are many interesting things to see in Fongnya Kebang. Even before the official survey, in 2003, the site was included in the list of World Heritage UNESCO as a unique network of caves with a total length of more than 126 km. Some of them have been specially equipped for visits. At Thien Duong, which is 31 kilometers long, wooden bridges and stairs were built and electricity was installed in 2010. Tourists visiting it drive up to the parking lot, then walk 1.5 kilometers to the cave entrance or drive that way in rented golf cars. The cave is famous for its magnificent stalactites and stalagmites of complex shapes. Travelers enter Phong Nha by boat, taking 2 hours to explore the many halls and passages. The cost of a visit to Thien Duong averages $6, while at Phong Nha, it is about $2, depending on how full the boat is.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park Terraces Cave Underground Lake Huge gallery in Shondong Cave Giant stalagmite
How to get to the national park
Phong Nha Cabang National Park is visited by nearly 1 million Vietnamese and 90,000 foreigners annually. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the capital of Dong Hoi Province from Hanoi by air. From there to the start of the hiking route to the cave is just over 1 hour on a steep road. Another popular option to reach Dong Hoi is to use the railroad that connects Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh along the North-South route. Motor transport runs from the Vietnamese capital for 10 hours along the Ho Chi Minh highway that skirts the northern boundaries of the park.
Prospects for the development of Shondong as a tourist destination
Entrepreneurs have calculated that until mass visits become popular, the project will not bring tangible profit. It is necessary to build a hotel complex and to build a ropeway of 10 kilometers to Shondong. Categorically against the business proposal came the advocates of nature: they wrote public letters demanding not to allow the construction. So far, the question of increasing the accessibility of Shondong remains open. Judging by the fact that the other caves have safely survived the expansion of the flow of tourists, Shondong in the near future waiting for the same fate.
World’s Largest Shondong Cave
Shondong Cave was discovered in 1991 in a completely trivial way. However, over time, the discovery shocked the world by becoming the longest cave in the world.
It is so unique that it became a World Heritage Site much earlier than its official opening as a tourist site. Today, not everyone can enter it, but local entrepreneurs are working to make Shondong accessible to everyone.
The cave was discovered in the small Vietnamese province of Quang Binh in 1991.
Only 7 years ago, studies proved the enormous size that displaced the Deer Cave from the first place.
The largest attraction is located in Phong Nha Kebang National Park at an altitude of 250 meters above sea level.
History of the discovery of the cave
The fact that the cave was found only recently makes it clear that there are still many unknowns in the world. There is speculation that during the Vietnam War, Shondong was used as a bomb shelter. But it was not officially opened until 1991, which absolutely does not confirm the rumors and speculation.
It all happened quite trivially. A local resident was caught in the rain and decided to hide in the bushes. But suddenly, he found himself in an unknown cave. The creepy sounds coming from inside scared the man away, and he just went home. Later, it was proved that the local resident heard the noise of underground waters.
For many years the discoverer was afraid to approach the cave, and to find it, hidden in the woods, was problematic. And only in 2009 a man with a team of speleologists set off to the cave. The first time to get there was not possible, because the way blocked a large, calcite, 60-meter wall. After a year, a way to avoid it was found.
Finally, the find was investigated and almost immediately entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest cave in the world.
Fongnya Kebang National Park was established on the site of the underground passages. Shondong Cave belongs to this system, extending all the way to Laos. Its formation dates back 5 million years.
From September to April is the rainy season and it is impossible to get into the cave!
For a long time, the underground river has drilled its way through the rocks, creating a completely unique tunnel 200 meters high and 150 meters wide.
When the cave was explored, 150 large halls were counted. Some of them are illuminated by sunlight, as the ceiling collapsed under the influence of natural phenomena. But Shondong became really popular after the publication of pictures in a famous magazine. They showed the river, which stretched for 2.5 kilometers, the halls with huge stalagmites and extraordinary green landscape on the slope. Such an abundance of interesting places simply could not fail to attract tourists sooner or later.
The cave has its own microclimate, a river, which floods some galleries in the rainy season, jungle and its own clouds (they are formed because of the strong temperature difference) Also here live animals (monkeys, foxes, hornbills, bats) and grow several species of plants-endemics. It is also interesting from a geological point of view: here you can find millions of fossils and stalagmites.
How to get on a tour of the cave
Shondong is 10 kilometers from the nearest tourist site. To get to the cave, you will have to walk through dense jungle, but such a walk will lead to an extraordinary natural monument.
You can visit the cave in all seasons except rainy. This is due to safety, because during this period, the river can break its banks and flood some of the rooms. Shondong became accessible to visitors only in 2013. As part of the first tour was only 6 people, among whom was a resident of Russia.
A week’s stay in a tent city inside the cave cost 3,000 USD per person.
In 2015, only 500 tourists received permission to tour the cave. It is necessary to sign up in advance (about a year in advance).
One easy way is to come to Dong Hui. There are many local guides who for 25 USD – 30 USD will guide you. Safety and equipment is of course yours. Another option is to join a tour group or unite with like-minded people who can be found on Russian-Vietnamese forums.
Where is the biggest cave
Son Doong Cave is located in Phong Nha Kebang Park in Vietnam. Those who are not lucky enough to be among the visitors to the cave should not grieve, because you can find a lot of interesting things in the park. Long before the official opening of the cave, the park was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of the open caves, are freely accessible and equipped with viewing platforms.
One of the popular caves is Thien Duong, which stretches for 31 kilometers. Six years ago, many bridges were built here and electricity was installed. To get to the cave can be either on foot, walking 1.5 kilometers, or an electric car, or come by boat. It costs 6 USD.
Each year, millions of tourists come here, including many Vietnamese. To get to the park is not difficult. You can fly to Dong Hoi province from Hanoi in 1.5 hours. And from there, for an hour, get right to the entrance of the park.
The founders of the park are going to develop it. There are plans to create a hotel complex and build a 10-kilometer aerial tramway to Dong Dong. However, the creation of tourist infrastructure was opposed by the defenders of nature. But at the moment, the fate of the park remains open.