New route approved in Son Doong Cave
Wonders ahead: View inside Sơn Đoòng - the world’s largest cave (Photo Oxalis/Ryan Deboodt)
Authorities in central Quang Binh province have
approved a new expedition route, through the world’s largest cave, Son Doong.
Following the approval, the sole tour operator to Son Doong, Oxalis Adventure
Tour, will cut short the time visitors spend inside the cave to four days and
three nights. This was previously five days and four nights.
Under the old expedition route, visitors had to trek from the front entrance to
the end of the cave, and return by the same route to exit the cave from the
front entrance gate. However, now, the time spent in the cave will be shortened
by one day and one night, by allowing visitors to exit the cave through a gate
at the cave’s end, after climbing a stalactite cliff, also referred to as
Vietnam’s great wall.
With this new exit method, Oxalis had to install an aluminum ladder that will
assist visitors in climbing. In May, a proposal for the ladder installation had
sparked opposition, mainly among Vietnamese net citizens who were not able to
comprehend the ladder structure and said the installation would harm the
However, Howard Limbert, an expert in the caving team of the British Cave
Research Association that helped discover the cave, reassured the citizens that
the ladder would be hammered to the karst surface and would not impact the
Limbert said it requires 23 nails to permanently stick onto the karst surface,
of which, eight would be installed, while 15 others were hammered by the
British association’s explorers in 2010 during an exploration trip.
According to Limbert, the ladder would help to
reduce the time trekkers spend in the cave, which meant less human impact on
This year’s caving programmes ended in August, before the flooding season as it
could pose a danger to the trekkers. A total of 718 visitors were allowed to
trek this year.
Oxalis limits the number of visitors to the cave each year, to ensure less
damage to the caves. The operator’s sustainable trekking rules are closely
monitored by experts of the British Cave Research Association.