18 Jun
Location
Home
Days adrift.  Click here to see our best and worst experiences so far.
3249
Number of flights.  Click here to go to the itinerary page.
35
Bus, train and taxi rides.  Click here to see all posts relating to transport. (56 posts)
185
Miles walked.  Click here to see all posts relating to walking and trekking. (43 posts)
581
Countries visited.  Click here to see what we think of them. (14 posts)
15
Number of species spotted.  Click here to go to our wildlife page.
1157
Photos taken.  Click here to go to the photo gallery. (94 posts)
13288
Rainy days.  Click here to find posts relating to the weather. (49 posts)
63
Number of times scammed.  Click here to read all about it!  (2 posts)
1
Otters spotted.  Click here to go to our website about otters: amblonyx.com
45
 
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

9 December 2018

Subterranean adventurers

Beautiful Phong Nha NP

Beautiful Phong Nha NP

5 December 2018

The reason we “rested” yesterday was so we could go on a proper cave expedition today! We took on the 7km Paradise Cave trek. The first km of the cave is a show cave, but at the end of the show cave you go through a little gate and don your head torches to continue into the darkness…

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (to give it its full name) has an amazing diversity of wildlife, including the Saola; a species of antelope only actually discovered in the 1990’s. But the park is far more renowned among backpackers and tourists for its caves.

Alien formations in Paradise Cave

Alien formations in Paradise Cave

There’s the main Phong Nha cave we visited by boat, closest to town and with some history; the Viet Cong used it to hide troop and supply movements from the Americans, who realised and tried sending a huge air force raid to collapse it, but the Viet Cong had set up anti-aircraft positions and the raid ended up costly and unsuccessful.

There’s Dark Cave, beloved of backpackers because you take a zipline across a river to the cave entrance, splash around in thick mud in the cave in your swimming costume, and then take a kayak paddle back to the pickup point. Not my kinda hijinks.

There’s the Son Doong Cave, the largest cave in the world by volume, way off in the jungle and only visitable by $3000 guided trek. There are many others too, with new ones being discovered every year (and often then available as part of an organised caving tour just a year or two later).

Paradise Cave is the second show cave. It doesn’t have a river, but it’s even more vast and impressively stuffed with stalactites and stalagmites than Phong Nha cave. Real “woooooow” material, for a whole kilometer into the earth. I’m honestly not sure I can imagine myself being bothered to visit any other show cave in the world after this. Wooooooow.

Cave exploring gear!

Cave exploring gear!

And that was only the first bit. Head torches on we headed into the bowels of the underground. One of the most astonishing things was just how much of this trek was exactly that: just trekking. I’ve done a bit of caving in England and Wales, and you spend most of your time either climbing, or crawling, or squeezing, or at least clambering. For most of the next 6km we just walked through huge subterranean passages with towering cave formations sparkling on either side. Occasionally there’d be a cave spider or cave shrimp to see.

Then we got to the bit where the cave is lowest and the water highest, and had to swim. This made it a bit more exciting! The water was cold, but after climbing out at the other end we were fine to finish the whole trek in swimming gear; it was 22 degrees underground and of course not a breath of breeze. There was the odd bit of scrambling or clambering towards the end, which tested my dodgy ribs and shoulder a bit, but we finally made it to our destination: an even more huge underground chamber with a shaft of green daylight spilling down from a hole in the roof above.

Rather a splendid spot to stop and have lunch; sticky grilled chicken, garlic veg and rice which our porter had somehow kept warm the whole way. And then of course, the 7km trek back again!

What a wonderful, exciting, and yet surprisingly easy adventure beneath the earth.

Back to the Paradise show cave

Back to the Paradise show cave


Leave a Reply