Have you ever wondered what it would be like to discover somewhere new? Just stumble across a place that had never been seen or heard of before. It’s a modern-day explorer’s dream…
Well, a Vietnamese farmer did just that when, in 1991, he happened to find the largest cave in the world. Now called Hang So Doong, the cave is located in the Phon Nha-ke Bag National Park. The farmer, Ho Khanh was an avid trekker and would explore the depths of the park to find food or timber to supplement he income.
Ho Khanh was out one day doing his regular ol’ thing, when he happened to see a limestone cliff. Going in for a closer look, he noticed clouds billowing out of it, and heard a river inside, but was turned off by the rushing wind coming out. Returning home, and thinking nothing of it, he forgot the exact location. That was until he came across two cave experts.
In the area to do some exploratory research, Howard and Deb Limbert of the British Cave Research Association, happened to cross paths with Ho Khanh. He explained to them about the cave he found, and they became intrigued. Urging him to try and find it again, Ho Khanh led them on a wild goose chase. Disappointed and a bit dejected, it wasn’t until 2008 that Ho Khanh finally proved himself. Finding the cave again, while on another trek, he took careful notes and lead the Limberts to the cave.
It was like stepping into a whole new world! Can you imagine the experience of seeing this for the first time? Incredible.
It takes a bit of work to get in to the cave system now. First, you need to climb down a rope that descends about 262 feet. Looking down is not recommended…
Hang Son Doong is a system with various sections. Some stand at 200m tall. Others are up to 150m wide. That’s multiple football fields! The system is also over 5km long, with areas still left to explore.
This makes the cave system long enough to sustain it’s own mini-ecosystem. Inside is a river, jungle, and completely separate climate from the outside world.
There are all sorts of creatures who have made this cave their home. From bats to monkeys, the cave harbors its own secret world.
All the rivers have “private” beaches. Sparkling green in color, the rivers would make an ideal home for Robinson Crusoe.
The origin of this cave has a long history. Formed on a fault zone, the system was created from millennia of degradation and erosion patterns caused by the Rao Thuong River. The limestone that is the main ingredient of the surrounding Annamite Mountains was easily carved by this river, and over time created the cave.
Anyone who digs fossils will have a special treat awaiting them, if they so happen to visit. The floors are littered with them…
The tallest stalagmites in the world, at about 80m high, are a marvelous sight to behold. Standing like melting sentinels, they almost seem to protect the cave from would-be theives and bandits.
That’s probably because they’re keeping some of the world’s rarest rocks from being over-explored, or taken.
As mentioned, the system is much larger than currently recorded. Connected to a whole other network of caves in the Annamite Mountains, there are about 150 of them to explore, if you have the expertise.
Up until Son Doong’s discovery, Deer Cave in Malaysia was the largest cave in the world. Weighing in at a volume of 38.5 million cubic meters, Son Doong definitely outweighs its nearest competitor. It’s one heck of a find for anyone to come across, and gives us would-be adventurers hope that there will more places like this left in the world to find.