I have always associated Vietnam not with beaches and palm trees, but with the jungle and films about the Vietnam War. I found out that in the central part of the country there is Fong Nya Kebang National Park, where the largest cave in the world,  Shondong is located . She, like most of the caves in this park, was discovered and began to be explored in the 2000s. In places, Shondong is 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. British cavers have only partially studied it, but even preliminary data testify to its uniqueness.

caves

In addition to the Song Dong Cave, there are other, equally interesting, huge caves in the Fongya-Kebang National Park, which have been open to tourists only since 2018. We can say that fewer people have been there than at the top of Everest. In particular, our guides claimed that they were accompanying tourists from Ukraine for the first time.

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caves and jungle

Being a guide in the jungle means knowing them like the back of your hand, because literally everywhere you are in danger - from leeches and poison ivy to poisonous snakes that completely merge with the foliage. Our guides were born and raised in this jungle, knew everything about them and felt like a part of them. They belonged to an ancient family of hunters who live in forests far from civilization. Now they do not hunt, but show the wild little-studied Vietnam to tourists and give lessons on how to survive in such conditions.

In addition to the guides, porters came with us - they carried food, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping bags and equipment. I only had personal items in my backpack.

Vietnam Caves Travel Route

The jungle and cave journey begins from the beautiful Ha Long Bay   with picturesque forested rocky islands. There are also caves there, but they have long become a well-known attraction - paths with rope railings are laid to them, and there are always crowds of visitors. 

From Ha-Long we headed deeper into the jungle. Our route lasted 6 days and passed through forests, rivers, lakes and caves. The caves there are simply incredible - the beam of the flashlight in many places did not reach either walls or vaults, dissolving in the darkness.

I went through many caves in Ukraine and in other countries, but these ones amazed me. Sometimes we walked for days through such tunnels, where the sun almost did not get, floated by touch through icy underground rivers and descended on ropes without seeing the bottom. We usually spent the night in tents near the entrances to the caves. 

The nature here remained pristine, and I constantly felt its calmness and harmony. The water is crystal clear, we drank it straight from the reservoirs. A velvet surface spreads underfoot - it turned out that these are embryos of stalagmites half a centimeter high, which crumble under the boots. 

I was also very impressed by the lakes, through which you had to swim, without seeing the shore and pushing your things in a plastic bag in front of you.  

Jungle survival rules

In the jungle, you can't do without trekking sandals, long-sleeved T-shirts, pants and high socks that you tuck in your pants. Vietnam is a tropical country, but only high humidity is felt in the caves and in the forest, and the air temperature is quite comfortable. Such a hike does not require much physical training, but one must be prepared to spend almost a week in the wild, overcoming obstacles, despite the fatigue. Before the start of the trek, the guides gave instructions and showed how to handle the equipment. And, of course, they helped in difficult moments, when it was necessary to climb a rock on a rope or jump into a lake that you can't even see.

The guides taught us how to get food in the jungle - berries, fruits, flowers, snakes and frogs, navigate the terrain, recognize danger, settle down for the night. We did not dare to try something in the jungle on our own, but there was no need either, since we had an adequate supply of food. 

This trip inspired me a lot, so we decided to repeat it with Goodwin  in March 2020 . My dream is to visit local communities that have refused to obey the state, do not contact the outside world, live in the forest, and get food by hunting and gathering. 

 Why go on such a trip? This is a unique opportunity:
  • stay alone with nature and with yourself. Overcoming physical difficulties, your fears and doubts, you begin to think about life, your purpose, priorities. It helps a lot to understand yourself and find new strength.
  • to understand what a real jungle is, to feel like an explorer and a guest in a little-studied environment.
  • feel the power of the pristine beauty of nature.