Phong Nha-Ke Bang is one of the world’s largest karst regions with 300 caves and grottoes. They extend about 70 kilometers (43 mi) with the world’s longest underground river, as well as the largest caverns and passageways ever discovered. The government of Vietnam declared Phong Nha-Ke Bang a national park in 2001 to protect the cave and grotto system as well as the ecosystem of the limestone forest there
Phong Nha-Ke Bang is located in the B? Tr?ch and Minh Hóa districts of central Quang Binh Province, in north-central Vietnam, about 500 kilometers south of the nation’s capital, Hanoi. The park borders the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the province of Khammouan, Laos by the west, forty-two kilometers east of South China Sea.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in a limestone zone of 200,000 hectare in Vietnamese territory and borders another limestone zone of 200,000 hectares of Hin Namno in Laotian territory. The core zone of the national park covers 85,754 hectares and a buffer zone of 195,400 ha.
Champa inscriptions carved on steles and altars in the cave give evidence that people had inhabited the cave long before Vietnam annexed the area in the Nam Tien southward expansion.
In 1550, Duong Van An became the first Vietnamese man to write about Phong Nha cave. Phong Nha cave has been depicted in nine urns in the Citadel of the Nguyen Dynasty in Hu?. In 1824, king Minh Mang conferred the title “Di?u ?ng chi th?n” (Han Tu: ????) on Phong Nha cave. Nguyen kings bestowed the title “Th?n Hi?n Linh” (Han Tu: ???).
In the late nineteenth century, Léopold Michel Cadière, a French Catholic priest, conducted an expedition to explore Phong Nha cave, in which he discovered Champa scripts. He proclaimed Phong Nha cave “the number one cave of Indochina.
In July 1924, an English expedition, Barton, declared Phong Nha Cave second to neither of famous caves of Padirac (France), or Cuevas del Drach (Spain) in respect to beauty.
Geography and climate
The Vietnamese government officially declared the Phong Nha Nature Reserve on August 9, 1986, designating an area of 5,000 ha, later extending that to 41,132 ha by 1991. On December 12, 2001, the Vietnamese Prime Minister announced upgrading the nature reserve to a national park to protect the biodiversity of the park, especially rare species of fauna and flora native to the region.
The park covers a total area of 857.54 square kilometers divided into three zones, a “strictly protected zone” (648.94 km²), an “ecological recovery zone” (174.49 km²), and an “administrative service zone” (34.11 km²).
The national park has a tropical, hot, and humid climate with an annual mean temperature of 23 to 25 °C, a maximum temperature of 41 °C in the summer and a minimum of 6 °C in the winter.
The hottest months fall between June to August, with an average temperature of 28 °C, and the coldest months from December to February, with an average temperature of 18 °C. Annual rainfall measures 2,000 mm to 2,500 mm, and 88 percent of the rainfall between July to December. Mean annual relative humidity measures 84 percent.
The Phong Nha cave
The Phong Nha cave inspired the name for the Park. Famous rock formations have been given names such as the “Lion,” the “Fairy Caves,” the “Royal Court,” and the “Buddha.” The cave measures 7729 meters long, contains fourteen grottoes, with a 13,969 meter long underground river.
Scientists have surveyed 44.5 kilometers of grottoes in the cave so far, but visitors may explore only a distance of 1500 meters. The main Phong Nha cave includes fourteen chambers, connected by an underwater river that runs for 1.5 kilometers. Secondary corridors branch off in several directions.
The Outer Cave and some of the Inner Caves have roofs that tower between twenty five and forty meters above the water level. Notable caves and grottoes include Phong Nha Cave system, Vom Cave systems, the Tien Son Cave, and Thien Duong Cave.
Son Doong – the biggest natural cave in the world.
Subsequently came the “discovery” of Son Doong — most recently in 1991 by a local villager named Mr Ho Khanh and this cave, the largest “yet” to be discovered, surveyed in 2009 and which was first opened to tourists in 2013 paying an extremely hefty fee to be the first through.
Overall only 220 visitors are allowed into the cave system per year. The cave is recognised as the largest in the world and houses enormous stalagmites of up to 80m in height and fossils believed to be over 300 million years old.
As far as Phong Nha is concerned, the caverns that are open to tourists are quite close to the mouth of the cave. Just as you enter, to the right, the boat puts out on a landing giving on to a set of stairs that leads to two caverns, or grottos. At 400 million years of age, these are some of the oldest limestone formations in the world.
If you’re one who considers caves to be nothing more than a hole in the ground, you have to see these caves to realise just how mistaken you are. There are caves, there are big caves and there are gigantic, world record-breaking caves.
You’ll find some of the Planet Earth’s best of the latter category around Phong Nha. If you’ve only got time for one cave in your holidays — or your life — make it one of these.
Also, while it may be tempting to think “one cave, one night” Phong Nha really deserves at least a few days if you’re really planning on getting the most out of the area’s sights and surroundings.
In October and November the Phong Nha area can see heavy flooding due to a combination of being on low ground and typhoon season and while the rainy season actually runs from October through to February, October and November are the worst time to visit and some accommodation may well be closed at this time of year — so check beforehand.\r\n\r\nThe best time to visit Phong Nha is in March and April — between May and September is can be extremely hot so March and April is the sweet spot.
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