British explorers have discovered a new cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang, which is thought to be the largest in the world.
|The Son Doong Cave.|
The cave is named Son Doong and was found by a local man named Khanh in 2008. However, it was not explored and assessed by experts until a group of explorers from the UK, led by Howard Limbirt, made a survey in Phong Nha-Ke Bang from April 10-14, 2009.
According to explorers, the way to this cave is very difficult. From the HCM City Highway, they had to walk for six hours and pass 8-10km of forest to reach the cave.
Howard Limbirt said that this cave is five times larger than the current Phong Nha cave, the biggest cave in Vietnam, and even bigger than Malaysia’s Deer, the current greatest cave in the world (2km length, 100m height, and 90m width).
The Son Doong Cave, therefore, has been proclaimed the largest in the world (over 5km length, 200m height, 150m width).
On April 22, the British Royal exploration group reported the exploration results in the western mountainous area of the central province of Quang Binh to the local authorities.
Howard Limbrit said within one month, his group had discovered an additional 20 caves, raising the total number of grottos in Phong Nha-Ke Bang to 150.
He said each grotto has its own beauty, but he is impressed by Ca Xai. This cave is near the Vietnam-Laos border. It is very deep and has a big lake inside. Explorers measured the depth of this lake, but they had only 200m of rope and the end didn’t reach the lake bed.
Howard Limbirt warned that this cave is not ready for tourism at present. After returning to the UK, the group will finalise the file and release a programme to introduce their discoveries.
The British explorer said that they will return to Quang Binh in 2011 to continue their promising adventure there.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in Bo Trach and Minh Hoa districts in the centre of Quang Binh province. The park is bordered by Laos to the west. The road distances are about 500 km south of the capital Hanoi and 260 km north of the port city of Da Nang. It protects one of the world’s two largest karst regions with several hundred caves and grottoes.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was first nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. It was recognised as a world natural heritage site at UNESCO’s 27th general assembly session in Paris from June 30-July 5, 2003.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the world’s two largest limestone regions. In comparison with 41 other world heritage sites which have karsts, Phong Nha has dissimilar geomorphic, geologic and biotic conditions. The karsts of Phong Nha can be traced back to the Palaeozoic era, 400 million years ago. This makes Phong Nha the oldest major karst in Asia. If the Hin Namno, bordering Phong Nha on the west (in Laotian territory), was to be combined with the national park in a continuous reserve, the combined reserve would be the largest surviving karst forest in Southeast Asia (317,754 ha).
The area has numerous grottoes and caves. Vietnamese and British scientists have so far surveyed a total of 20 caves with a total length of 70km. Of these surveyed caves, 17 are in the Phong Nha area and three in the Ke Bang area.
The Phong Nha cave from which the name of the whole system and the park is derived is famous for its rock formations which have been given names such as the “Lion”, the “Fairy Caves”, the “Royal Court”, and the “Buddha”.
Besides the grotto and cave systems, Phong Nha has the longest underground river, the largest caverns and passageways. Phong Nha-Ke Bang also contains two dozen mountain peaks of over 1,000 metres in height. Noteworthy peaks are the Peak Co Rilata with a height of 1,128 m and Peak Co Preu with a height of 1,213 m.