As so often happens on this trip we meet people who give us tips about places to go and visit. Phong Nha National Park was one of these tips, it wasn’t even on our radar until speaking to other travellers. And what a good tip it was! The park is home to some pretty awesome caves, far more spectacular than Kong Lor Cave in Laos.
We chose to visit Paradise Cave and Dark Cave. Our budget didn’t really stretch to the other caves, there is one you can visit which costs thousands of dollars!!
First up was Paradise Cave. “Wow” is the only way I can describe it! It was massive, you can fit skyscrapers in it and it goes on for miles. We were only allowed in for the first kilometre, but that first kilometre was pretty special. Stalactites and stalagmites everywhere, some tinged with red, some with yellow and some with black where iron, silicon and carbon had mixed with the calcium carbonate.
We started to play the game of spotting shapes in the rocks. There was the Monty Python foot:
And the baby elephant (kind of):
Next up was Dark Cave. We weren’t too sure what to expect other than it would be dark, obviously, and it involved a zip wire and mud. I have zero photos of this, I knew enough that my camera wouldn’t last the day if it came with me!
First up we had to get kitted up into a safety harness before being hooked onto the zip wire to cross the river where the entrance to the cave was. Zipwiring in you swimwear is a somewhat uncomfortable experience, but the view of the turquoise water of the river below was enough to distract me. Once unhooked it was a short swim to the boardwalk which takes you into the cave.
Then we waded through some more water before taking a narrow passageway to the right that gradually got muddier and muddier. Soon the mud was ankle deep and there were squeals of laughter as everyone negotiated their way over rocks and down “slides” into pools of mud. All this was lit by the lamps on our hard hats giving it a surreal glow.
The last “slide” deposited you in waist deep mud. We were warned not to get it in our eyes. I did a great job, slid down, stood and then promptly fell over with flailing arms splashing mud all over myself including in my mouth, and yup you guessed it, my eyes. Fortunately no ill effects have come from this! The mud, for the record, tastes horrible. This trip has made me realise that I might be a tad clumsy…
Once we were all in we were told to sit down. Lowering myself into the cool mud I realised I was floating! It was just like being in the Dead Sea, but colder.
After retracing our steps we got to wash off in the river in the cave by swimming deeper into the darkness. On the way back we were all told to switch off our headlamps and swim. It was eerie, but awesome swimming towards the pale light coming in from the cave entrance.
Last up was our return to the outside world via a kayak and then a trip on another zipwire which deposits you in the river below, crazy, but fun!
We were really lucky with our group for the day, everyone got on really well and encouraged each other through the tricky bits. This is us post Dark Cave and de-mudded.