PHONG NHA – KẺ BÀNG NATIONAL PARK

Phong Nha – Kẻ Bàng National Park

       Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng (Vietnamese: Vườn quốc gia Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng) is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Bố Trạch and Minh Hóa districts of central Quảng Bình Province in the North Central Coastregion, about 500 km south of Hanoi. The park borders the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in Khammouane Province, Laos to the west and 42 km east of the South China Sea from its borderline point. Phong Nha–Kẻ Bàng National Park is situated in a limestone zone of 2,000 km2 in Vietnamese territory and borders another limestone zone of 2,000 km2 of Hin Namno in Laotian territory. The core zone of this national park covers 857.54 km2 and a buffer zone of 1,954 km2.

Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park

The park was created to protect one of the world’s two largest karst regions with 300 caves and grottoes and also protects the ecosystem of limestoneforest of the Annamite Range region in North Central Coast of Vietnam.

Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves and grottos. A 2009 survey brought the total discovered length of the cave system to about 126 km, with many areas still not well explored. The Sơn Đoòng Cave, which was discovered in the 2009 survey by British and Vietnamese explorers, is considered the largest cave in the world. Even before this discovery, Phong Nha held several world cave records, including the longest underground river as well as the largest combined caverns and passageways.

The park derives its name from Phong Nha Cave, containing many fascinating rock formations, and Kẻ Bàng forest. The plateau on which the park is situated is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in Southeast Asia. This national park was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2003 for its geological values as defined in its criteria viii. In April 2009, the world’s largest cave, was re-discovered by a team of British cave explorers of the British Caving Association led by a local farmer named Ho Khanh.

History of exploration

Champa inscriptions carved on steles and altars in the cave demonstrate that people had inhabited the cave long before the area was annexed by Vietnam in the Nam tiến or southward expansion. In 1550, Dương Văn An was the first Vietnamese man to write about Phong Nha cave. This cave was depicted in 9 urns in the Citadel of the Nguyễn Dynasty in Huế. In 1824, The cave was conferred the title “Diệu ứng chi thần” (The effect of god.) by King Minh Mạng. It was also conferred by Nguyen kings as “Thần Hiển Linh” (Spirit of the Spirit.).

In the late 19th century, Léopold Michel Cadière, a French Roman Catholic priest, conducted an expedition to explore Phong Nha cave, where he discovered Champa scripts. He proclaimed Phong Nha cave “The number one cave of Indochina”. In July 1924, an English expeditionist (surnamed Barton) stated that Phong Nha cave is second to none of famous caves of Padirac (France), Cuevas del Drach (Spain). In 1935, a local inhabitant accidentally discovered a beautiful cave 1 km from the mouth of Phong Nha cave, at an elevation of 200 meters. It was called Tien Son cave (lit.: Fairy-tale cave), or Dry cave because its inside landscape is similar to fairy-tales and it has no underground river.

In 1937, the Bureau of Tourism of French Resident Superior (in Huế) issued a brochure to introduce tourism in Quảng Bình and Phong Nha Cave was included in this introduction. This tour site is ranked second in French Indochina. Before 1990, several explorations were conducted by Vietnamese and foreign groups but the mystery of this area still remained. From 1990 on, there marked a turning point in discovering activities, from exploration to research, thus full documents for submission to UNESCO for World Natural Heritage nomination were made available.

IN 1990, for the first time, Hanoi University accepted the cooperation proposal of the British Cave Research Association. They combined efforts in exploring and researching caves and grottoes in the area comprehensively. The first exploration was conducted in 1990 by a group from the British Cave Research Association and Faculty for Geology and Geography of Hanoi University, led by Howard Limbert. They completed research of a large part of Vom Cave. In 1992, the second exploration was conducted by a group of 12 British scientists, six professors from Hanoi University. This time, this group completed their exploration of 7,729 m of Phong Nha Cave and 13,690 m of Vom Cave and adjacent caves and grottos. In 1994, a third exploration was carried out by a group of 11 British scientists and five Vietnamese professors of Hanoi University. In 1999 scientists from the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Centre also conducted zoological and botanical surveys in the Kẻ Bàng area. Based on the results of these three explorations, more information about the caves and grottoes made available to the Vietnamese and local government for the protection, planning, and tourism development of this park.

In 2005, scientists from the British Cave Research Association discovered a new cave and named it Paradise Cave (động Thiên Đường). The newly discovered cave was acclaimed by the British scientists as “the largest and the most beautiful cave in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng area”.

On June 1, 2006, the Ministry of Culture and Information of Vietnam issued a stamp collection of depicting various landscapes found in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng.

In April 2009, a group of cave explorers from British Caving Association conducted survey in this park and adjacent areas. The biggest chamber of Sơn Đoòng is more than five (5) kilometers in length, 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. With these dimensions, Sơn Đoòng overtakes Deer Cave in Malaysia to take the title of the world’s largest cave. At the same time they found new caves and grottoes in the park and adjacent area. In this survey, the cave British explorers discovered 20 new caves with total length of 56 km, including world’s largest cave, Sơn Đoòng

Geography
Location
Phong Nha–Kẻ Bàng National Park is located in the territories of communes (Vietnamese: ): Tan Trach, Thuong Trach, Phuc Trach, Xuan Trach and Son Trach of Bố Trạch District and a small part of Minh Hóa District in the center of Quảng Bình Province, around 40 km north-west of the provincial capital city of Đồng Hới. The park is bordered by the Hin Namno karst area of Khammouane Province of Laos in the west. Road distances are about 500 km south of the capital Hanoi and 260 km north of the port city of Đà Nẵng. The geographical coordinates are 17°32′14″N 106°9′4.5″E.

The park is situated around 30 km west of the South China Sea and National Route 1A, near Hồ Chí Minh Highway and 28 km west of the Hanoi–Saigon Railway, and is accessible by road or waterway through an estuary in the South China Sea. There is a small airport near the park accessible by helicopter or small aircraft (Khe Gat Airbase), an airbase used by the North Vietnamese Air Force during the Vietnam War, notably in the Battle of Đồng Hới.

The Phong Nha Cave
The mouth of Phong Nha cave with underground river
This cave, from which the name to 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”. This cave is 7729 m long, contains 14 grottos, with a 13,969 m-long underground river. The scientists have surveyed 44.5 km of grottos in this cave so far, but tourists can only penetrate to a distance of 1500 m.

Stalactite in Phong Nha Cave

Phong Nha Cave, like most of the caves in this area, has been continuously shaped by the Chay River. As one gets farther into the cave, the more illusory the stalactites and stalagmites look as they glitter when bright light is shone on them. The Son River flows into the mouth of the cave and keeps flowing underground, where it is referred to as the Nam Aki River, then this river emerges at a site 20 km to the south near Pu Pha Dam Mountain. The main Phong Nha cave includes 14 chambers, connected by an underwater river that runs for 1.5 km. Secondary corridors branch off in all directions. The Outer Cave and some of the Inner Caves have roofs that tower between 25 and 40 meters above the water level. From the 14th chamber there may be other corridors leading to similarly large chambers, but this area proves more dangerous for explorers because of the ongoing erosion of the limestone of the cavern. The Shallow Cave is located 800 meters from the cave mouth, where there is a spectacular landscape of sand and rock. Stalactites and stalagmites jut out like strange trees, exciting visitor’s imaginations

Tiên Sơn Cave
Tiên Sơn cave is located in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park. The cave was discovered by a local inhabitant by accident in 1935. It is located in Sơn Trach Commune in Bố Trạch. The entry mouth of Tiên Sơn is 1 km from Phong Nha cave, at an altitude of 200 m. This cave is 980 m in length. A 10 m deep hole is situated 400 m from the entry mouth, then a 500 m long underground cave, dangerous for tourists and open to professional expeditionists only. Like Phong Nha cave, this cave features spectacular stalactites and stalagmites shaped like several fairy-tales. Stalactite and stalagmite columns and walls here create strange sounds like that of gong and drum if they are knocked with the hand. According to British cave scientists, Tiên Sơn cave was created tens of million years ago when a water current holed this limestone mount in Kẻ Bàng. Following a series of landforms and movement of rocks, this mass was levered or lowered, blocking the current and creating what is now Tiên Sơn cave while the underground river redirected its current to Phong Nha cave. Although Phong Nha and Tiên Sơn caves are located next to each other, there are no linking grottos between them

Tien Son Cave

Thiên Đường Cave
Thiên Đường “Paradise” Cave is a newly found cave in this area. Prior to the discovery of Sơn Đoòng cave, it was regarded as the largest and longest cave in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng. Some of the most beautiful and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites in the park are found within Thiên Đường. The cave was discovered by a local man in 2005. The first 5 km of this cave was explored by explorers from the British Cave Research Association in 2005; later they in 2010 the whole 31 km was explored and announced by the association.

Paradise Cave

At 31 km long, Thiên Đường cave is longer than Phong Nha cave, previously considered the longest cave in this national park. The height can reach to 100 m and 150 wide. The limestone formation is also more spectacular than that of Phong Nha Cave. The British cave explorers was impressed by the beauty of the rock formation inside the cave, they named it “Paradise Cave” (Thiên Đường in Vietnamese). Access road and tourist facilities was built by Truong Thinh Group, it was opened up to tourists on 3 September 2010 with a 1.1 km path to see the formations

Sơn Đoòng Cave
Sơn Đoòng Cave (in Vietnamese: Hang Sơn Đoòng, meaning Mountain River Cave) is a relatively recently discovered cave in the national park. Found by a local man and explored and publicly announced by the British cave scientists of the British Cave Research Association, it is regarded as the largest cave in the world. The biggest chamber of Sơn Đoòng is over five kilometers in length, 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. With these tremendous dimensions, Sơn Đoòng overtakes Deer Cave of Malaysia to take the title of world’s largest cave. Because the fast flowing underground river in the cave deterred the explorers from going farther, they were only able to estimate the length of the cave using a flashlight.

Son Đoong Cave

The cave was found by a man named Hồ Khanh in 1991. The local jungle men were afraid of the cave for the whistling sound it makes from the underground river. However, not until 2009 was it made known to the public when a group of British scientists from the British Cave Research Association, led by Howard and Deb Limbert, conducted a survey in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng from 10–14 April 2009. Their progress was stopped by a large calcite wall.

According to the Limberts, this cave is five times larger than the Phong Nha Cave, previously considered the biggest cave in Vietnam. The biggest chamber of Sơn Đoòng is over five kilometers in length, 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. With these dimensions, Sơn Đoòng overtook Deer Cave in Malaysia to take the title of the world’s largest cave.

Contact Information
Phong Nha Explorer Company
 Add  – 281 /3 Phan Đình Phùng Street, Đồng Hới City, Quảng Bình Province.
 Số ĐKKD(MST): 3100978510
 Điện thoại:+84 052 652 8868 Fax: +84 052 3836 070
 Hotline – Mr.Ninh 0919.742.382
Website – Dulichphongnha.vn
Email. phongnhaexplore@gmail.com

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