The world’s largest cave is open for business. Cave explorers from around the world will have the opportunity to trek through Son Doong cave, in the country of Vietnam. This underground chamber, located in a mountain range, is more than five miles long and is loaded with natural treasures.
The name Son Doong means “river mountain”—fitting since the cave houses a vast river. The cave is so large that it can fit a 40-story skyscraper within its walls!
A ceiling collapse thousands of years ago created natural skylights within the caverns. The pockets of sunlight have allowed a lush jungle rainforest with numerous unidentified plants to grow. Many exotic wild animals, such as bat-like flying foxes, colorfully beaked birds called hornbills, and troops of monkeys, all live within the cave structure.
Would-be adventurers have plenty of fascinating rock formations to examine too. Stalagmites on the floor of Son Doong cave rise more than 250 feet. A stalagmite is a rock formation that arises from the floor of a cave. One huge stalagmite is called Hand of Dog, because it looks like a dog’s paw.
Son Doong also features a treasure trove of rare cave pearls. Cave pearls are formed over hundreds of years by dripping water. The water drips down from the cave’s ceiling or upper walls. As it dries up, the water leaves layers of calcite crystals on grains of sand, forming rows of spheres that look like pearls.
A RECENT DISCOVERY
Son Doong cave was first explored and documented in 2009 by Howard Limbert, 56, and his wife, Deb, 53. The two of them are such enthusiastic spelunkers (cave explorers) that they left their full-time jobs in Bradford, England, to travel the world and find new caves.
During a visit to Vietnam, the Limberts heard about Son Doong from a local man named Ho Khanh. Khanh told them that he had taken shelter in a cave in the Annamite mountains of the Quang Binh province during a storm about 20 years earlier.
“Son Doong is unlike any other cave on the planet,” Howard Limbert told Britain’s The Daily Mail. “We were so lucky to have the chance of being [among] the first people to see this new wonder of the world.”
The couple has set up a business leading tour groups into the heart of Son Doong cave. They have taken 25 groups on the natural-wonder trek and opened their tours to the public last month.
Each tour lasts about six days and is not for the casual explorer. The first part of the journey requires adventurers to descend more than 250 feet by rope to get to the cave’s entrance.