Vietnam’s Kingdom of Caves produces 12 hitherto unexplored ones

By Vi Nguyen   April 7, 2020 | 04:30 pm PT
Vietnam’s Kingdom of Caves produces 12 hitherto unexplored ones
Howard Limbert leads the team that discovered a dozen “new” caves in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, March 2020. Photo courtesy of Howard Limbert.
Twelve new caves never explored by humans earlier have been discovered in Quang Binh Province by experts from the British Cave Research Association.

The surprise finding was announced last Sunday following a 20-day expedition last month by a group of 11 British experts led by Howard Limbert, a British caving expert credited with initial explorations of the now famous Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest natural cave.

"The cave exploration program in 2020 in Quang Binh was a great success despite many difficulties. The total length of the newly-discovered caves was measured at over 10.5 km," Limbert said.

The caves also feature underground rivers and are completely pristine. Three of them were found in Bo Trach District – Doc Co (554.6 m long), End Cave (51.5 m) and Dry Vom (413 m). 

Four caves were discovered in Quang Ninh District – Nuoc Ngam (3,872 m), Nuoc Lan 3 (1,919 m), Hung Thoai (460 m) and Coincidental Cave (100 m).

The other five discoveries are located in Minh Hoa District – Three Horned Viper (194.8 m), Phu Nhieu 4 (2,012 m), Cha Ra (314 m), Thoang Lip (137 m) and Ma Lon (463 m).

The team of British experts have been visiting the central province of Quang Binh every year in recent years. This is the first time the group have found the "new" caves in just 20 days. So far, they have recorded a total of 417 discoveries in Phong Nha-Ke Bang, a UNESCO heritage site.

[Caption]A member of the team dives into a deep cave in Quang Binh Province. Photo by Howard Limbert. 

A member of the team dives into a cave in Quang Binh Province. Photo courtesy of Howard Limbert.

This year, the expedition’s task was made more difficult by one of its members flying in on the same Vietnam Airlines flight VN54 from London that landed in Hanoi March 2 with Hanoi’s first Covid-19 patient, a woman who tested positive on March 6, setting off a spate of other infections.

Therefore, five others who’d come into close contact with the member were quarantined, which affected the expedition schedule. Fortunately, all tested Covid-19 negative, said Limbert.

Established in 2000, Phong Nha-Ke Bang is frequently referred to as the "Kingdom of Caves" for the magnificent specimens it hosts.

The 900-square-kilometer national park, which UNESCO recognized as a global heritage site in 2003, is home to over 300 caves and grottoes that date back some 400 million years. Around 30 caves are now open to visitors, which have created a tourism boom and given much-needed revenue to the once war-torn province.

Foremost among these is Son Doong, which has hogged the international spotlight since it opened to tourists in 2013, four years after members of the British Cave Research Association finished their exploration and declared it the world’s largest.

Local resident Ho Khanh had first discovered the cave in 1991, and rediscovered it almost 20 years later, opening it up for exploration.

British magazine Conde Nast Traveler earlier this year named Son Doong as one of seven must-explore wonders of 2020.

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