It’s time for our final day in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, day 3 exploring Tu Lan Cave. As I mentioned this cave was my favorite day of exploring.
Tu Lan cave was discovered just a few of years ago by tourists visiting the National Park, awesome right? Can you imagine stumbling upon this?
We started our trek early in the morning. It is about an hour hike to get to Tu Lan Cave. When you first start the hike, you notice water buffalo basking themselves in mud to stay cool. This is a pretty good indicator that we are going to be hot on this hike.
We were also advised to wear long pants and long sleeves, even though we would be swimming for about 2 hours through the cave. My guess is that this is to protect you from the leeches in the cave’s lakes (I tried to push this from my mind when I was swimming.) Anyways, my point being, this was going to be a really hot hike.
Then at last, we see the mouth of Tu Lan.
We had reached the entrance and now it was time to descend down into the 1st cave. Tu Lan has multiple caves throughout its system. We did the one day exploration and explored 2 caves (Porcupine Cave and Kim Cave.)
In order to enter the 1st cave, you have to tie in and descend down a long ladder. When you get to the bottom, you look up and see the only remaining light high above you at the entrance.
Once everyone was down, we turned on our headlamps and ventured deeper into the dark cave, checking out the awesome formations. We were lucky to see some rare cave formations, like cave pearls (made when water drips into a cave pool and the calcite forms around a grain of sand or dirt) and soda straws (basically hollow stalactites, that look like straws.) Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the soda straws, but here are the awesome cave pearls.
Along with these unique formations we saw the more common, stalactites, stalagmites and columns. There was one section in the cave that had a bunch of columns (where stalactites and stalagmites meet together.) It felt like you were in a maze of columns, it was so neat and so much fun to explore.
Next up we had a bit of swimming to do to reach the exit of the 1st cave. We swam through the water and came to a small waterfall that emerged out of the cave and into a gorgeous area where we’d be having lunch.
After lunch, we headed for the 2nd cave. This is the cave where we did the majority of our swimming. Swimming through a cave with only your headlamp to guide you is an experience I will never forget.
At one point we all turned off our headlamps and we were in swimming in complete darkness. It was similar to the feeling I had at Dark Cave except this time we were submerged in water. Your eyes never seemed to adjust to the blackness. You relied on your other senses to guide you. All you could hear were the bats screeching in the cave and a waterfall in the distance. As the waterfall sound drew closer, I opted to turn my light back on. You know, simply because I didn’t want to plummet down a waterfall deep in a caving system…minor thing.
We made the long trek back through both caves and finally surfaced from the inside of the cave. After a full day of descending, swimming, trekking and exploring this amazing caving system, this is what we came out to…
It was one of the neatest experiences in my life and I will never forget it.
Images by: Jessica Chindgren, Ben Perkins, Kipp Martin