Mysterious & Massive World Hidden Underground: Paradise & Fairytale Caves

July 21st, 2012 Permalink

Hidden in the thick tropical forest of Vietnam is a land of phenomenal caves. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest major karst area in Asia; the karst is believed to have formed 400 million years ago, during the Palaeozoic era, With every cave discovery, that cave is considered the largest and longest in Phong Nha-Ke Bang, only to learn later that yet another even more massive cave has been found. This national park is home to the largest cave in the world and is said to be the home of the many of the world’s most beautiful caves. It’s famous for its cave and grotto systems, about 300 caves and grottos, of which only 20 have been surveyed by Vietnamese and British scientists. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site for its geological values. Spectacular stalactites and stalagmites create an underground fairy-tale-like world where formations look like the caves possess jagged teeth or home to strangely alien trees. Visitors to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park most often visit the massive Paradise Cave and huge Phong Nha Cave as seen below. If you don’t expect to ever travel to Vietnam, then here is a virtual trip to see the mysterious and massive world hidden beneath Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park . [39 Photos, 2 Videos]

Thien Duong Cave or Paradise Cave - Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park - Vietnam (Động Thiên Đường)

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest major karst area in Asia. Protecting those caves is the reason for the park and also why it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This cave is called Thien Duong (Động Thiên Đường) and is over 19 miles (31 km) long. The British cave explorers were so impressed by the beauty of the rock formation inside the cave, they dubbed this place as “Paradise Cave.” Photo #1 by Vo Thanh Lam

Vietnam, Paradise cave stalactites

Stalactites, formed by dripping, hang from the ceiling of the limestone cave. The height of underground Paradise reaches 328 to 492 feet (100 – 150 m) wide. Photo #2 by guido da rozze


Formations in Vietnam's Thien Duong Cave

Formations in Vietnam’s Thien Duong Cave. More stalactites and the flowstone which is like a sheet and can be seen on cave floor and walls. Photo #3 by Vo Thanh Lam

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park caves

The national park was created to protect one of the world’s two largest karst regions with 300 caves and grottoes. Photo #4 by guido da rozze

Traveling down Vietnam cave shaft

Traveling inside Phong Nha Cave. 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 25,357 feet (7,729 m) long, contains 14 grottos, with a 45,830 foot-long (13,969 m) underground river. The scientists have surveyed 27.65 miles (44.5 km) of grottos in this cave so far; tourists can only penetrate to a distance of 4,921 feet (1500 m). Photo #5 by Vietnam Wiki

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Paradise Cave

Stalagmites rise from the floor of limestone Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park Paradise Cave. Photo #6 by Vo Thanh Lam

Stalagmite and stalactites in Vietnam's paradise cave

Fluorescent lighting to highlight stalagmite and stalactites for tourists in Vietnam’s Paradise Cave. Imagine coming upon this is complete and utter pitch darkness as the original cavers did. Photo #7 by guido da rozze

Explore Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Explore Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Have you considered living deep in a cave to survive if something catastrophic happened to the world? It would not be the first time that people have hidden from their enemies and their enemies have hidden from them inside the caves, hidden in the tropical forest of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Photo #8 by Farmstay

Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park

Some 92% of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is covered by tropical forest. The mist adds more mystery to this national park, the fifth UNESCO recognised site in Vietnam after Ha Long Bay. Photo #9 by Martin Ãœnsal

Outside the Phong Nha - Ke Bang Cave, Vietnam

Outside the Phong Nha – Ke Bang Cave. Wikipedia states, “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.” Photo #10 by ePi.Longo

The path leading up to the Paradise cave, Vietnam

The path through the jungle leading up to the Paradise Cave. Photo #11 by Scott Hadfield

Phong Nha Cave entrance

Besides the grotto and cave systems, it is said that Phong Nha has the longest underground rivers, the largest caverns and passageways, the widest sand banks, and the most astonishing rock formations in the world. This is one the underground river cave entrances. Photo #12 by Thao u’

Swimming in Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam

Swimming in Phong Nha Cave. According to UNESCO, “The active river caves are divided into the nine caves of the Phong Nha system discharging to the Son River, and the eight caves of the Vom system discharging to the Chay River. The Phong Nha Cave is the most famous in the entire system, with a currently surveyed length of 44.5 km. Its entrance is the last part of an underground river that connects with the Son River and tour boats can penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m. Other extensive caves include the Vom cave at 15 km in length and the Hang Khe Rhy cave with a length of 18,902 m.” Photo #13 by Vietnam Wiki

Vietnam Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave

An extremely fragile environment, Vietnam Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park caves are thought to have been evolving since 464 million years ago. Photo #14 by guido da rozze

Spectacular stalagmites inside Vietnam's Paradise Cave

Spectacular stalagmites inside Vietnam’s Paradise Cave. There are other kart formations called drapes, columns, straws, chandeliers, broomsticks, totem poles and flowstone. Photo #15 by Martin Ãœnsal

Thien Duong aka Paradise Cave, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Right around the time that National Geographic released a feature about the newly discovered Song Doong — World’s Biggest Cave — this cave, Thien Duong aka Paradise Cave opened for tourism. Before that, Thien Duong had previously been thought to be the world’s biggest cave. The karst formation process in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has resulted in many features like underground rivers, dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves and intersecting caves. Photo #16 by Lauren Quinn

Vietnam Paradise Cave formations

Vietnam Paradise Cave formations. Photo #16 by cuongvnd & #17 by cuongvnd

Phong Nha cave, size of man compared to size of formation

Phong Nha cave, size of man compared to the size of the formation. Photo #18 by Vietnam Wiki

Tien Son cave aka Fairy-tale cave has no underground river and is a dry cave. It was named Fairy-tale Cave because its inside landscape is similar to something out of a fairy-tales

Tien Son cave aka Fairy-tale cave has no underground river and is a dry cave. It was named Fairy-tale Cave because its inside landscape is similar to something out of a fairy-tales. Tien Son 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. Thus we are again looking at Paradise as opposed to Fairy-tale Cave. Photo #19 by cuongvnd & #20 by cuongvnd

Bizarre formations at Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Paradise Cave

Bizarre formations. Notable caves and grottoes in the Phong Nha Cave system include: Dark Grotto which is 17,250 ft (5,258 m) long and with a height of 272 ft (83 m); E Grotto which is 2,414 ft (736 m) long, Cha An Grotto is 2,188 ft (667 m) long; Thung Grotto has an underground river of 10,994 ft (3,351 m), with the height in some part exceeds 436 ft (133 m); En Grotto is 5,396 ft (1,645 m) long, 257 ft (78.6 m) high; Khe Tien Grotto which is 1,706 ft (520 m) long; Khe Ry Grotto and Khe Thi Grotto. Photo #21 by Vo Thanh Lam

A linga-shaped stalagmite and new species of lizard in a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

Left: A linga-shaped stalagmite. Right: “Cyrtodactylus phongnhakebangensis, a recently discovered cave-dwelling species, lives only in Phong Nha Ke Bang park (hence the name).” Photo #22 by Genghiskhanviet & #23 by Martin Ãœnsal

Inside a cave at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Inside a cave at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The Vom Grotto is a 9.3 miles (15.05 km) long, 475 ft (145 m) high grotto with several underground rivers, pools. It has several spectacular stalagmite and stalactites. British Cave Research Association scientists found an abyss in Vom Grotto, the deepest hole in Vietnam, and named it Tang hole. It’s over 836 feet (255m) deep. Photo #24 by guido da rozze

Fairy-tale cave or Dry cave because its inside landscape is similar to fairy-tales and it has no underground river

The list seems endless within the national park’s Vom Cave systems: Dai Cao Grotto is 5396 ft (1645 m) long, 91 ft (28 m) high; Duot Grotto has a length of 2.4 miles (3.927 km) and height of 147 ft (45 m); Ca Grotto is a 4,921 ft (1,500 m) long, 203 ft (62 m) high; Ho Grotto is 5,301 ft (1,616 m) long and 150 ft (46 m) high; Over Grotto is a 10,643 ft (3,244 m) long and 337 ft (103 m) high with the width from 98-164 ft (30–50 m); Pygmy Grotto is 2,772 ft (845 m) long; Ruc Caroong Grotto is the habitat of Arem ethnic group. They live in the caves, grottos and on hunting, harvesting natural products. Photo #25 by guido da rozze

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 limestone forest of the Annamite Range region in north central coast of Vietnam

The photographer wrote, “Wow! Paradise Cave.” The park protects the ecosystem of limestone forest of the Annamite Range region in north central coast of Vietnam. Photo #26 by Martin Ãœnsal

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park inside Paradise cave

The size of Phong Nha and Paradise caves and the formations hidden inside are truly stunning. Photo #27 by Martin Ãœnsal

Stalactites and stalagmites inside Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park caves

Besides the formations, the spectacular system of underground rivers and passages still have some 10th century Cham altars. Photo #28 by guido da rozze

A small gallery and platform, cut into the limestone. This cave was apparently used by VC

A small gallery and platform, cut into the limestone. This cave was apparently used by VC. Photo #31 by Martin Ãœnsal

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Central Vietnam

Can you imagine a cave that is five times larger than the Phong Nha? Well there is even if Phong Nha cave was once upon a time believed to be the biggest cave in Vietnam. Photo #32 by Genghiskhanviet

Entrance and hanging ladders at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave

Entrance and hanging ladders at this Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park cave. Photo #33 by cuongvnd

Boats for tourists in Phong Nha-Ke Bang, Vietnam

Boats for cave-hopping tourists. Photo #34 by Genghiskhanviet

Tien Son cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang

Tien Son cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang. There are about 500 stairs up to entrance of Paradise cave, and another 100-200 stairs down inside Thien Duong aka Paradise Cave. Photo #35 by Genghiskhanviet

Who knows what all is still to be discovered in the jungles at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam

Who knows what all is still to be discovered in the jungles at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park? Photo #36 by Genghiskhanviet

Overlooking Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

Overlooking the national park in Central Vietnam. Photo #37 by Genghiskhanviet

At the doorstep of Phong nha ke bang national park -- dong hoi vietnam

At the doorstep of the park is seems much less difficult to comprehend how such huge caves can remain hidden in the dense jungle. What might it be like to visit pristine caves that are not setup as tourist attractions? Photo #38 by Shi via TripAdvisor

Hang Son Doong

The world’s largest cave managed to remain hidden for all this time; it is thought that finding this cave is only scratching the surface. Hang Son Doong has a jungle inside and a skyscraper could fit inside it too. And the end is out of sight. “Like a castle on a knoll, a rock formation shines beneath a skylight in Hang Son Doong. A storm had just filled the pool, signaling that exploring season was coming to an end.” Photo #39 by © Carsten Peter/National Geographic

National Geographic: World’s Biggest Cave. Video #1 by saotruc19852010

Veteran photographer and National Geographic grantee Carsten Peter is also an accomplished climber, diver and caver who has photographed some of the world’s most extreme environments. Here he shares stories and images from a cave system in Vietnam that may be the world’s largest. Video #2 by NationalGeographic


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