Phong Nha – Ke Bang is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Bo Trach and Minh Hoa districts of central Quảng Bình Province in the North Central Coast region. 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. Designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleologists’ heaven on earth.
Phong Nha Cave was first “discovered” in 1899 and has had many purposes since then. During the American war the cave was used as a hospital to store and hide equipment and as a hospital. The Phong Nha cave is not the only cave in the area that was used for military purposes. Many other caves were used as hide-outs, weapons arsenals and bomb shelters. The Phong Nha cave is the longest wet cave or river cave in the world. The extremely large subterranean river system is running through the entire cave, however, there are some large dry chambers in the cave which the water doesn’t reach anymore. The cave is divided in to three different sections, each section is home to different animal species and there is a big difference in temperature.
The mouth of the cave and the first couple of meters inside the cave are described as the entrance zone and are home to all animals that live in sunlight. In hot days these animals will search for shelter inside the cave. Every animal that’s living inside the National Park could do so: Birds, monkeys, fish, insects and much more. The only way to enter the cave is by a short 30 minute boat ride boat on the Son river. Every tour to Phong Nha Cave starts at the boat station at the Phong Nha Ke-Bang Tourism Center. The mouth of the cave is simply beautiful and unlike any other cave entrance in the world.
This is the zone in which the artificial lighting system is installed, The Twilight Zone. The lighting system lights up the entire cave and focuses on the most magnificent stalagmite and stalactite formation. This creates a very breath taking and unique sight, it enhances the cave’s beauty and the entire cave exploration experience. There are not many animals living inside this zone as there are many visitors who enter the cave every day. The animals that still live in this zone can mainly be found inside the water such as: Crabs, shrimps, eel and other kinds of fish. The deeper inside the Dark Zone the stranger the animals get, there are many blind animal inside the cave: blind fish, blind bats and blind insects (crickets, spiders). These have long antennas to be able to survive and navigate their way through the darkness. Sometimes red lizards can be found inside the Dark Zone but they’re quite hard to find.