Hang En Cave Phong Nha, Quang Binh, Vietnam

Hang En is one of the largest natural caves in the world, located deep within the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province. It has a large passage, running through a limestone mountain, with three entrances that are up to 110m high, a ceiling that reaches 145m at its highest point, and the widest section of the passageway reaching up to 200m. Inside Hang En Cave in Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, there is a clear stream that flows through the cave, eventually heading to Hang Son Doong.

To reach to Hang En, customers would have to takes a one-day hike, including passing over Ba Gian Hill and through Ban Doong, the home of the Bru - Van Kieu people. In oder to do that guests have to book a Hang En Cave Adventure tour by Oxalis - the only company that is authorized to operate tour to Hang Son Doong, the world's largest cave. It is also the only way of how to get to Hang En Cave Quang Binh.

Hang En Cave in Vietnam has been featured by international media such as National Geographic, The New York Times, Lonely Planet, Good Morning America and notably in the Hollywood blockbuster film “Pan: In the Neverland” (2015) produced by Warner Bros.

Hang En Cave has been a popular adventure tourism destination since 2012. Oxalis is the only licensed tour operator for exploring the cave with caving safety equipment and all its tour guides, assistants, and porters have undergone training to ensure visitor safety during the Hang En Cave Expedition.

History of discovery and origin of the name Hang En

The origin of the name

With its high cliffs and wide floor, Hang En Cave in Quang Binh Province has long been a haven for hundreds of thousands of swifts during their nesting season. The spectacle each evening or early morning of streams of swifts returning from or heading out to feed is an amazing sight. The name originated from the fact that this large cave was a nesting habitat for thousands of swifts, and the local people named the cave after this bird species.

The history of discovery

Hang En was known to the Arem people hundreds of years ago when their ancestors took the cave as a place to live. With a nomadic lifestyle, the Arem people lived in caves and moved seasonally based on available food sources from nature such as hunting and gathering seasons. En Cave is a giant cave, with thousands of swift’s nests on the ceiling of the cave, thanks to their small and agile physique, the Arem people have amazing climbing skills. They cut many small, strong tree branches, sticking them into small rock holes or using jungle rattan, or vines tied together to create natural ladders which they then used to climb up to the ceiling of the cave to catch birds. This is a method they've been using for a long time to catch swifts.

From time immemorial, the swift is considered the main source of food and nutrition of the Arem people. Therefore, the condition for the Arem boys to get married was to climb the ceiling of the caves by themselves to catch the swifts, affirming their ability to feed their families.

In recent years, with support from their home province, the Arem people have settled in permanent villages and no longer live a nomadic lifestyle or climb high cliffs to catch swifts as before. Instead, they cultivate fields like other locals. However, every June, they still maintain the tradition of going into caves to collect young swifts that have fallen from their nests as they learn to fly. It is a way for them to remember their roots and preserve their cultural traditions and practices.

Ho Khanh also learned about Hang En in 1990 during his journey to search for precious fragrant wood. It wasn't until 1994 that cave experts from the British - Vietnamese Cave Exploration Team came to survey and measure Hang En that it became widely known to many people both in Vietnam and around the world.

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The process of surveying Hang En

Hang En Cave is located in the core zone of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, about 11km from the 35th kilometer of the Ho Chi Minh Highway western branch. With a large cave entrance, Hang En has been recognized by the local people around this area for many years.

In 1994: During the third expedition to Phong Nha Ke Bang, the British - Vietnamese Cave Exploration Team explored and mapped En Cave.

In 1994, the experts had to hike for three days from Phong Nha on Quyet Thang Road to reach the entrance.

Hang En Cave is located at an altitude of about 180m above sea level and is one of the main sinks of the Phong Nha Cave System. The Rao Thuong River flows through Hang En Cave and merges with the stream from Khe Ry Cave and disappears underground in a rock collapse. Having also explored the resurgence cave for this river which is 5km away, the team knew there should be a cave connecting the two. This turned out to be Son Doong Cave - a famous one with an underground river system in Vietnam.

During the survey, exploration, and measurement of Son Doong Cave, Hang En was also used as a campsite and base from which to explore.

The survey shows that Hang En has a total length of over 1.6km, a volume of up to 6.7 million cubic meters. The widest passage is about 200m, with a 145m high ceiling, and a height of 120m and width of 110m at the exit. Hang En is considered by the cavers to be one of the largest caves in the world. Belonging to a karst landscape in Vietnam, Hang En is one entrance to the Phong Nha Cave System and the gateway to Son Doong Cave.

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Ban Doong Village and Arem people

Ban Doong Village

Ban Doong Village was established in 1992 by a group of Bru - Van Kieu people who migrated from the Quang Ninh District, Quang Binh Province to the Hung Doong (Hung means valley) area to settle after their village faced a big flood. Ban Doong is located in the remote area in the middle of the primary rainforest in the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. Initially, there were only 5 people in Ban Doong, but today (2022) there are 12 households with 52 residents. The lives of the Ban Doong people still maintain the traditional aspects of the Bru - Van Kieu ethnic group. During the Hang En Cave trek, to reach to Hang En Cave, one must go through Ban Doong, home of the Bru - Van Kieu ethnic people. Visitors will stop here for lunch and experience local food in Quang Binh. This is considered as one of the highlights of trekking tours in Vietnam.

Arem people 39 Village

The Doong Valley, Hang En, and Ruc (39 village), known previously as Ban Area, was the area of the nomadic Arem ethnic group, which belongs to the Chut ethnic minority. Previously, the Arem people moved around the forests (now part of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park) for their livelihood, primarily through hunting and foraging. They didn't have a permanent home and usually lived in caves and caught birds for food. Today, the remains of these vines used for climbing are still preserved at the main chamber and exit of Hang En.

Geology and geomorphology of Hang En

Geology of Hang En Cave: Located on a similar geological faultline as Hang Son Doong, Hang En is also located in the oldest karst mountain system in Asia, formed about 400 - 450 million years ago. Like Hang Son Doong, it is likely that Hang En Cave is relatively young, with an age of 2 - 3 million years.

Hang En was formed by the flow of the Rao Thuong River through the large Hung Doong Valley. This river flowed through a range of karst mountains, eroding the karst layer and forming Hang En. This erosion process takes place very slowly, so it may take thousands or even millions of years to see the result.

Geomorphology of Hang En Cave: It has three entrances, the large entrance is the entrance that was formed first and is the entrance where sunbeams may be seen from December to March. The small entrance is the usual entrance to the cave and the exit has a high and wide cave opening. From the exit of the cave, following the river valley for 3km and climbing a short hill will lead to Son Doong Cave.

The ecosystem inside the cave

Located in the core zone of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, Hang En Cave weather conditions is also greatly affected by the Phong Nha climate. Generally, the weather inside Hang En is not much different from the outside, with temperatures ranging from 20 - 25°C. Some species of animals find the conditions inside the cave to be a suitable habitat. At the large entrance and the exit of Hang En, some species of squirrels, monkeys, and langurs may be seen. During dusk, some flying foxes also often hunt in this area. On the high ceiling of the big chamber where the campsite is located, and at the high exit, many swifts choose to build their nests.

In the middle of the cave, where the light is limited, it is ideal for bats in Hang En Cave. On the cave floor, there are many species of centipedes, pseudoscorpions and other insect species.

About the biodiversity of Hang En Cave, deep inside the cave, due to the lack of light, almost no plants can be found. However, in areas close to the daylight, such as at the entrances and the exit of the cave, some species of plants like moss, algae or fungi can be seen. At the exit of the cave, there is a species of plant growing on the cliff and hanging down from the ceiling of the cave.

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Hang En Cave Adventure tour

Oxalis Adventure Company was approved and authorized by the Provincial People's Committee of Quang Binh, and Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park Management Board, to be the only company to operate adventure tourism and cave exploration in Hang En from 2012.

The only one kind and best tour for Hang En Cave is 2 day trekking and 1 night camping inside the cave. For exploring this cave, Oxalis will provide caving gear and equipment such as caving helmet, headlight, floating rope, tent,...

The season for the Hang En Cave tour from Phong Nha is from December to September annually. (Hang En Cave camping tour is not operated during the rainy season due to high flood levels and recovery time for cave ecosystems and conservation). Customers participating in the Hang En Cave Adventure tour contribute to the conservation of Vietnamese caves and protection of the forest environment in the core zone of the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park by purchasing Hang En Cave entrance fee and paying an environmental fee.

Since the operation of Hang En Cave Adventure tour, Oxalis has created jobs with a stable income for hundreds of local porters and thousands of people benefit indirectly from the tourism activities of Hang En (and later Son Doong Cave). Moreover, the implementation of the tour to the Hang En area, passing through the Ban Doong community, has also changed the perception and attitude of the local people towards protection of the forest environment, by restricting illegal hunting and logging activities.

Oxalis' international promotion programs for Quang Binh Province tourism in general and Hang En in particular have made Phong Nha an attractive destination for international tourists, attracting millions of domestic and foreign tourists to Phong Nha every year to experience adventure tourism in Vietnam. Additionally, Phong Nha in general and the surrounding areas in particular have also become a frequent location choice for film crews to shoot their famous films.

Besides individual items and fitness preparation, choosing the suitable time to explore the cave is also one of the important Hang En Cave camping tips.

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Media interest in Hang En

As one of the largest and most famous caves in Vietnam and in the world and connected to Son Doong, Hang En Cave Oxalis has also received a lot of attention from the media and the press.

The science documentary "Feeling the Grandeur of Nature" was filmed in 3D technology at Hang En and Son Doong Cave by the Japanese film company Kyodo NHK and was conducted over 5 days from May 10th, 2011. The documentary was uploaded to 60 countries worldwide on June 25th, 2011 at 9:00 PM.

The Japanese television station NHK also helped promote the image of Hang En and Son Doong caves as well as other images of Phong Nha - Ke Bang. Hang En Cave tour by Oxalis Adventure was put into operation on April 22nd, 2012, so filming Hang En at this time was even better for promotion of adventure travel in Southeast Asia in general and adventure travel in Vietnam in particular.

Peter Pan: A famous Hollywood movie featuring scenes filmed at Hang En, one of the biggest Vietnam caves. In May 2014, Warner Brothers Feature Film (WB) decided to shoot some scenes for the movie “Peter Pan: in the Never Land" at Hang En.

The WB team directly visited En Cave to survey and photograph the cave structure, recording the shots in 3D format to bring back to America for post-production use. The film crew was impressed with the grandeur of En Cave, its high ceiling, and its wide and large interior, along with the incredibly prominent stalactites and stalagmites. In addition, the film crew also visited other famous destinations in Vietnam such as Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay to record many other shots for the film.

In July 2015, WB released the official trailer of the film with beautiful shots, such as the strange and magical stalactites appearing on the main character's journey, filmed at En Cave along with Ha Long Bay in a dreamy cloud, and the green paddy fields of Ninh Binh, which were used as the background for the Mermaid Lagoon in the film.

After its global premiere in London on September 20th, 2015, the film amazed audiences with its unique 3D effects and imaginative visuals. The Hang En Cave has since received numerous attention and visits from friends around the world to this day.

Thus, the discovery of Hang En is a major milestone in the efforts of the British - Vietnamese Caving Expedition Team to explore the Phong Nha Cave System, especially in finding the world's largest cave, Son Doong Cave.

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The Oxalis Experience.

FAQs

  • How do I get to Hang En Cave?

    In oder to get to Hang En Cave, guests have to book a Hang En Cave Adventure tour by Oxalis - the only company that is authorized to operate tour to Hang Son Doong, the world's largest cave. It takes a one-day hike, including passing over Ba Gian Hill and through Ban Doong, the home of the Bru - Van Kieu people deep within the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province.

  • What can I expect to see inside Hang En Cave?

    At Hang En Cave, you can expect to witness some of the most awe-inspiring sights that nature has to offer. As one of the largest caves in the world, it boasts an impressive array of stalagmites and stalactites, each more impressive than the last. It's also home to hundreds of thousands of swifts during their nesting season and watching them return from or head out to feed is a spectacle you won't soon forget.

    In addition, the cave's campsite is located in the middle of the cave, where you'll find a wide sandy beach and a beautiful emerald lake. A part of Rao Thuong river flows through the campsite, making for an incredibly scenic experience. Moreover, during sunny days from December to the end of February, the sunbeams will shine deep into the cave campsite in the morning, brightening up the whole cave and creating a spectacular scene. It's an experience that you won't find anywhere else in the world.

  • Is Hang En Cave suitable for all ages and fitness levels?

    Hang En Cave is an incredible destination, but it's not suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The minimum age to participate in a tour is 16 years old. Additionally, with some activities such as crossing rocky terrain, encountering many ups and downs, traversing hills and rivers, exercising and playing sports regularly are absolute musts.

  • What are the features of Hang En Cave?

    Hang En Cave, located in the core zone of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam, offers visitors a unique experience that is unlike any other. From December to the end of February, in sunny days, sunbeams will shine deep into the cave campsite in the morning, brightening up the whole cave and creating a spectacular scene. This is also a chance for visitors to swim in the unique emerald coloured underground pool next to the campsite after hours of trekking. Moreover, those who join the Hang En caving tour will have a short stop in the Doong village of the Bru Van Kieu people to enjoy local food and learn about the lifestyle and culture of the villagers.

  • Can I visit Hang En Cave independently, or do I need to join a tour?

    The only way to visit Hang En Cave is joining a tour operated to Oxalis Adventure - the sole tour operator for exploring the cave with caving gear and safety equipment as well as all its tour guides, assistants and porters have undergone training to ensure visitor safety during Hang En Cave Adventure.

  • What is the weather like in Hang En Cave?

    Located deep within the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, Hang En Cave weather conditions is also greatly affected by Phong Nha climate patterns. In general, the weather inside Hang En is not much different from the outside, with temperatures ranging from 20 - 25°C.

  • Are there any other caves or attractions to visit near Hang En Cave?

    If you're planning a trip to Hang En Cave, don't miss out on the opportunity to explore the other incredible caves in the area. Located within the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, you'll find Son Doong Cave, Hang Ba Cave and Hang Va Cave, each one more stunning than the last. These caves are truly works of art created by nature over millions of years, and exploring them is an experience you'll never forget.

  • How do I book a tour of Hang En Cave?

    To book a Hang En Cave Adventure, you can visit the Oxalis Adventure official website and check out the available tours. From there, choose the tour that fits your preferences and schedule, and follow the simple booking instructions provided. Alternatively, if you need further details or assistance in booking the tour, you can reach out to our adventure consultant directly. They will be happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have. Book your Hang En Cave Adventure today and experience the trip of a lifetime!

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Whether you prefer long treks, camping in a cave, sleeping under the stars in the jungle, swimming underground in river caves, explore the huge dry caves or just taking an exploratory day trip, Oxalis Adventure Tours can provide the right amount of adventure just for you.

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