Potential risks on Son Doong Expedition tour

Any human activity has potential risks, which can turn into hazards without adequate preparation and preventive measures. Adventure tourism activities such as trekking in the jungle, exploring caves, river crossings, and swimming in dark caves...,will be much riskier than other activities. The risks and dangers of the Son Doong Cave Expedition that could be encountered are floods, insect bites, snake bites, unexpected accidents or illness, and so on.

Many people are wondering, questioning and even believe that it is a dangerous journey to go through Son Doong Cave. It is a proper caving tour indeed, however, if the guests are prepared ahead both mentally and physically this Son Doong Cave Expedition tour will be a safe and unforgettable journey. The preparation also includes an acknowledgment of the dangers or risks that may occur on the tour. Good preparation is the key to a successful and enjoyable tour.

Potential risks on Son Doong tour as well as other jungle activities include:

Physical fitness

An overview of the physical requirements of the Son Doong Cave Expedition, customers need to be aware of and acknowledge the potential risks and hazards of any adventure activity. Son Doong Expedition is considered to be the most difficult tour on Oxalis' difficulty scale - level 6 in terms of the level of adventure. It is a combination of many activities such as jungle trekking, river crossing, rocky terrain, steep trails up and down, rocky scrambling, rope climbing, ladder climbing, and so on…. Therefore, during the consultation and tour registration process, Oxalis strictly asks the customers to be honest when filling out the fitness declaration on the booking form. This is not only to make sure all customers have the best preparation for the tour, and experience the expedition to the fullest but also to help Oxalis properly assess their physical fitness and advise on appropriate exercise programs. Customers must be honest about any medical conditions. It is very unlikely that any condition would prevent a customer joining the tour, but again Oxalis can advise the customer how to prepare to have the best and safest experience.

If the application form is not truthful or the customers are not physically fit, it could cause exhaustion during the tour. In these cases, guests would be forced to stop the tour. They not only will not be refunded but may also have to pay the incurred expenses to take them out of the jungle. Better preparation means more enjoyment on the tour.

Apart from the above subjective risk, there are some other manageable risks such as: poison ivy/itchy plants (Nang Hai); insect, snake and centipede bites and incidents of heavy rain or floods. Accidents or illnesses can also be considered a risk of joining the Son Doong Cave Expedition.

Poison Ivy/Itchy Plants (Nang Hai)

This plant normally grows along the banks of the river, it has very tiny hairs on its leaves. If you accidentally touch the leaves it would cause itchiness and burning for 5 days to a week.

In order to limit the risks, Oxalis regularly clears the path and cuts down any overgrowth. Additionally, Oxalis’ tour guides and safety assistants (mainly local people who are extremely knowledgeable about the jungle) will be leading the way, and warning the customers if walking near these plants. Besides, customers will be asked to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants during the trek. If the customers touch this leaf by accident, the guide can give first-aid treatment to relieve itching and burning.

Itchy Plants (Nang Hai) normally grow along the banks of the river.

Bite from insects, snakes, or centipedes

Even though this situation rarely happens, it must be understood that this is one of the potential risks on the Son Doong tour. Following safety rules and trekking rules, Oxalis’ staff always lead: will be at the front and stay at the back of the group, this will avoid the group from being separated or getting lost. Should anyone spot any hazard, they will immediately warn the rest of the team.

Guests are required to wear proper closed shoes, long and thick socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts to avoid such hazards. If you accidentally step on a snake or are attacked by a snake, layers of long pants and thick socks will prevent and reduce the amount of venom transferring into the body. Guests are also required to wear gloves (provided by Oxalis) to prevent their hands from touching branches, bushes, or rock holes in which snakes potentially live and there is a risk of being attacked.

If one of the group is bitten by an insect, a snake, or a centipede, the guide will immediately act. This might mean they activate the emergency response procedure, this procedure includes first-aid, a satellite phone to call for help from the office, organizing an ambulance, the doctor will quickly be moved into the location of the accident to give the first aid. Depending on the situation, the rescue team can evacuate the casualty on a specialized stretcher (available at Oxalis’ camps and offices) to move the casualty out while waiting for the emergency team to come.

Guests are required to wear proper closed shoes, long and thick socks, long pants, long-sleeved shirts and gloves to avoid hazards during the trek.

Accidents, illnesses, and other medical incidents

All of Oxalis' staff including guides, cave safety experts, and safety assistants are well-trained in first aid, rescue techniques, and hauling systems. Guides and safety assistants will be trained and evaluated every year by British Cave safety experts. If there is an accident/incident requiring medical or hospital treatment, the guide will activate the emergency response procedures and call for a rescue team including doctor, first aid equipment, and ambulance to be available, whilst evacuating the casualty out of the cave or jungle to the road.

Incidents of sudden rain or floods

In order to have a backup plan/backup route/safety route, Oxalis has always taken into account unexpected floods and considered this when designing the tours. For example, Son Doong campsites are located on high ground to avoid flooding or can be easily evacuated when flooded (Hang En campsite is one example). Emergency food is stored at campsites in case guests have to stay a few more days to wait for the water to go down. Son Doong is the largest cave in the world and has many safe areas, therefore customers will be safe. Oxalis always monitors weather forecasts in order to prepare for any rise in water levels.

Alcohol and stimulants/drugs

Adventure activities always have potential risks, drinking too much alcohol, or beer or using stimulants/drugs will affect the safety of the customers themselves and the other team members. This could be considered a hidden risk of exploring Son Doong Cave. Oxalis has a strict regulation that using stimulants/drugs and bringing an excessive amount of alcohol is forbidden. Bringing alcohol on the tour must be approved by the Tour Operator.

Oxalis Adventure has established procedures to avoid risks and to ensure safety on adventure tours as well as limit the risks in Son Doong Cave Expedition tours. This includes "safety rules" that apply to all customers and employees. All visitors and staff are required to comply with these safety rules and regulations. Guests will be required to sign a "Release Form" which contains strict safety terms and conditions.

The Son Doong Expedition tour is not considered to be easy for all, however, if customers are committed to following the rules and regulations, being honest about their physical fitness declaration, ensuring they have good physical preparation and take responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of their companions, the difficulties of Son Doong Expedition would be greatly reduced and make the expedition much more enjoyable.

The Oxalis Experience.

FAQs

  • Where can you see leeches?

    You will come across leeches while trekking in the jungle. Although they belong to the leech family and have an unsightly appearance, they are not dangerous or carry any disease transmissible to humans. What if you get bitten? If, unfortunately, you do find a leech on you, you can use mosquito repellent to spray it and it will fall off, it may fall off on its own or you can notify your guide/safety assistant to remove it. If you get bitten, inform your guide. If the bite is bleeding, the guide can help you to clean it with alcohol or iodine, stop the bleeding, and cover the wound.
    Oxalis always encourages guests to wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and long and thick socks to avoid leech bites

  • Is the Son Doong Cave Expedition tour dangerous?

    Son Doong is the largest cave in the world with two entrances. All campsites are located in the safest area of the cave. Although the terrain can be difficult and there are many physical challenges, you are always accompanied by the safety team during the Son Doong Expedition. Therefore, the Son Doong Cave Expedition tour is not dangerous as long as the customers follow the rules, follow the instructions of the Guide, Safety Assistants or Cave Safety Expert, and always ask for help if you need it.

  • Are there bats in the cave?

    In Son Doong Cave, there are several species of bats living in certain areas. Their favorite places are very dark areas, on the high cave ceiling of Hang Son Doong. So you will not often meet them when exploring the cave.

  • What to do if you see a snake?

    Do not approach, do not engage, tease or try to take pictures with or of the snakes. Immediately inform the tour guide or a member of the safety team.

  • Do travelers need to buy travel insurance?

    All Oxalis tours are insured with a compensation limit of 10 million VND/case. However, Oxalis can support any customers who need to buy insurance with a higher limit (you will pay for the different fees).

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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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