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Overview
  • Safety is the number one priority for both customers and staff at Oxalis Adventure – without compromise.
  • All guides follow a comprehensive training program and are assessed regularly. Only fully qualified and experienced guides run the Oxalis Adventure tours.
  • Oxalis only uses the highest quality equipment imported from France, the UK and Switzerland.
  • The Oxalis Adventure tours are exactly what the name implies: An adventure. However, we demonstrate that it is possible to run adventurous tours without compromising on safety.
Safety Statement

Oxalis Adventure has run tours into the caves in and around Phong Nha for almost a decade. During that time we have had no dangerous episodes caused by water or flooding. The reasons for this are as follows:

  1. All our cave tours run only in the dry season. We don’t operate during the rainy season between mid-September and early November.
  2. Most of the caves we run tours to have multiple entrances which allow us to enter and exit at different places.
  3. The caves we operate in are generally huge. Flooding is not considered a great risk due to the great size and high ceilings of the cave passages, which do not flood like smaller caves.
  4. If an unusual forecast such as a tropical storm is expected, we change the tour itinerary to ensure safety.
  5. All our tours are run by experienced guides and caving experts who are trained in safety.
  6. All high-water level rivers are crossed either by boat or using safety ropes to ensure safe crossings. All guides and customers use a life jacket in these situations. All guides are trained in river crossing techniques and river rescue.
  7. All cave tours have been designed by British Cave Research Association cavers who have vast experience in caving across the world and in Vietnam.
  8. Only quality equipment imported from Europe is used. This includes caving helmets, lights, harnesses, ropes, karabiners, floating ropes, throw bags etc. Full instructions are always provided, and guests are supported at all times by the safety team.
  9. The number of guests per tour is strictly controlled and supported by an appropriate number of guides and safety assistants.
  10. All tours must follow the safety rules and guidelines.
Oxalis Adventure Levels

Oxalis has developed an internal Adventure Level system that can help guests to assess the suitability of each tour for them. These levels are based on several years of collecting information from guests, cave experts and Oxalis management staff. If you are still not sure about your ability, please talk to one of our Adventure Consultants to seek more advice. More detailed descriptions of each tour can be found in the ‘Which Tour?’ section.

Adventure Level 1 · Easy

  • 1 day tour
  • Easy trekking
  • Less than 5km of trekking
  • Total Elevation gain: 50m
  • 2-3km of easy kayaking
Tours: National Park 1 day tour

Adventure Level 2 · Moderate

  • 1 or 2 day tour
  • Easy to moderate trekking
  • 5-12km of trekking including up to 3km of caving
  • Total elevation gain: 150m for 1 day and 250m for 2 days
  • Swimming in caves (50-150m length)
  • River crossings
  • 10m ladder climb with safety rope
Tours: Tu Lan Experience - 1 day; Tu Lan Cave Encounter - 2 days

Adventure Level 3 · Moderate

  • 1 - 3 day tour
  • Moderate trekking (very rocky terrain for Tien tours)
  • 8-22km of trekking including 3-5km of caving
  • Total elevation gain: 350-450m
  • Swimming in caves (Wild Tu Lan 50-150m)
  • River crossings
Tours: Hang Tien Discovery – 1 day; Hang Tien Endeavour – 2 days; Hang En Cave Camp – 2 days; Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer – 3 days

Adventure Level 4 · Challenging

  • 2 - 3 day tour
  • Moderate trekking - very rocky terrain
  • 10-22km of trekking including 3-5km of caving
  • Total elevation gain: 200m for 2 days, 900m for 3 days
  • River crossings
  • Swimming in caves (100m)
  • 20m traverse using ropes and harnesses (Hang Va with instruction and supervision)
Tours: Hang Va Expedition – 2 days; Hang Tien Exploration – 3 days

Adventure Level 5 · Tough

  • 4 day tour
  • Moderate to hard trekking- very rocky terrain
  • 30km of trekking including 5km of caving
  • Total elevation gain: 900m
  • River crossings
  • Swimming in caves (50-150m)
  • 15m underground abseil using ropes and harnesses (with instruction and supervision)
Tour: Tu Lan Expedition - 4 days

Adventure Level 6 · Tough

  • 4 day tour
  • Moderate to hard trekking - very rocky terrain
  • 25km trekking
  • 7km of caving which includes rope climbs, rocky scrambling, and the 90m ascent of the Wall of Vietnam (technical sections with instruction, supervision and safety equipment).
  • Total elevation gain: 800m
  • Surface and underground river crossings
  • 3 nights camping underground
Tour: Son Doong Cave Expedition – 4 days
Oxalis guide Levels

Oxalis Adventure currently employs 26 adventure guides and 60 safety assistants. Together they are responsible for safety during all Oxalis Adventure tours. The safety requirements for each tour are implemented by the Technical and Operations Directors and the Technical Training Officer, who also ensure that the guides and safety assistants have received the necessary training.

Level

Description


Trainee Guide

Prospective guides are selected from recently graduated applicants and will have a 2 month assessment period, before receiving a contract as a training guide if suitable.


Training Guide

A training guide will follow a 6-month training programme, including theory and practice of all first aid and safety techniques. They will also learn how to run the tour, deliver the safety briefing and pass on knowledge to the guests. This will include assisting the senior guide on tour and leading level 1 tours under supervision.
After an in depth appraisal and assessments by the Technical and Operations Directors and the Technical Training Officer they may be promoted to the Junior Guide level


Junior Guide

Will lead Level 1 & 2 single day tours, and work as a second guide on multi day and level 3 tours.


Experienced Guide

Will start by leading all level 1-3 tours. Receive training and assessment to progress to level 4-5 tours, after minimum 6 month’s experience. After a further 6 month’s training and assessment will lead level 6 with cave expert.


Senior Guide

Will need to show good leadership and problem solving skills to reach this level. Will be involved with guide training and managing guide teams for Team Building and filming groups.


Safety Assistant

All safety assistants will be competent in the use of life lining, safety harnesses, river crossing, and assisting guests over difficult terrain etc. After training and assessment they will assist with the abseil and flying fox.

Guide and Safety Equipment Training

Adventure guides and safety assistants follow the company training program, including theoretical and practical training that are regularly assessed and updated. Oxalis has a well-established training program and training is recorded and monitored. During off season (from mid-September to mid-November each year), further training is conducted, including first aid, technical safety (such as cave rescue and river rescue) and other tour related skills.

Every month the Technical Training Officer Mr Martin Holroyd develops a training program to train all guides and safety assistants according to their level.

Take a look at the training photos and videos below:

Safety FAQs

Swimming

  • I see that a lot of tours have swimming do I need to be a really good swimmer?

    No you do not need to be an expert swimmer. Basic swimming skills, plus confidence in the water are necessary. The length of the swim varies from 50-150m, but you will always wear a life vest and be supported by the guide and safety assistants. This is one of our most popular activities.

    In the cold weather, or if you really cannot swim, you can use the raft or boat.

Equipment

  • Do I need to provide any caving equipment such as helmet, ropes or harness?

    No, we will provide all the technical equipment necessary for all caving activities. All our equipment is imported from Europe and meets European Safety Standards. It is inspected every time before use, so you do not need to worry about the condition of the equipment.

  • What if we don’t know how to use the equipment?

    Before you use any equipment you will receive full instructions from the guide or caving expert. All technical sections will be supervised, and the safety team will operate the life lining equipment.

  • What kind of lights do you provide?

    We provide lights by Pezl and Hope, according to the tour. Petzl lights are waterproof and ideal for wet caves. Hope lights are very bright and excellent for the huge passages in Son Doong Cave. We always carry spare lights and batteries.

Fear of heights

  • Can I still join a tour if I am afraid of heights?

    Provided your fear is not extreme, you should be fine, as our team will support you. Any steep or vertical sections will have additional safety measures such as ropes. If in doubt, please contact the Sales team and discuss your concerns in more detail.

Medical Conditions

  • Why do we need to tell you about any medical conditions?

    Everything we ask is for your own safety, not to exclude you from any tour. Our tours are run in remote locations where medical care is limited to basic first aid. So if you have any medical condition, we want you and our guides to be prepared for anything.

    Everything you tell us will be kept in confidence and only those who need to know will be informed. In particular, we need to know about any allergies, especially to food, so we can avoid those things.

  • What are the biggest medical concerns I will face?

    Common problems are dehydration/heatstroke, sprains, scratches, grazes and blisters. Make sure you drink enough water, protect yourself from the sun and sharp rocks.

  • Do I need to bring a first aid kit.

    No, you do not need a first aid kit, we always carry one. However, if you need any particular medication, you should bring enough with you. Be aware that not all brands of medication are available in Vietnam. If you have a pre-existing problem, you should also bring enough dressings, supports etc. We will provide any necessary items for injuries sustained on tour.

  • Do I need to bring a water filter? How do we get drinking water?

    Oxalis will provide filtered and boiled water in all the campsites. Each group will have a water filter with them in case you need more water during the day’s trek.

Claustrophobia

Wild animals

  • Will we encounter any wild animals? Will this be dangerous?

    The majority of wild animals are very shy of humans, so if they hear or see us, they will run away. We may encounter snakes, but either the guide or safety assistant will always go in front to check for them. Always follow their instructions if you meet a snake.

    We may also find centipedes, caterpillars, mosquitos and bees, which can sting or irritate the skin, plus Poison Ivy and sharp thorny plants.

    Leeches are often present in the jungle. They do not carry any disease so you should not worry about them. Long trousers tucked into your socks will protect you.

    It is advisable to follow our recommendations to wear good footwear, long trousers and long sleeve shirts.

Weather conditions

  • What will happen if it rains heavily when we are on tour?

    In general, heavy rain during the dry season does not have too much impact. However, our guides and safety assistants are well trained, and know when to cross the rivers and when to use the boats. They are trained in a number or river crossing techniques, so you can still cross the rivers in some situations and enjoy the adventure whilst being safe.

  • What if the weather’s really cold?

    If we are experiencing cold weather, the Sales team will recommend some additional clothing. Also we may reduce the amount of swimming and use the boats and rafts.

  • How hot will it be in the summer?

    The Sales team will advise you about the likely weather conditions when you book the tour. In the summer months the temperature will often be 35C and sometimes nearly 40C. You should always prepare suitable sun protection in the summer time (hats, sun cream, sun glasses etc). On most of the tours it is easy to cool down by swimming, or sitting in the water.