In the 90s, Phong Nha was an isolated village, completely untouched by urban civilization. There were no roads, no electricity, no hospitals or other general amenities in the area. The people of Phong Nha lived off rice cultivation, hunting and logging in forests; their lives were very difficult, smeared by diseases and highly poverty struck. As the men frequented the forests for hunting or logging, their skills in the jungle were sharpened, skills of survival that hardly anyone else could perfect like they did.
In 2001, Phong Nha - Ke Bang was recognized as a national park under stringent monitoring. In 2003, Phong Nha - Ke Bang went on to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site, and all the hunting and logging activities were hence prohibited. This meant that the Phong Nha men weren’t allowed to go into the forest like before; this made their lives all the more difficult.
In 2011, Oxalis Adventure was founded by Mr. Nguyen Chau A, who was born in the Phong Nha village, on the banks of the Son River. He left his small village very early to continue his studies. After 20 years, he returned and founded an adventure travel company called Oxalis Adventure. His goal was to bring back his childhood experiences when he explored the forests with his brothers, spending the night in large and majestic caves. He was determined to build Oxalis Adventure to become the world's most unique adventure travel company. His first task was to gather the best jungle men in Phong Nha village and to initially form the first porter team of Oxalis.
One of the most amazing characteristics of Phong Nha village men is that they have cat like agility and bullish strength while they’re traversing through dense jungles. They can nonchalantly walk across sharp surfaced cliffs with heavy backpacks and truly know the wilderness like the back of their hand; this allows them to be able to survive in the jungle for months, without any supplies! They can also respond very well to emergency situations such as wild animals, snakes and other threats deep inside the forest. Apart from that, cooking delicious food is also something they’re highly adept in. In 1990, a group of cave experts from the British Cave Research Association (BCRA), led by Mr. Howard Limbert, came to survey the cave systems in Phong Nha. The local people enthusiastically provided support, helped carrying caving gears and also local guides leading the way to find caves for the explorers. Presently, 450 local people are part of the Oxalis team. They have jobs such as porters, chefs, safety assistants, guide assistants, tour guides etc. Porters are indispensable members on either short or long journeys, they serve delicious meals for visitors, arrange camping equipment to ensure a comfortable night stay after a long day of adventure in the jungles and caves. They are also the ones who carry camping stuffs for guests during the trip, so that guests can comfortably enjoy the great experience.
The safety assistants are people who are part of the porter team, selected by Oxalis Adventure annually, for their outstanding survival and handling skills inside the jungle. This group of safety assistants undergoes comprehensive safety trainings, to ensure the highest standard of safety for guests, and handling emergencies such as first aid and rescue. And especially, the Safety Assistant is present on all tours that Oxalis operates; they appear like superheroes at the time of need, support and make sure that safety is paramount for everyone throughout the tour. They bring confidence to guests and are always the most reliable companions. There are currently more than 45 people working as safety assistants on tours operated by Oxalis.
Cave experts from the British Cave Research Association (BCRA) came to explore the cave systems in Quang Binh and other places in Vietnam many years ago. While everyone have their own job back home, they all share an incredible passion for caving and have explored many prominent caves in the world together. In Phong Nha, Mr. Howard Limbert is the leader of the BCRA team in Vietnam, having spent more than 30 years exploring caves in the Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. Howard and his team discovered and surveyed over 300 large and small caves, including Son Doong Cave, the largest cave in the world today. In 2012, during a cave expedition project in Phong Nha - Ke Bang, he knew came to know about Oxalis Adventure, and about the company's efforts to create unique tourism products, taking only a limited number of trekkers yearly for conserving the caves better, and using a large local workforce for tourism, people who previously lived mainly off illegal logging and hunting. Realizing that this was a noble and meaningful act, he, his wife – Mrs. Deb Limbert, and other members of the BCRA joined Oxalis Adventure to support safety training for tour guides, safety assistants & porters, and to supervise the whole process of safety and conservation of the cave systems. There are currently 8 members in the Oxalis Adventure cave expert team, which is directly supervised by Mr. Howard Limbert. The BCRA team of cave experts has implemented international safety standards, delivering thousands of hours of safety practice training to the Oxalis staff. They help visitors to be more confident on tours, while ensuring that the safety and conservation regulations are strictly undertaken by all Oxalis employees.
These are adventure tours, so there is a lot of equipment to prepare for each tour, from helmets, headlamps, safety equipment, water purifiers, meals, to sleeping tents. Everything must be well prepared and always in the best condition. They help guides, porters, safety assistants and other teams to do their work in the best way in order to bring a great experience for hikers. They have rare or no contact with the visitors, but their silent work brings immense value to all the tours.
They are all professional adventure consultants who are the first points of contact for the tourists. They consult and help travelers to choose the most ideal products, provide them with ample information about traveling to/from Phong Nha, and even assist guests with booking rooms to ensure the journey is thoroughly arranged in the most convenient way. To be able to advise visitors on how to choose the appropriate tour, they themselves have experienced tours from a tourist’s perspective, to understand the peculiarities of each tour. This is how they can advise the most suitable itinerary for a visitor. They are young, energetic, filled with passion for adventure and a strong desire of showing the beauty of Phong Nha to the world. “Arrive as guests. Leave as family” is the feeling that the Oxalis adventure consultant team constantly strives to instill in all the adventure travellers.
#TheOxalisExperience is our spirit.
Oxalis is an adventure tour operator located in the peaceful little Phong Nha village. The company has more than 500 employees working regularly in the offices or operating areas. Due to the nature of an adventure tour company, the safety regulations are strictly enforced and must be followed by anyone involved. In addition to the safety standards, Oxalis Adventure wants to create a truly unique tourism product and experience. And in particular, this requires all Oxalis staff from directors, managers, experts, guides, safety assistants, porters, consultants, and operation team to work with the highest responsibility, with their passion and desire that every traveler has a great experience with Oxalis and feel like family.
Staffs at Oxalis are from different backgrounds, circumstance, culture, expertise, some of the porters have never been to school before or quit at primary level. It is hard to apply corporate rules and culture to everyone as they will break them instantly. Therefore, Oxalis Adventure raises an idea that no matter who you are, which position you are working at Oxalis, from a diver, porter, chef, guide, safety assistant, cave expert, office staff or adventure consultant, you are able to contribute to #TheOxalisExperience to all Oxalis Customers. The message simply implies that whenever serving customers, please do the BEST that you can to customers so that they will have a great experience with Oxalis. If you are a driver, you will do your best to make guests feel totally welcome and cared for. If you are a safety assistant, you will do at your best to make your guests feel secure, and enjoy the trip to the fullest. The Oxalis Experience means no matter who you are, what position you are in, please do the best for visitors in all circumstances, and you are the one spreading the spirit of The Oxalis Experience.
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.