Hang En Cave
Ban Doong village, Son Trach commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh province, VietnamTelephone
Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park telephone: +84 52 3677 021
Hang En Cave (Hang Én, Swallow Cave) is the world’s 3rd largest cave, succeeded only by Deer Cave in Malaysia and Hang Son Doong, also located here in the Cave Kingdom of Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Currently considered to be the 3rd largest cave in the world after Hang Son Doong and Deer Cave in Malaysia, Hang En is quickly becoming one of the most recognisable and impressive caverns on the planet. Deep in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the two day, one night adventure has been said to have the biggest ‘wow’ factor in all of Vietnam.
Owering limestone mountains pierce through the jungle canopy as the Rao Thuong River meanders its way through the lush valley. For 10km the remote forest path zig zags across the flowing waterway, the awe-inspiring views only interrupted by clouds of swarming butterflies. You would be forgiven for believing you have been transported back in time to a prehistoric era; a world still completely untouched by humans. Dew sits delicately atop enormous fern leaves and birds join in with insects to provide a cacophony of chirping and humming in the background. Nothing could possibly surpass the natural beauty surrounding you on all sides. And then the cave’s opening appears…
Experiencing Hang En cave
Entering Hang En through a broad slit in the cliff, you wander through the mystical passageway towards monstrous boulders. The trail weaves its way to a high point as penetrating sunlight illuminates the way forward. Climbing over one last peak rewards you with the breathtaking view of your night’s campsite – A wide, sandy beach fringing an aquamarine lake completely engulfed by the enormous cave.
The massive chamber is not the end however, as another narrow passage takes you to the backside of Hang En. The ceiling reaches dizzying heights as you scramble up a large rocky outcrop to lay eyes upon the most surreal scene of the entire journey – The immense arched exit of the cave, its colossal size defying your perception of possibility.
History of Hang En cave
Meaning ‘swift’ cave after the millions of swifts that in habit the chamber, Hang En was first explored by British caving experts in 1994, although its location has been know for centuries. Ethnic minorities from nearby villages, such as the Bru Van Kieu of Ban Doong, have used Hang En as a shelter during strong storms and as a hunting ground for local free climbers, who would scale the inverted walls to collect the nesting swifts to be eaten as a delicacy. Ho Khanh, who discovered Hang Son Doong in 1990, explored Hang En countless times during his extensive forays into the jungle. These days the most accessible entrance to Son Doong passes directly through Hang En.
The size of Hang En cave
Currently considered to be the third largest cave in the world, Hang En stretches for over 2km into the karsts of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. There are three entrances to Hang En, with the largest and most famous one being over 120m tall and 140m across. With the dense jungle forming the backdrop on the outside the cave, it is a sight that must really be seen to be believed. In some sections, the chambers are 100m high and 180m wide, so vast that even the beams from powerful headlamps barely reach the edges of the walls.
Geology of the cave
The 3 million year old wet cave was carved out by the powerful Rao Thuong River as it cuts its way through the Annamite Mountains. While the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst system in Asia, between 400-450 million years old, Hang En owes its relatively young age thanks to its location on the edge of a fault zone. Every wet season the Rao Thuong floods to inconceivable heights, constantly eroding more and more of the limestone away as the cave continues to grow in size.
Ban Doong village
To reach Hang En, adventurers must first pass through the Ban Doong ethnic minority village. The only village located inside the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, less than 40 people makes up the population of Ban Doong. Life is tough for the minority people here, due to their isolation from the outside world.
Access is only possible by foot, and the dense jungles surrounding Ban Doong prohibit the cultivation of most crops. The discovery of the nearby Hang Son Doong and the subsequent expeditions that now pass through the village have seen new opportunities arise for the community, who now can earn extra income by working closely with Oxalis to protect the conservation of the area. For many people, being able to visit Ban Doong and meet its welcoming villagers becomes a highlight of their trip. Ban Doong offers a view of way of life that has been unchanged for centuries.
Hang En Cave Phong Nha Tour and Trek Review
We did the Hang En cave trek on Christmas Eve and Christmas, and it was the most memorable Christmas holiday we've ever had.
The cave is just so breathtaking and out of this world.
Oxalis is a really well-organized group that works hard to ensure you have a fantastic time. When I realized my travel-sized backpack was too small to carry my belongings, the staff lent me one of their waterproof backpacks to take for the trek. One of our guides even carried the backpack of a trekker who was feeling tired.
The Porter and cooking staff are incredible. They made us a 10-course Christmas dinner for us tha blew us all away, using just a small fire inside of the cave.
Our guides Phoung and Binh were really attentive and kind, answered all of our questions, and helped us out when the trail got difficult or a river crossing was tough.
If you do this trek in the winter, bring a raincoat and some warm clothes for the evening. Also make sure you know that you will be wading through at least 20 rivers. No need to bring snacks, they have plenty of food. And they provide headlamps too.
You have to be in decent shape and/or have some experience trekking. The first hour of the trail is steeply downhill and muddy in winter. It is not technically difficult but you have to tread slowly or you will slip and fall. Asking the staff to bring you a trekking pole in advance would be helpful, but the pole is not necessary for the rest of the trail.
You get more than adequate time to explore the cave and take tons of photographs. If you come to Vietnam and are looking for an adventurous activity, make sure to check out Oxalis.
I really recommend this tour and the company, I came to Don Hoi with a friend in a train that arrived at 5am, they picked us up don the train station, gave us breakfast and then we started the tour at 8am, during the tour everything was great, well the cave and the tail to get there is really beautiful, the cave is really amazing, we spend one night in the cave, they cooked a very nice dinner and breakfast I think the group had a nice time, then when we got to Dong Hoi again, we could get a shower to wash off all the mud in their office, and when we were ready they took us to the train station again to take the next train we had organized, the tour guide even wait with us so wouldn't get the wrong train.
The personal in general is very careful and you can see they are dedicated and loving what they do, it's rare to find people so interested in your satisfaction with a service.
If you have some time to spend and the willing to take a nice hiking in the mountains of Vietnam, go to Dong Hoi and to this cave, a lot of people don't even know about this place and it's very beautiful, impressive landscape.
I would recommend this company to any one in Vietnam looking to see true untouched jungle and some of the most beautiful sights I have seen in my 8 months of traveling so far. I went on the pilot to see the worlds largest cave entrance and hang enn in phang Nha park. Worth every dollar!!!! Very rewarding experience and will hopefully do more with chau and His guys. They live by the saying take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but foot prints and I believe that is why they have such a wonderful place and trail to explore!!!!!
With the help of Oxalis , this 60+ person successfully completed the 26 km round trip trek to this amazing natural wonder. It was a trip to another world and challenged me in many ways,exactly what I hoped for. The trip leader was very conscientious, the porters were amazing and the experience was once in a lifetime. It was a two day trip, so we camped in the cave and the porters cooked an 8 course dinner of delectable Vietnamese dishes over a wood fire. They really did! It truly was an adventure and a great addition to a magical vacation in this beautiful and welcoming country. You should only consider doing this if you are fairly athletic and fit, at least at my age. It was rigorous. Oxalis Adventure Tours delivered on their promise.
One of the best adventure trips I've taken. Hang En cave is a special place and Oxalis made our trip and overnight stay an excellent experience. Vietnam at its best! Not to mention, the meals were fresh, delicious and some of the best homestyle Vietnamese food we ate during our entire time in Vietnam. Porters carry all the supplies in sandals and it is quite a sight to witness. This experience will surely be remembered as one of the most incredible treks of my life.
We decided to do a cave tour sponateously and Oxalis turned out to be extremely helpful and flexible in meeting our demands. We booked a private 2 day tour, which led us to around 6 caves in the region. Our guide was very caring and even carried the backpack of my girlfriend, when she was getting too exhausted. The cook on our campsite was amazing - I seriously got some of the best Vietnamese food in the middle of the jungle. Book a private tour if you can afford it - you won't regret it.
I did the two day Hang En trek with my brothers in late March and it was hands down the best thing we did in Vietnam! I think we got lucky and happened to visit during a time with great weather - not to cold, not too hot.
Our guide and porters were helpful and friendly, all of our food was amazing, and the trekking was incredible. The cave was unreal - the exit was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and sleeping in the huge mouth of a cave with swifts and bats above was amazing.
That said! If you're squeamish about bugs (there are leeches in the jungle!), don't like being away from the comforts of a hotel, or are in really poor shape, then the experience might be overly uncomfortable or strenuous. But if you like nature and are in reasonably good shape this is the place to be. I would recommend Oxalis and the whole Phong Nha area in a heartbeat!
We took the 2-day Hang En adventure. So happened that it was a private tour as no one else signed up.
Duc (our English-speaking guide), our two porters (T and Soi) and the ranger (Herb), were really great people. Duc and our porters were especially helpful and their singing through the trek was a joy to have. Through the brief 2-days, although limited by language, it was apparent to us how caring our porters were. They were always quick to spot leeches, plucking the
off our shoes or clothes, and they were very swift at catching my friend during the couple of times she slipped. She never got a chance to fall, the porters always caught her in time! Duc was also always ready to offer me that helpful hand. At night, he chatted with us and shed some insights on Vietnam and it's people.
Overall, our trek was at an easy pace, and we slept to the orchestration of the birds chirping away in the cave. The food was exceptional. Thoroughly impressed with our porters' cooking. It was delish!
The minority village we passed through was a great stop as well. The head village and his wife were such warm hosts, that I was looking forward to seeing them again on our hike out.
As breathtaking as the scenes were, I reckoned the team was no less amazing. These guys were great to spend days with. As a city girl with no hiking experience, these guys compensated for my breathless-self and unstable footing with their great spirits and skill. I'm already gathering hiking partners for my next trip!