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Brief history

Since time immemorial the underground river emerging at Phong Nha Cave has held a mystical fascination for the local population. The earliest-known devotees were ninth- and tenth-century Cham people, followed by Vietnamese who petitioned the guardian spirits during periods of drought, with great success by all accounts. When Europeans started exploring the caves early in the twentieth century it’s said the rainmaker took everlasting umbrage. However, the explorers were undeterred and by the 1950s, tunnels 2km long had been surveyed and the number of visitors warranted the construction of a small hotel. Owing to the intervening wars, when Phong Nha provided safe warehousing – you can see evidence of an American rocket attack on the cliff above the cave entrance – nothing further happened until a British expedition was allowed to investigate in 1990. They began pushing upriver, eventually penetrating deep into the limestone massif.