Exploring a cave in Dong Nai Province Vietnam
Not far from the Cat Tien National Park and other popular tourist spots in Dong Nai Province such as Mai Mountain, Dinh Quan volcano, “Da Ba Chong” (Three Overlapped Stones) town, located the caves, which are the shelters of the bats, waiting to be explored.
Exploring a cave
It was an expected discovery, but it was still fun. It also gave us the chance to experience a discovery tour.
We had to pass a teak tree forest whose wood is used to make gun-stock. Being unable to find the entry, we had to ask local people for directions. Fortunately, we found a family who has had numerous experiences guiding curious travelers.
When we arrived at the cave everyone climbed down eagerly, feeling surprised even at the beginning. We had not expected such a large entrance, which was like a big mouth, about 10 meters wide, which seemed to ‘swallow’ us. Even at the cave entry we could feel the cold inside.
Everything was dark. When Quan, our path-finder saw our travel flashlights, which shone two delicate spots of light, he laughed and told us to turn them off and turned on his big flashlights.
We walked silently into the cave. The further we went, the darker it became.
Quan said that in the past, several foreigners and groups of travelers had brought with them gas lamps whose wickes are soaked with mantle for enough light to discover the entire cave. Unfortunately, on one occasion, the lamp had suddenly exploded, which had been a frightening experience, though luckily no one had died.
The atmosphere was getting heavier, not only due to lack of air but also with the smell of the “winged-inhabitants” hidden somewhere inside. For this reason, according to our traveling partner, cave discoverers would be better off using a torch instead of a flashlight, because when the torch dies out, we will know that the air has run out and it’s time to go back.
After a time we felt something wet and cold underfoot, and found we were stepping in water. The children explained that was because of the rainy season, the water had spilled inside and we were advised not to continue. However, we managed to persuade them to go on a little further with us.
Wondering why we could smell the bats but not see any, we were told by Quan that we need to go deeper into the cave. Local hunters also usually hunt bats in this cave.
As we walked on a little further Quan showed us where the cave branches started, which would lead us onto the ground. The branches in cave are connected to other caves throughout the forest. From appearances we guessed that there were about two or three caves, as it was there are in fact seven caves.
After 20 more minutes of walking, the path became slippery and it was getting very stuffy. That was our signal to stop! We regretfully resigned ourselves to coming back another time to finish our exploration. According to Quan, in the sunny season, with sufficient equipment, it will only take us about 45 minutes to finish.
“Awakening” cave travel
After our trip, we learnt that there are actually seven caves in this area. According to Buu Ngon, a professional traveler, these caves originated from volcanoes. After the volcanoes erupted the lava on the ground became solid, however underground it was still liquid and flowed downwards into shape caves. The difference is that, unlike other caves, these are smooth and have no stalactites.
Not far from the Cat Tien National Park and other popular tourist spots in Dong Nai such as Mai Mountain, Dinh Quan volcano, “Da Ba Chong” town, these caves have potential as an ecotourism destination. While there are already some travel agencies organizing tours to the caves, the caves have not yet found their niche in the tourism market as most tourists who come here are interested in the local country side, or are professional travelers and students.
In May 2007, when planning a major tourism route project, a group from the Department of Trade and Tourism of Dong Nai, including representatives from related departments and branches, surveyed the seven caves (in the village No.2, Phu Lan Commune, Dinh Quan District) to complete the “Dong Nai tourism development until 2010, heading to 2020” project. Hopefully, in the future tourists, especially those interested in eco tourism, will have an additional option in Dong Nai.