More than 30 years of deep commitment to Quang Binh, Dr. Howard Limbert and his colleagues at the British Caving Association (BCRA) explored and searched over 300 large and small caves, contributing to the development of Quang Binh’s tourism. That journey was never over. Their feet continue their treks in the forest, looking for caves in the territory of Quang Binh.
In the last days of March 3rd, information on a cave system recently discovered by the BCRA in the Tuyen Hoa, Minh Hoa district has rekindled hope for future tourism development, creating employment for the people of these poor communities.
Most of the hundreds of caves discovered at Quang Binh have been discovered and reported by local forest workers.What about the recent caves?
This investigative trip by scientists from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand lasted three weeks, spread over three wave. We searched in Minh Hoa and Tuyen Hoa areas with the assistance of a few guides in Phong Nha. Among them, there are people whose friends live there.
This person works as a fisherman and often fishes inside the caves. After being told about the new caves by him, we decided to go and find out right away. In Lam Hoa commune (Tuyen Hoa), Hoa Son commune and Hoa Phuc commune (Minh Hoa), we found a lot of caves. This time, BCRA also discovered 2 more caves in Bo Trach district, in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (PN-KB National Park). The total number of caves explored during this expedition is 22 with a total length of 11.7km.
What an amazing result! And this journey will continue?
That’s right! There was a 278m deep cave with a waterfall flowing down and it was sure it was still deep but we didn’t have enough ropes to get to the bottom. So we’ll go back there to survey.
And there are still many caves to explore in Lam Hoa (Tuyen Hoa).
Lam Hoa probably brought many interesting things to the experts?
Extremely interesting. We had 14 days to survey the caves in this area. Around a mountainous area between Lam Hoa and Hoa Phuc communes, we found 11 large and small caves with a total length of more than 10km. And surely there will be more than that. That means there’s going to be a lot of work for us to do here.
Compared to the hundreds of caves that have been discovered before, what is special about these new caves in terms of geology and geomorphology?
These are relatively young caves and most of them are wet caves. They are small caves but quite interesting, especially compared to many caves that we have found in Quang Binh. If Son Doong, Hang En, and many other caves have only one main entrance to enter, this new cave system has many different entrances and exits. Some caves are also connected, creating many horizontal passages that make treks around the interior very enjoyable.
What about tectonics?
There are some parts of the horizontal passages that are not completely flooded, they have very beautiful tectonics. It will be interesting to explore them by sup boat.
Interesting, but do you think they are adapted to the tourist industry?
There are many caves that are completely unsuitable for tourism. But there are some caves that from experience we believe will be interesting for visitors to explore. Unlike in Hang En or Son Doong, these caves will be very suitable for the experience of rowing sup boats inside the cave. I think it’s going to be a great adventure. However, before organizing tours, we need to research and thoroughly check the safety, ceiling height, and flow … We would like to return to the area to give suggestions on which caves can exploit tourist activities, such as camping in the cave, organizing 1, 2 or 3 day tours.
However, I also hope Quang Binh can enrich tourism products, not only stopping at cave exploration but letting visitors come here to experience many other activities, such as kayaking, cycling, climbing, and walking through the forest. We have enough potential to do that.
But to exploit tourism, the potential alone is not enough!
Certainly! Exploiting the potential for tourism development needs to be associated with safety, conservation, environmental protection, and the participation of local communities. If you don’t have the local community on your side, creating jobs for them, and giving them a livelihood, then you certainly won’t be able to succeed.
For the caves that we have just discovered, if they are put into tourism exploitation, it will create more jobs for people here. But it is not something that can be said to be done immediately, it takes time, from setting up and building tours to training and training them. Through 3 weeks of working with the people here, I believe they will be great road friends of visitors. Because there will be nothing more exciting than going into the forest with someone who knows about the forest.
Based on your experience in searching caves around the world, how would you rate the value of the cave system at Quang Binh?
Do you know how lucky you are? Because if in the UK, the temperature in the cave is only 5 degree, no one wants to go there. The cave in Quang Binh is 22 degree, very suitable for examination and experience activities. And moreover, there is no place in the world that can compare with Quang Binh in terms of cave size, especially in the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park area, where Hang En, Son Doong cave etc…
Some provinces in Vietnam have also discovered many beautiful caves, such as Lang Son, Cao Bang, Thanh Hoa … The caves of North Central and Northern Vietnam are just as beautiful as anywhere else, if not the most beautiful in the world.
The greatest beauty in the world?
That’s right! I know that for a fact. This isn’t about me being biased, purely objective.
Do you think there will be an uncharted cave in the world that is as valuable or even better than Son Doong?
I don’t think there’s anything like Son Doong in the world because it’s really special. And often such large caves have already been explored because it is not difficult to find them.
What about Vietnam?
In Vietnam, this is the most likely region, because there is so much left undiscovered. Up to 70% of the area of PN-KB National Park we have never set foot and searched for caves because it is so large and very remote. Looking at the map, based on the geology, I would say no. But you can never say no to caves. And interesting things await us ahead.
What do you intend to do for the foreseeable future?
In the short term, around May 5 and 6, we will work with representatives of PN-KB National Park to work with national parks in the UK to share together how to operate and develop the value of national parks. After that, I want to go back to Lam Hoa to continue my research.
You mentioned your desire for Vietnamese citizenship. Has that plan proved successful?
I applied for Vietnamese citizenship but had a bit of a glitch. However, I will not give up on that idea.
Thank you for your interesting sharing! I wish him good health and more success!
(According to Dieu Huong, Quang Binh News)