Hang Toi is a cave excursion like no other, filled with thrill seeking mud, zip lines, kayaking and more, this is on the higher end of budget activities, but is definitely an excursion you don’t want to miss if visiting Phong Nha Vietnam.
Getting There: 30 Minute drive southwest of Phong Nha town, if you aren’t riding a motorbike your best option is to get on a tour, I’d strongly recommend doing it yourself as it is much less expensive.
Costs: entrance fee is 450,000 VND during high season and ($18), low season 250,000 VND ($11).
Suggested Time: tours arrive in the afternoon so if you are doing it yourself head there early morning.
Additional Information: don’t take anything valuable into the cave, you’re going into a giant mud bath, Gopro’s should survive but avoid submerging them. Only wear dark swimwear and give it a thorough wash immediately after otherwise it will be stained.
The Dark Cave is every thrill seekers dream come true: the cave tour has been adapted to incorporate kayaking, mudslides and the longest zipline in Vietnam. It is such an extreme tour and activity that when you arrive at the entrance and pay you’ll be asked to sign a waiver; this is the only place I’ve ever signed a waiver in Asia including some dicey cave activities in Sagada, Philippines… so you know you’re in for a bit of thrill.
On arrival you may have to wait a short for a group to form for the tour guides to take you, tour guides are included in the cost of admission. To get into the Dark Cave you start off with the longest zipline in all of Vietnam, a twin zipline stretching over 400 meters across the Chay River. Strapping into the zipline is the first jolt of adrenaline, standing high above the river looking over to the entrance of the cave you just have to take the plunge.
Soaring above the river is exhilarating, it takes about a minute to fly down the length of the zipline to the entrance of the Dark Cave. The opening to the dark cave is fairly big and there is a wooden walkway that leads about 100 meters into the cave. Once at the end of the boardwalk the only light you’ll have is the headtorch on your helmet, it’s amazing how dark the cave actually is when the natural light runs out.
Venturing through the cave with only a head torch illuminating your path is intimidating, the cave passages are slippery and there are a lot of low hanging stalactites, so watch your head as you clamber through. Slowly the passages get narrower and and your feet will start to sink into the mud. As you continue through the narrowing crevice the mud gets deeper and deeper until the cavern suddenly opens up into an olympic swimming pool sized mud bath.
The mud is at least a meter deep and wading through it is an arduous task. It’s a completely natural phenomenon, the mud looks like a chocolate river and is of such a consistency that you cannot sink to the bottom. It’s a surreal experience floating in the rich chocolate mud, which is incidentally an excellent exfoliant for your skin. Whatever you do don’t submerge your head under it as you will never get all the mud out of your ears or nose.
After 40 minutes of floating in the mud it’s time to clamber out of the muddy bath as elegantly as possible, and not surprisingly there is no elegant way to get out of this muddy paradise. On the walk back to the cave opening we took a slightly different route, as a result we could slide down a 20 meter natural mud slide straight into a small lagoon below.
Once out of the cave we jumped straight into the turquoise blue Chay River to wash as much of the mud off as possible. The river is refreshingly cold, in other words it’s absolutely freezing, so after a short wash off we jumped in kayaks to paddle back to the entrance and the parking lot. At the end of the tour just before leaving there is a small adventure ground, with ziplines running into the river and a couple of high wire obstacle courses, how much more fun can you have in one day!
You can spend as much time as you like messing around on the ziplines and in the river, after another hour we had had our fill of excitement for one day so jumped on the bikes and headed back to town. Honestly the dark cave is an amazing experience and although it’s a little bit pricier compared to other entrance fees around Vietnam it is well worth the money for the level of excitement you have throughout the day! Phong Na Tourism & Dark Cave website.