“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Joseph Campbell

Vietnam is not only known among people worldwide as the tiny land that has challenged American military strength and political  concepts but also as the natural  pearl. It is hidden among rich natural parks, beautiful landscapes, mystical rain forests with millennial old trees, breathtaking beaches and protected wildlife. Once you are there, you feel all the vibes of the wildness and you think you have always been there, in harmony with the world that is awaking up slowly, for thousand years.  The alluring texture of the country is mesmerising, shy but intensive. The love you have for Vietnam is one that will burn your heart for eternity.

The discovery of the world largest cave the Son Doong  in Vietnam has inspired many people to keep dreaming about the unknown universe of natural beauty, suddenly offered by scientists. The cave has been found back in 1991 by one local explorer, Ho Khanh. In 2009, a British expedition lead by Howard Limbert got into the cave’s interior, giving the first impressions about the size of the new cave.  Not long after, the scientists concluded  that the Son Doong is 9 km long, 200 m in width and about 150 in height. That was enough to put her on the top and the Malaysia’s Deer Cave on the second place.  According to scientific writing, the cave has its own unique ecosystem:“It is home to a river, jungles, and entire cave ecosystems. Only slightly less remarkable is the fact that, until 2009, we did not even know how grandiose and impressive Son Doong (or Mountain River) Cave really is.The water and limestone that carved it over millions of slow, patient years have created spectacular and unique formations. Occasional collapses in the roof have allowed underground jungle ecosystems to form, and with them, all-new species that have never been seen anywhere else. Rare cave pearls, ancient fossils, and towering stalactites form around a river running through the caves, which are so large that they form their own clouds.”

There are some mysteries about this marvellous cave. First of all, it has been hidden for so many decades and peasant Ho Khanh ,who has been searching once a shelter from the rain,  stumbled on the great jaws of the wild and angry nature. The tale about Son Doong has been born.  Some geologists have claimed that the  mentioned cave has been formed for about 2 – 5 millions years and that the permanent erosion and water influence have shaped the perfect tunnel.  Just to imagine its glory, we should think that it has been called THE Great Wall OF VIETNAM and THE GARDEN OF EDEN.  It is not only about its untouched and rare harmony but about the fact that biodiversity in this cave is one of a kind. It could be probably because the human race has been out of this paradise on the Earth and could have not ruined the natural order as it is for centuries.

The cave’s jewels are also very authentic and there are some evidences that cave pearls are as big as baseball.  The  whole new world has been unveiled und unavailable for human race for such a long period of time and now it is opened, naked and endangered to be sent into the commercial jeopardy and total destruction because of the greedy corporations, uneducated local tribes and tourists without basic respect for natural miracles.  If we keep in mind that skilled British guiders organise the visit for everyone who has to pay about USD $3,000, it is not difficult to suppose where the Mountain River Cave will end up in some years from now. It is actually a crime against our Planet and its ecosystem. The people themselves are so ignorant and interest oriented that they will do all what is possible to turn stones into gold and cave jewels into millions of dollars. It is only about profit and Vietnam grotto will be just one more victim on the Altair of human bestiality.

I am afraid even to think about so many visitors over there, who are tracing the lost treasures of the Son Doong cave, turning their cheap values into the unforgetable  experience that will distract the texture  of the nature over there and will leave the footprints of human superiority. Unfortunately, there are not many of those who have money and high awareness at the same time, majority of rich and spoiled human beings will behave in this cave like gladiators in  antique arena. They will take it, conquer it and forget it as soon as the credit card doesn’t note anymore missing  USD $3,000.

It makes me sad, as any of us who are deep in wildlife conservation, that every time the scenario is the same. The science makes progress and lights on the diamonds of the nature but mass is trying to turn it into everyday menu, to unveil it and digest for a fun. It is not depth in such approach but only corrosive ego that ruins all what could be ruined and as soon as it possible.

The travel portals list this destination as one of the hottest, that has to be on everyone’s Bucket list. This further means that this cave, north of Hoi An,  is expected to  draw 1.35 million tourists by 2030. It is very ambitious plan that requires a lot of logistic support and operational background. There have been some suggestions to build a cable car network that has caused a lot of arguments and disagreements and it has been stopped for now. The environmentalists do not give up to condemn the mass tourism and its malign impact on the vulnerability of the mammoth cave systems found in the jungles of Vietnam.  The project of infrastructure and potential construction of cable car transport within the cave could bring the new 2.000 jobs to the poor community but it would damage the fragile cave interior design and dynamic of wildlife. It would be like we have let the Hell into the Heaven without taking any responsibility.

My point is not about banning tourism in this region but about keeping it under rational control and balance.  The tourism should not be a terrorism against the Earth. We have only one Planet and we are continually destroying it and sucking its energy, blood and hope. If we don’t stop, we will be gone like dust in the wind, in one second, as the species that has never understood the  life circle, the symbiosis.



  1. Sarah’s poignant and relative article reminded me of the ongoing damage to regional Vietnamese ecosystems borne of the legacy of the US-military’s chemical and biological weapons campaigns during The Vietnam War (1961-1973).

    During the Vietnam War, Quảng Bình Province (i.e. where Sơn Đoòng Cave is located) was the most heavily-bombed area of Vietnam by US-B-52s, due to its strategic location. Consequently, this had devastating effects upon the biodiversity of the region; not to mention upon the civilian population. It was a war crime, but the US-government refused to allow its military personnel and politicians to be tried for war crimes in The Hague.

    Between 1961 and 1971, US-military forces dispersed more than 7.2 million litres (19 million gallons) of herbicidal agents over The Republic of Vietnam; including more than 4.6 million litres (12 million gallons) of the dioxin-contaminant commonly known as ‘Agent Orange’.

    One of the most controversial aspects of the US-military effort in South East Asia was the widespread use of chemical defoliants. They were used to defoliate large parts of the countryside to prevent the Viet Cong from being able to hide their weapons and encampments under the foliage. These chemicals continue to change the landscape, cause diseases and birth defects and poison the food chain…

    US-Corporations like Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto were given the task of developing herbicides for this purpose. The British-military had used defoliants on a large scale throughout The Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, in order to destroy bushes, crops, and trees, in effort to deny Communist insurgents the concealment they needed to ambush passing military convoys. This resulted in widespread damage to biodiversity.

    US-President Kennedy authorised the use of chemical weapons to destroy rice crops. Between 1961 and 1967, the US-Air Force sprayed 75.7 million litres (20 million gallons) of concentrated herbicides over 24,000 km2 (6 million acres) of crops and trees; affecting an estimated 15% of the land in the southern regions of Vietnam. In 1965, 42% of all herbicide was sprayed over food crops. Another aspect was to drive civilian populations into US-controlled areas.

    Vietnamese victims affected by Agent Orange attempted a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical and other US-chemical manufacturers, but US-District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein dismissed their case. They appealed, but the dismissal was confirmed in 2008 by the US-Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of the Federal judicial system.

    As of 2006, the Vietnamese government estimates that there are over 4,000,000 victims of dioxin poisoning in Vietnam; although, the US-government denies any conclusive scientific links between Agent Orange and the Vietnamese victims of dioxin poisoning. In some areas of southern Vietnam, dioxin levels remain at over 100 times the accepted International Standard…


  2. Thank you, Sarah, for this educational and beautiful article !

    Our planet is a beautiful place and has a lot to offer. Sadly, the arrogance and selfishness of most humans have destroyed too much.

    I totally concur with you as to the fact that tourism within the newly-discovered cave has to be limited. We, humans, should strive to keep nature pristine and should not interfere with it !

    What a well-written article, Sarah ! As for the concomitant illustrations, they are perfect as always !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !