Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

Son Doong Cave Is So Big It Has Its Own Rainforest

By: Ashley Gabriel

This amazing cave also houses an impressive eco-system.

August 01, 2019

The Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the largest cave passage in the world. This huge and intricate cave system was created by water that percolated down from a rainforest above, ultimately carving into the rock. Deep inside the cave sits a flourishing jungle, which grows 200 meters below ground level in an area where the cave roof has collapsed. Home to an impressive eco-system with a dangerous system of pathways, this rainforest is quite the destination. To date, only explorers and very few tourists have laid eyes on it. Would you dare to be one of them?

Photo by: Getty Images

Getty Images

An Accidental Discovery

For a cave that's located inside of an UNESCO listed park, Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang, it's quite shocking that it was first discovered only 3 decades ago - on accident by a local farmer. In 1990, while seeking shelter from a storm in the jungle, Ho Khanh stumbled upon this 3-million-year-old natural wonder and reported it to the British Caving Research Association. Unfortunately, however, Khanh lost track of the cave's exact location and it took almost 2 more decades for Son Doong cave to be rediscovered. Unbelievably, in 2008, Ho Khanh stumbled upon the elusive cave once again! Luckily he remembered the location this time around and experts finally began exploring, eventually determining Son Doong to be the largest cave in the world.

Inside of a Rainforest, Inside of a Cave

Appropriate to its record-breaking size, Son Doong also houses an impressive eco-system. Not only does it have its own localized weather system, but this massive cave is home to the largest stalagmite ever found, nicknamed "Hand of Dog," and a cave floor littered with rare limestone pearls. But all of that isn't even close to everything Son Doong has to offer — this fascinating cave system has its very own rainforest, the Garden of Edam.

With time, collapsed ceilings have created holes called dolines, allowing lush foliage to grow and creating a remote and dangerously inaccessible jungle. Son Doong's rainforest is home to flying foxes and endangered tigers, as well as rare langurs and trees as tall as buildings. On bright days sunbeams stream through the dolines, illuminating carpets of moss below on a section of the cave nicknamed "Watch Out for Dinosaurs." Since 2012, one tour company called Oxalis has been taking a strict number of tourists per year into Son Doong — a treacherous five-day trek that only a lucky few will ever experience.

This article first appeared on Curiosity.com.

Next Up

Meet the First 6 Awardees of The Explorers Club Discovery Expedition Grant Program

Today, The Explorers Club, a non-profit world leader in exploration, and Discovery Channel announced the first class of awardees to receive approximately a quarter of a million dollars collectively to fund their expeditions. Let’s meet The Explorers Club Discovery Grant awardees.

Are These Hills in India Magnetic, Supernatural, or Just an Illusion?

What’s the secret behind these magnetic hills? Are they really magnetic? Well, there are a few interesting theories. While most locals claim that these hills have a magnetic force that is strong enough to pull cars uphill, others are more skeptical.

Adventure and Exploration in Israel’s Ancient Deserts

Israel is a country packed full of history and culture. Head out on an adventure to discover ancient ruins, crumbling monasteries, and lush oases.

Chichen Itza's El Castillo is a Pyramid in a Pyramid in a Pyramid

If researchers can reach it, it could tell them important things about the early people who built it.

This World-Famous Chicago Skyscraper Can Sway Up to 3 Feet in the Wind

Constructing this tower was a major feat of engineering.

You Can Visit The World's Oldest Library in Fez, Morocco

Check out rare books at the world's oldest continually operating library.

The City Of Troy Was Real. The Trojan Horse? Not So Much.

Turns out the epic wooden horse that gave the Greeks their victory was all a myth.

The World's Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge Is a Terrifying Path Through a Swiss Valley

Learn about the world's longest pedestrian bridge at Discovery.com

Austria's Grüner See Has A Park That's Underwater All Summer

This emerald-green lake is one of Austria's most beautiful bodies of water.