6 Safe Caving Vacations & Spelunking Trips | Explore SE Asia

Caving vacations-South East Asia cave tour-Featured photo-Xe Bang Fai river tunnel

Beat the summer heat by going underground on any of these six caving vacations, designed to satisfy the most adventurous cave explorer as well as the most safety-minded spelunker. View ancient formations and float down a hidden river in Palawan, Philippines, or photograph limestone cliffs during an off-the-beaten-path spelunking trip to Xe Bang Fai Cave in Khammouane Province, Laos.

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11 essential tips for safe caving vacations

  1. Take a hard helmet equipped with a light and chin strap.
  2. Keep at least two sources of backup lighting with extra batteries.
  3. Wear sturdy shoes with good traction on the bottoms.
  4. Wear jeans or long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Take an extra sweatshirt as cave temperatures drop can get chilly.
  5. Take food and water.
  6. Wear a good pair of gloves to keep your hands warm and protected.
  7. Take a large plastic trash bag for waterproofing items, if necessary.
  8. Wear knee and elbow pads.
  9. Take a first aid kit.
  10. Carry a compass or GPS device.
  11. Tour an established cave.

Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Son Doong Cave-Hang Son Doong

1. Son Doong Cave (Hang Son Doong) | Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

Discovered in 1991 in the heart of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Son Doong Cave has developed into one of the safest and most popular caving holidays in Southeast Asia. Adventures through Son Doong Cave incorporate trekking, rafting – and even repelling, for the more adventurous spelunker. Cave explorers will discover majestic stalactites and epic stalagmites during dimly-lit jaunts along a fast-flowing river. Cave tours also include a jungle hike through Ban Doong village.

Best time for spelunking tours of Son Doong Cave

Son Doong Cave tours are best from February to August when the weather is dry. February through April are the coolest months for caving holidays in Vietnam.

How to get to Soon Doong Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Domestic flights to nearby Dong Hoi are available through Vietnam Airlines. From Dong Hoi, cave explorers can take the train or a bus to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and Son Doong Cave. The journey takes about 1.5 hours.

Check In to Luxe Hotel, Step Out to Son Doong Cave

Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Luxe Hotel

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Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Xe Bang Fai Cave-Tham Khoun Xe

2. Xe Bang Fai Cave (Tham Khoun Xe) | Khammouane Province, Laos

At 7 kilometers long, 76 meters wide and 56 meters high on average, Xe Bang Fai Cave is ranked as one of the largest river caves on the planet! Located alongside the Xe Bangfai River in Hin Nammo National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area, Xe Bang Fai Cave is one of the most beautiful places to photograph in Laos. Kayak through limestone cliffs to discover a thriving jungle hidden inside this natural wonderland.

Best time for cave exploring in Laos at Xe Bang Fai Cave

Dry season in southern Laos lasts from November to April, which is the best time to explore Xe Bang Fai Cave and Hin Nammo National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area. Avoid this cave tour from June to October when annual rains produce swift-flowing waters in Xe Bangfai River.

How to get to Hin Nammo National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area

Take the bus from Vientiane to Thakaek. The journey takes about five hours. From Thakaek, hire a taxi or tuk tuk to drive to Xe Bang Fai Cave.

Check In to Mekong Hotel, Step Out to Thakaek

Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Mekong Hotel

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Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Sarawak Chamber-Gunung Mulu National Park

3. Gunung Mulu National Park | Sarawak, Malaysia

The world’s largest cave chamber can be found in Gunung Mulu National Park, where adventurous spelunkers flock for one of the best cave tours on (well, technically it’s under) the earth! Embark on a four-hour jungle trek that leads to Sarawak Chamber. Then make your way across a three-kilometer walkway to Deer Cave, where you can try to count bats at night and deer by day while viewing a mesmerizing sinkhole. Simon’s Cave, famous for its natural “sprinkler system” during rainy season, is accessible by boat, and don’t forget to explore Good Luck Cave (Gua Nasib Bagus), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Best time for caving vacations at Gunung Mulu National Park

Cave exploring at Gunung Mulu National Park is a treat year ’round! Take advantage of drier and cooler weather from October to June, and book accommodations in advance. The area is popular for caving holidays, and guest houses are limited.

How to get to Gunung Mulu National Park

Take a direct flight to Kota Kinabalu International Airport and catch the airport shuttle to Gunung Mulu National Park. Domestic travelers can land at Mulu Airport, which sits next to the park.

Check In to Purnama Hotel Limbang, Step Out to Gunung Mulu National Park

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Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

4. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park | Palawan, Philippines

Discover a complex eco-system that is home to hundreds of unique underground dwellers that cave explorers can see in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the Puerta Princessa cave system stretches for more than 24 kilometers, and 8.2 kilometers are claimed by the longest navigable underground river channel in the world. Pass through Saint Paul Underground River Cave to view fossil formations, small waterfalls and a variety of diverse animals and plants. The river flows directly under Saint Paul Mountain range and is one of the only underground rivers that empties into the sea.

Best time for spelunking tours in the Philippines

January to April offers dry weather and cooler caving adventures. Tours are available all year, but during rainy season from May to December, spelunkers should know that the river flows faster and is a bit choppier.

How to get to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

For an added element of adventure, spelunkers who land at Puerto Princesa International Airport book a scenic boat tour from Puerto Princesa Port to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Likewise, Lexxus Shuttle Services – Puerto provides van rides from the airport to Sabang. Shuttles leave every two hours. The drive is about 2 hours.

Check In to Julieta’s Pension House, Step Out to Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Julieta's Pension House

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Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Chiang Dao Cave

5. Chiang Dao Cave | Chiang Mai, Thailand

Take a DIY cave tour of two main caverns – Tham Phra Nawn and Tham Seua Dao – in Chiang Dao Cave, inside the Doi Chiang Dao mountain range in Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary. Or hire a guide for an off-the-beaten-path caving adventure in Tham Maa, Tham Naam and Tham Kaew caves. Cave explorers who opt for the five-cave tour can expect narrow walkways, unmarked pitfalls, an underground river and jaw-dropping natural formations.

Best time for caving vacations at Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary

Chiang Dao Cave is open all year and inside temperatures remain cool during most seasons. However, rains during summer months can make the caves quite humid.

How to get to Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary

Hire a driver at Chiang Mai International Airport. Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary is a one-hour drive from Chiang Mai.

Check In to Azalea Village, Step Out to Chiang Dao Cave

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6. Liang Bua Cave (Hobbit Cave) | Flores, Indonesia

Take an educational spelunking tour in one of the world’s most important archaeological sites at Liang Bua Cave. The famous site on Flores Island retained the nickname Hobbit Cave in 2003 after fossilized bones of what appeared to be a smaller human species were found more than 20 feet under the cave’s surface. Once used as a school, a place of religious worship and a dwelling for locals, Liang Bua Cave is one of the area’s most historic cultural and geological landmarks.

Best time for caving vacations at Liang Bua Cave (Hobbit Cave)

Hobbit Cave is open all year. For cooler temperatures, book a cave tour between October and April.

How to get to Liang Bua Cave (Hobbit Cave)

Liang Bua Cave is 13 kilometers from Ruteng, where spelunkers can hire a local driver. The drive to Hobbit Cave takes about 40 minutes.

Check In to Sylvia Hotel Maumere, Step Out to Flores

Caving vacations-spelunking tours-Sylvia Hotel Maumere

Discover more guest houses fit for caving vacations in Ruteng

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