Hang En Cave (Hang Én) is the world’s 3rd largest cave, succeeded only by Deer Cave in Malaysia and Hang Son Doong, also located here in the Cave Kingdom of Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
Currently considered to be the 3rd largest cave in the world after Hang Son Doong and Deer Cave in Malaysia, Hang En is quickly becoming one of the most recognisable and impressive caverns on the planet. Deep in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the two day, one night adventure has been said to have the biggest ‘wow’ factor in all of Vietnam.
The Size of Hang En Cave
Currently considered to be the third largest cave in the world, Hang En stretches for over 2km into the karsts of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. There are three entrances to Hang En, with the largest and most famous one being over 120m tall and 140m across.
With the dense jungle forming the backdrop on the outside the cave, it is a sight that must really be seen to be believed. In some sections, the chambers are 100m high and 180m wide, so vast that even the beams from powerful headlamps barely reach the edges of the walls.
Geology of the Cave
The 3 million year old wet cave was carved out by the powerful Rao Thuong River as it cuts its way through the Annamite Mountains. While the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst system in Asia, between 400-450 million years old, Hang En owes its relatively young age thanks to its location on the edge of a fault zone.
Every wet season the Rao Thuong floods to inconceivable heights, constantly eroding more and more of the limestone away as the cave continues to grow in size.
Experiencing Hang En Cave
Entering Hang En through a broad slit in the cliff, you wander through the mystical passageway towards monstrous boulders. The trail weaves its way to a high point as penetrating sunlight illuminates the way forward. Climbing over one last peak rewards you with the breathtaking view of your night’s campsite – A wide, sandy beach fringing an aquamarine lake completely engulfed by the enormous cave.
The massive chamber is not the end however, as another narrow passage takes you to the backside of Hang En. The ceiling reaches dizzying heights as you scramble up a large rocky outcrop to lay eyes upon the most surreal scene of the entire journey – The immense arched exit of the cave, its colossal size defying your perception of possibility.
Hang En Cave Discovery
Meaning ‘swift’ cave after the millions of swifts that in habit the chamber, Hang En was first explored by British caving experts in 1994, although its location has been know for centuries. Ethnic minorities from nearby villages, such as the Bru Van Kieu of Ban Doong, have used Hang En as a shelter during strong storms and as a hunting ground for local free climbers, who would scale the inverted walls to collect the nesting swifts to be eaten as a delicacy.
Ho Khanh, who discovered Hang Son Doong in 1990, explored Hang En countless times during his extensive forays into the jungle. These days the most accessible entrance to Son Doong passes directly through Hang En.
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