Worlds largest cave with own ecosystem where humanity has rarely ventured

A cave so enormous it has its own beach, river and jungle, was only ventured into for the first time 14 years ago and holds secrets of time.

Intrepid travellers must negotiate two miles of passages to reach Hang Son Doong in Vietnam. It’s 660ft high, 500ft wide and three miles long. Daylight pours in through two giant fissures. It has its own river, jungle and clouds – and monkeys drop in from the jungle above.

Farmer Ho Khanh found the cave, located in Phong Nha Ke-Bang National park, as a boy while collecting firewood and rediscovered it in 1991. Now he runs £1,800 tours there.

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Howard Limbert, leader of the caving team that mapped Son Doong, described the cave, saying: "There is nowhere like this place anywhere in the world.

"It is not just the size – though it does matter (as they say) – but the variety of unusual and amazing locations within the cave, such as swimming pools in the dark and 400-million-year-old fossils."

British cavers first entered Hang Son Doong in 2009 but it has only been open to tourists since late 2013.

The cave is five times the size of Malaysia’s Deer Cave, which previously held the title of world’s biggest cave.

It was formed between 2-5 million years ago due to erosion of limestone by river water underneath the mountain above.

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Australian photographer John Spiers ventured to the cave in 2015.

He said: "The dimensions of the cave are incredible – and to camp for five nights in the biggest cave in the world is not something most of get to do in our lifetime.”

Swiss photographer Urs Zihlmann described his trip to the cave in 2016.

"As we approached the entrance, clouds were rising from the cave into the surrounding forest – we had to descend 262ft down a steep wall, using harnesses and ropes," he said.

"Standing on the slippery ground in a huge, dark chamber, you begin to realise how amazing it is."

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