When a local man discovered the entrance to Vietnam’s Son Doong cave in 1991, it appeared infinite. He feared the giant precipice that descended nearly 300 feet below him. For 18 more years, the cave remained unexplored. Then, in 2009, two British cavers dropped into Son Doong and discovered the largest cave on Earth.
The Son Doong is over 5.5 miles long and could fit a 40-story skyscraper within its walls. It contains giant stalactites, waterfalls and a jungle that is known as the Garden of Edam with native animals like flying foxes, monkeys and hornbills thriving inside the cavern’s lush landscape.
Now, for the first time in history, the cave will be open to the public. A tour company called Oxalis is running trial tours of the cave and accepting sign-ups for real six-day tours to take place next year.
Tourists will trek the stunning cavern by day and sleep on the cave’s sandy beaches at night. On their first night inside the cave, visitors will camp near Hand of Dog, a giant stalagmite that looks like a dog's paw. The cave contains two underground sinkholes with cliffs as high as 800 feet and a “Great Wall of Vietnam” that is over 15 stories high. Fields of algae from ancient pools blanket sections of the cave's interior and rare pearls of calcite crystals coat the cave walls.
Take a look through these photos and transport yourself into the seemingly infinite Son Doong cave. To book a tour, visit the Oxalis website. Tours cost $3,000 and include a week of travel inside the cave. Only 220 tourists will be able to visit the cave in 2014, so be sure to book well in advance.