By Dean A. Wiseman
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng (PNKB) is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam, situated roughly halfway between the cities of Hanoi and Da Nang. The park was created to protect a vast area of karst and the accompanying forest ecosystem in the north central coast of Vietnam. PNKB is home to several caves of world renown, including most notably, the Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave System, which contains the largest known cave passage by volume. Another system of several major caves, known as the Tiger Cave System, was discovered in the late 1990s by British explorers. However, a thorough exploration and documentation of this tremendous underground watershed has yet to be completed, with many caves only partially surveyed or not surveyed at all. Thus the goal of our expedition was to initiate an effort to find, explore, and document these magnificent caves of the Tiger Cave System, building on the initial exploration effort, and the hope of initiating a long-term survey and exploration project for NSS cavers.
Importantly, our expedition was also aimed to provide mutual benefit to the companies and people of the region who depend on tourism and are taking an aggressive sustainability approach for long-term economic development of this remote region. As a result of this first expedition, we were able to identify several new and significant caves, as well as new previously unknown passage connections between caves in the system. It is clear to us that there are tremendous discoveries yet to be made in this extraordinarily diverse and magnificent part of the world.