Aerial tour over Vietnam’s famed caves suspended, awaits helicopters

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A helicopter lands outside Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province as part of an aerial tour in April 2014. Photo: Lam Giang/Tuoi Tre A helicopter lands outside Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province as part of an aerial tour in April 2014. Photo: Lam Giang/Tuoi Tre

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The organizers of a helicopter tour to the world famous cave system in Phong Nha-Ke Bang in Central Vietnam have stopped offering it after three trips saying they can no longer afford it.
Nguyen Chau A, manager of Oxalis Adventure Tours Company, told Tuoi Tre newspaper Saturday that they can no longer afford the high cost of bringing helicopters from Hanoi (500 km away).
The company expects to have helicopters based in the area and resume the tour next year, he said.
The three trips in April with 66 tourists saw the helicopters fly around the 85,700 hectare (211,769-acre) park in Quang Binh Province and over the Garden of Edam – a jungle inside Son Doong, the world’s largest cave.
They then landed at the entrance of En (Swift) Cave so that the visitors could explore the cave which runs 1,645 meters back into a mountain.
En cave is a feeder for Son Doong and was once called one of the most captivating caves on earth by National Geographic. A Warner Bros film crew scouted the cave last May for a film about Peter Pan.

A helicopter lands outside En Cave during an aerial tour over Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province in April 2014. Photo: Lam Giang/Tuoi Tre

The tourists also went to Tu Lan, a 200-hectare karst cavern that lies low and flooded outside Phong Nha-Ke Bang.
Each trip with 22 people cost US$3,400 an hour.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang was named a UNESCO heritage site in 2003 thanks to its 300 caves and grottos dating back some 400 million years.
One of them, the five-kilometer-long Son Doong, which is 150 meters high and 200 meters wide, took over as the world’s largest from Deer Cave in Malaysia, which is 148 meters high and 142 meters wide at the widest part.
The cave opened to tourists in August last year but was closed last September, and is expected to reopen next January for eight tours a month with around 10 people each.
Son Doong and many other caves were discovered by local man Ho Khanh, but they did not gain international recognition until the British Cave Research Association explored them years ago with Khanh’s help.
 

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