BBC To Premiere Globally Documentary On Phong Nha – Ke Bang

A film crew from the BBC Landmark Natural History Series is making a documentary about the Vietnamese world heritage site Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park in the central province of Quang Binh.

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Photo by Ryan Deboodt
Photo by Ryan Deboodt

A documentary about Vietnam’s world natural heritage Phong Nha-Ke Bang is being made by the BBC Landmark Natural History Series film crew to be shown to the global audiences, the Quang Binh Provincial Department of Tourism said on Tuesday.

This information was unveiled by Dang Dong Ha, deputy director of Quang Binh Provincial Department of Tourism, on February 22.

The film crew went to Phong Nha – Ke Bang to shoot scenes of the world’s largest cave, the cave’s unique ecosystem, and images of the limestone and tropical forests of the park, as well as the flora and fauna system that can be found there.

Thomas Webb, a producer for the BBC, extended his thanks to local authorities for their support in the filming process, saying BBC members were amazed by the magical natural beauty that could be found inside the cave system, as well as the range of primeval forests, diverse, and unique ecosystems of Phong Nha – Ke Bang.

Ho An Phong, vice chairman of Quang Binh’s Provincial People’s Committee, emphasized that the locality has always created the optimal conditions possible for domestic and international film crews to make films on the national park, which has been twice recognized by UNESCO as a world natural heritage site.

The film is scheduled to be released by the BBC in the fourth quarter of this year and is expected to reach 500 million viewers worldwide.

Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park – A Wonderful Destination of Vietnam

Photo: Rough Guides
Photo: Rough Guides

Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Southeast Asia. Due to the long, thin geographical characteristics of the north and south, the differences between the northern and southern regions of Vietnam are evident. From the northern capital city of Hanoi, where European architecture stands out, to Da Nang, a well-known resort area in central Vietnam, to Ho Chi Minh, the largest commercial city in the south of the country – each region is filled with exciting opportunities for exploration. The northern region of Sapa is renowned for hiking, while the majestic island chain of Ha Long Bay is one of the world’s finest spots for scuba divers and photographers. If you’re looking for a laid-back trip with excellent beaches, the southern island of Phu Quoc is highly recommended.

Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003, the remarkable Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems – many of extraordinary scale and length – and spectacular underground rivers, Phong Nha is a speleologists’ heaven on earth.

Photo by Ryan Deboodt
Photo by Ryan Deboodt

The Phong Nha region is changing fast. Son Trach town (population 3000) is the main center, with an ATM, a growing range of accommodation and eating options, and improving transport links with other parts of central Vietnam.

The caves are the region’s absolute highlights, but the above-ground attractions of forest trekking, the area’s war history, and rural mountain biking mean it deserves a stay of around three days, according to Lonely Planet.

The stunning 400-million-year-old limestone karst landscape is littered with caves and underground rivers – and every year more are being discovered, surveyed, and opened to the public. At more than 5km long, and comfortably able to fit a New York City block within its expanse, Son Doong Cave is the best known.

If you have a spare US$3000 you can try and bag a place on the five-day expedition that Oxalis organize to its remote location. There’s also talk of a planned cable car that will ferry thousands of people to the entrance. This will detract from the feeling of discovering a lost world, though, so if that’s what you’re hankering after, best visit sooner rather than later.

Photo: Vietravel
Photo: Vietravel

With a little less cash and advanced planning, you can visit the beautiful Phong Nha Cave, which is closest to Phong Nha town and only accessible by dragon boat from the little jetty here. Dark Cave (Hang Toi) involves a zip line, a muddy exploration, a cold swim, and a short kayak trip, while Paradise Cave is a huge dry cavern with a deceptively tiny entrance. The latter has mind-blowing stalactite and stalagmite formations, which can be viewed from a boardwalk. Other caverns, such as Hang Va and Hang En, require some demanding trekking, according to Rough Guides.

Phong Nha’s incredible biodiversity includes globally threatened large-antlered muntjacs, langurs, macaques, and Asian black bears, not to mention hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Only a fraction of the park is open to tourists, but it’s free to enter – you only pay for the specific attractions – and phenomenal views open across the rugged landscape from the 65km loop via Highway 20 and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The botanical gardens are 12km from town and you can explore on foot, scrambling down to Gio Waterfall for a dip.

Photo: KhoaHocTV
Photo: KhoaHocTV

There’s also the entrance of the Eight Ladies’ Cave to visit. Here, a temple honors the eight young locals who, in 1972, were trapped and entombed during an American bombing raid. The whole area was devastated during the Vietnam War (look out for the craters still dotting the countryside), and because there is still unexploded ordnance in the park, independent trekking is prohibited here.

Local operators Oxalis and Jungle Boss organize some intrepid multi-day treks in the jungle, where you sleep under canvas or in a minority village.

Activities in Phong Nha – Ke Bang

Photo: Vietnam Tourism
Photo: Vietnam Tourism

Kayaking

For an alternative way to see Phong Nha Cave, try a kayaking tour away from the crowds. Hang Toi, just a few kilometers away, also presents a fun selection of activities, including kayaking, swimming, and zip-lining. Planning your own kayak adventure? Oxalis and Victory Road Villas rent kayaks for independent trips along Phong Nha’s picturesque river.

Walking & Hiking

The scenery in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is like nowhere else in Vietnam. If caving doesn’t appeal, hiking is a rewarding way to encounter Phong Nha’s lush landscape. Organized hiking tours are the best way to explore, as local experts will take you along hidden trails unknown to other travelers. If you love wildlife, consider a night tour, or pay a visit to animal rescue centers on a two-day hiking eco-tour. Hai’s Eco Tour and Jungle Boss are two top hiking tour outfits in the area.

Cycling & Motorbike Tours

Go deeper into the countryside as you navigate narrow lanes, crisscross rice paddies, and traverse streams. Many hotels provide free bicycle rentals for riding around town. To see more of the countryside, head towards the Ho Chi Minh Highway to Bong Lai Valley. This picturesque area is home to farms, viewpoints, and swimming holes. It’s a 15-kilometer loop through peaceful pastoral scenery.

If you’re an avid cyclist, try taking on the paved roads of the national park — just be sure to have a proper mountain bike, map, and plenty of water. For a more engaging experience, book a cycling tour with local guides who can show you unmapped paths and introduce you to farmers and villagers. Feeling leisurely? A motorbike tour will let you take in the scenery without breaking a sweat.

Charlotte Pho