Visiting Phong Nha-Ke Bang (Part 1)

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Phong Nha-Ke Bang
Phong Nha-Ke Bang

Phong Nha – Ke Bang is a national park in the center of Quang Binh province in north-central Vietnam. It protects one of the world’s two largest karst regions with several hundred caves and grottoes. Its name derives from Phong Nha cave, the most beautiful one, with numerous fascinating rock formations, and Ke Bang forest. The plateau is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst land form in Southeast Asia.

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Location

Geographically, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (PNKBNP) is located in central Vietnam, about 500km south of the capital, Hanoi, within the Quang Binh Province.

The western boundary of the Park partially forms Laos-Vietnamese border, which is only 42km from the sea. The Park is found within the geographical co-ordinates of 170 20′-170 48′ N and 1050 46-1060 24′ E in Bo Trach and Minh Hoa Districts.

Phong Nha – Ke Bang is a national park in the center of Quang Binh province in north-central Vietnam.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang is a national park in the center of Quang Binh province in north-central Vietnam.

Recognition by UNESCO in 2003

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park was first nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The dossier submited to UNESCO was for the recognition of Phong Nha nature reserve as a world natural heritage under the name “Phong Nha Nature Reserve”. The reason given for the nomination was that this nature reserve satisfied the criteria of biodiversity, unique beauty and geodiversity.

Phong Nha cave
Phong Nha cave

It was recognized as a world natural heritage site at the UNESCO’s 27th general assembly session being held in Paris in June 30th – July 5th, 2003. At the session, delegates from over 160 member countries of UNESCO World Heritage Convention agreed to include Phong Nha-Ke Bang park and 30 others worldwide in the list of world heritage sites. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park meets with criteria viiii in accordance with UNESCO’s appraisal scale since it displays an impressive amount of evidence of earth’s history and is a site of importance for increasing human understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.

Physical features

Criterion: Phong Nha is part of a larger dissected plateau, which also encompasses the Ke Bang and Hin Namno karsts. The limestone incontinuously demonstrates the complexity interbedding with shales and sandstones. This, together with the capping of schists and apparent granites has led to a particularly distinctive topography.

Phong Nha is one of the most beautiful caves in the world.
Phong Nha is one of the most beautiful caves in the world.

Looking into the caves, you may recognize discrete episodic sequences of events, leaving behind various levels of fossil passages, formerly buried and now uncovered palaeokarst (karst from previous, perhaps very ancient, periods of solution); evidence of major changes in the routes of underground rivers; changes in the solutional regime; deposition and later re-solution of giant speleothems and unusual features such as sub-aerial stromatolites. The location and form of the caves suggest that they might owe much of their size and morphology to some as yet undetermined implications of the schists and granites which overlay the limestone. On the surface, there is a striking series of landscapes, ranging from deeply dissected ranges and plateaux to an immense polje. There is evidence of at least one period of hydrothermal activity in the evolution of this ancient mature karst system. The plateau is probably one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in SE Asia.