The Tu Lan cave system is absolutely stunning - enormous dark caverns and cool rivers surrounded by thick jungle. The scale of this cave system needs to be seen to be believed and standing quietly in these epic caves is a genuine 'wow' experience.
We joined the Oxalis Tu Lan 4 day expedition and, to our surprise, we were the only two guests on the tour. The team from Oxalis were very professional and friendly. Our British caving expert Dave and local guide Thang did an excellent job of guiding us through the jungle and numerous caves. Their knowledge of the cave system really added to our experience. The support crew, which included the porters and cooks, did a fantastic job and made our trip very, very comfortable.
The Tu Lan 4 day expedition is a challenging activity. Our tour was in early July and the weather was very hot and dry. We heard it can be wet at that time of year but that wasn't our experience. Fortunately, the cool creeks, caves and rivers took the sting out of the heat and made everything manageable. There was quite a bit of trekking through the jungle and the odd climb up and over a ridge line. Anyone who hikes regularly will manage without too much stress. Some of the caves have a bit of climbing and rope work. The guides are there every step of the way and help when required. Any rope activity is carefully controlled by the guides and safety is their top priority. Many of the caves have rivers running through them and we spent a fair chunk of time swimming.
The jungle camps were great. We stayed at three different river side camps over the four days. We brought along our own hammocks however the ones provided by Oxalis looked very comfortable. All meals are prepared by the cooks over a fire and the food is delicious. Every meal was different and there was always plenty to go around. The evening meal was also complemented by a cup of 'happy water' (rice wine). Clean water was plentiful as it was taken from the river and run through an industrial three stage membrane water purifier. It worked perfectly.
The porter team carried most of our equipment from camp to camp. All we had to carry was what we needed for the day - water, camera, etc. Everything we carried in our day packs needed to be waterproofed as we were swimming with our bags regularly. Oxalis provide some dry bags and barrels but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Comfortable, quick draining shoes with good grip are highly recommended. We crossed numerous creeks and rivers and swam in our shoes frequently over the 4 days. The quicker the water drains out, the better.
Dave the caving expert was very helpful setting up for photos and providing photography tips. ISO 400, F-stop 5.6 and 4-8 second exposures. He also coordinated the 'painting of light' around the caverns so all the detail showed up in the photos. Good work.
Overall it was a fantastic, adventurous experience. It has tempted me to visit again and join the Son Doong expedition next time.
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