Hangover Pygmy cave: the 4th largest cave in the world

Dear readers,

during May 2022 I had the chance to explore the 4th largest cave in the world whose the name are Hangover Pygmy.

These caves are in Vietnam and are located in Phong Nha national park which belongs to Dong Hoi province, it is situated in the centre-north of Vietnam.

In order to reach them you need to go for a long strenuous trekking through a muddy and wet jungle, the trail itself is generally recommended for people who have good health conditions because not only are you supposed to watch your steps but also deal with lot’s of uphill with huge stamina, if you don’t have good physical condition then you’d better off!

That being said, if you feel in a shape, then you need to prepare yourself with some equipment and precautions:

  1. Bring long sleeves t-shirts
  2. Bring two pairs of long hiking trousers (you will need for a change the second day of trekking)
  3. Bring two pairs of long warm socks (same as above)
  4. Have a waterproof softshell jacket (better if GORE-TEX) because you may expect rainstorm at anytime
  5. Trekking shoes
  6. 1x vial of hydrogen peroxide (in case you accidentally touch a spiky trunk tree)
  7. 1x vial of iodine tincture

On top of that, there is some additional equipment to be taken in consideration but no worries: the tour guide will provide you with, because you are not allowed to trek to those caves by yourself 🙂

As for the tour guides, there is a choice of two companies: Jungle Boss and Oxalis, each of them proposes different tours since they have the exclusive license for exploring certain caves. Having picked up Pygmy cave I had to go with Jungle Boss. The interesting fact is that both tours have an ECO resort to accommodate the visitors, here below there are few pictures about Jungle Boss homestay:

They provide you with all the needful including the leeches repellent and two bottles of water each day of your stay 🙂

Coming to the tour itself, we were five attendees: four Vietnamese girls and I, of course I am not including the tour guide. We all were keen to start the adventure! The tour guide was very knowledgeable and recommended us to tuck your hiking trousers into your long socks to prevent the leeches from attacking your legs (but even so one attacked me). Be prepared to get dirty more and more, the jungle is wet and therefore muddy, staying clean is a kind of ‘mission impossible’, another thing the tour guide also provide you with waterproof gloves to avoid contact with dangerous bacteria!

After three hours of trekking with all the difficulties, we stop for having a lunch break, I personally slightly fell down twice, so always watch carefully your steps!

After the break we resumed our trekking to get to the entrance of Hangover cave, the scenery was simply amazing and breathtaking, see the pictures below:

The reason why it is named ‘Hangover’ is that this cave was discovered on the 20th century by a local guy who got drunk after discovering it!

We got through the first cave by walking, the shape is very wide, we could observe lot’s of stalactites and stalagmites, after crossing the first cave we got a way out to a short jungle path to enter Pygmy cave which was the main challenge! Here we were provided with helmet and fail-safe equipment because we were supposed to hike through a narrow and slippery trail through the stalagmites, on each passage we were required to attach one-by-one double carabiners to the next via ferrata, it took us forty minutes to get across till arrive to the abseiling point! Yes, we also had the greatest experience of abseiling 10 metres of gap!

Although I thought it is going to be a ‘mission-critical’, I managed to abseil with a good technic and smoothly till the bottom point. Once we passed the abseiling point, the only left experience of sch a riveting day was to swim at lake pool to chill-out ourselves and get ready for the dinner at the campsite by the exit of the cave. Here below there are few pictures about our camp site party 🙂

Finally, the second day we exit the cave and we came back to the outdoor life 😀 by trekking down to the to the valley through a steep and muddy jungle, it took us about five hours to get back to the starting point by a different trail.

In conclusion, it was a deep experience in the wild life, even if it costs some money (300$ approximately), it worth every single $ to give it a try! Just be mentally prepared to be out of the urban civilization and get very dirty and being bitten by one leech at least and all the rest will go swimmingly!

That being said, I will be gladly available to answer you about any concern. Do not hesitate to contact me or leave a comment!

Giuseppe

PLAYA ESCONDIDA: a secluded and almost inaccessible beach of Dominican Republic

Dear readers,

I am just back from having discovered Dominican Republic with its pros and cons: the first approach was very tough especially when it comes to dealing with the public safety and cleanliness. Before starting my tour I decided to rent a vehicle instead (I usually rent a motorbike), however this time nobody in the capital city Santo Domingo rented one due to the high volume of daily road accidents so I gave it up. One of the stops in my itinerary was Playa Escondida which means Hidden beach. This beach is situated approximately 3.4km away from the municipality of Las Terrenas.

There are theoretically three ways to get to Playa Escondida:

  1. By trekking through a wooded jungle trail with a muddy swamp in-between (the hardest and dangerous one)
  2. By trekking around the hilly landscape from a gate (if it’s open)
  3. By a boat from Las Terrenas beach on the other side (the safe way)

On top of that, my recommendation is to get as close as the Sailing Club which I highlighted in the snapshot of the map below. Here you can park your car or motorbike since by the area with limited access is not allowed to park.

Because I am a stubborn I went for the hardest choice and while I was starting to figure out how to get through, I met a Czech guy on the way (Martin) with a female friend, they were trying to figuring out and achieve the same goal as I was, after a short introduction we spontaneously took the challenge together, and here we run in to the first incognita:

After walking up to calle Loma Bonita we end up at VILLA CACIQUE OCEAN VIEW with a closed gate and we asked ourselves: what now?

We thought that the beach was only privately accessible from the villa and therefore we tried to talk to some rangers working at the Villa, they said that there was no access and the only way to get there is to override a boundary wall, hike down through the bushes and get through a muddy swamp. The Czech guy and I were eager to start off whereas the female fiend of his NOT. That said one of the rangers offered to us his help by cutting off some bushes on the way, I started hiking down until we get at the edge of the swamp and here the big fun came: the swamp was like a 10-metres gap between the wonderful beach and the jungle, however we couldn’t hike by any means straight through because we would have dived down at the first badass muddy watered spot.

I happened to put my left foot in such a invisible muddy spot and it was very scary since I had to try hard to release it, fortunately the ranger was nearby and rescued me immediately with his hand.

Here below there is a picture of the high bushes very close to the swamps

Meanwhile the Czech guy came down to the edge of the swamp with my backpack 🙂 We gave him the full awareness of the big danger to overcome in-between, to make it short we managed to find out a convoluted zig-zag path to minimize the big risk of diving down with the legs, it took us nearly one hour but it was truly rewarding! The rangers were with us and let us enjoy the most of it by cutting two coconuts from the palm tree so that we could have more liquids in our roaring stomachs 😀

Here below a stunning scenery of Playa Escondida and myself captured drinking the coconut:

While being on the beach I took the advantage of having some squat exercise to support the leg muscles, this is an exercise which I recommend it to everybody adult like me to do it on daily basis.

To sum it up, when you lie the beach you may be feeling in a small paradise which is the ideal to be there for a romantic and exotic day with a girlfriend 🙂 I strongly recommend of getting there by boat, or if you really have to hike, never go alone, always keep in mind that you can not be the best expert of the local nature :O Hike through the swamps is an hellish experience, let’s be wise with our life, so just have ranger with you who knows how it is the situation. Last but not least, I did it during the beginning of the dry season, during the wet season it would be a sort of mission IMPOSSIBLE to get across. For your reference the dry season in Dominican Republic is usually from November through March.

Having said that, enjoy the trip with precautions!

Giuseppe

KAPAS island: the golden compromise for snorkeling, trekking or just relaxing.

Dear explorers,
Christmas is round the corner and I have finally gotten some time to dedicate a post about Kapas island which is situated on the east coast of Malaysia.

East coast map

This island is easily reachable by taxi cab from Kuala Terengganu via Marang jetty as shown in the screenshot of the map, all you need is to get either a TAXI driver from the airport or bus station of KT or alternatively randomly stop a non-official driver to be brought to Marang, it takes approximately twenty-minutes and it costs max. 30RM. When it comes to the boats, there are few operators running the service, one of those is SuriaLink: http://www.kapassurialink.com/contact/ just get to their small office by the jetty, buy the ticket on the spot and they will take you to Kapas on the condition you arrive at the jetty earlier than 5pm.

The transportation time is just ten minutes since the island is pretty close to the coast, therefore do not expect to be on comfy huge boat 🙂 such an island is for whom desires to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere and/or try to learn diving; altogether there are about ten resorts on only the west side of the island, most of those accommodations are in a minimalist/rusty style but acceptable unless you have very-high expectations 🙂 Besides that, most of them are hardly bookable through the well-known booking engines and they do not even have a web-page on the net, all you can do is contact them via phone/whatsapp by dialing the number mentioned on Google map: https://www.google.com.my/maps/place/Kapas+Beach+Chalets+(KBC)/@5.2203715,103.2616012,17.81z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x31b7eb62ae4ed317:0xeae0e00cf3526864!2sKapas+Island!3b1!8m2!3d5.2190041!4d103.2649049!3m4!1s0x0:0x6ab65d73f44613b3!8m2!3d5.2195881!4d103.2614375

I personally visited Kapas twice and experienced a pleasant stay at KBC wooded-resort, it is owned by a dutch guy and a german woman who decided to settle themselves on the island and live there all over the year, they indeed nicely take care of it by performing regular maintenance jobs. My first time on Kapas was on March 2016, this is the very beginning of the dry season since the monsoons stop in the middle of February, I did not experience any single rainfall, just hot and dry 😀

KBC wooded-built resort
Sea view from KBC

Because Kapas with KBC resort resulted into a winning combination, I decided to keep their contact details and later on June 2017 I was back there for three days. Both times I visited it, I had the chance of enjoying Jungle trekking, snorkeling and just relax at the beach. Because the number of the resorts is limited, not-so many visitors will be able to get to such a gorgeous island, moreover most of visitors are locals, the only exception is at KBC which attracts quite some European backpackers because of their very-good facilities, the kitchen, the chilling area and finally the convenient price list per night 🙂

My second stay on Kapas was characterized by two sunny days and one rainy and cloudy day; I took the advantage of the rainy/cloudy day to go for the jungle trail which perfectly fit as half-day trip, here below there is a picture taken in the jungle trail:

Jungle trail

Just two useful tips for you:

1. Avoid enjoying the jungle trekking when the suns is shining: you will be pouring of sweats more and more since you will get to climb down and up on some elevations, as a result you would be feeling far too thirsty and consequently you would get a sun stroke later.

2. Be provided with one big bottle of water as well as with the mosquito repellent to sprinkle on your arms and legs before starting to trek into the jungle.

(all the way takes you approximately 90 minutes)

During the sunshiny days I went for swimming and snorkeling instead, the seabed on the coral reef is simply amazing, full of sea urchins and colorful fishes, just watch the recorded GoPro video to be impressed:

Snorkeling at Kapas island

Last but not the least, here the sunrises and sunsets are very scenic and gorgeous, all you need is to walk along the west side of the island to catch your favorite beach and spot, you will not surely be disappointed as long as the sun shines.

To sum it up, this island is 100% worthy to spend one or more weeks to feel freedom and far away from the ordinary civilization. You can just relax and do nothing as well as deal with the sea activities which I described. On the other hand, if you are concerned about night hard-parties this is definitely not the island for you, however you can still enjoy soft parties over here but just over a delicious dinner with BBQ and perhaps watching some improvised fire torch play exhibition after the sunset. If you wish to see more pictures, just check out my Flickr album here below:

DSC02158
Kapas island powered by Sony a6000

Any queries and comments are welcomed, Merry Christmas, Giuseppe