Awakening the beauty of Vietnam's largest volcanic cave

Tuesday, 2018-02-20 10:42:55
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Chu B'Luk volcanic cave system is the longest one in Southeast Asia.
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NDO – The beauty of Vietnam’s first-ever volcanic cave system, Chu B’Luk in the Central Highlands region, which is also the longest in Southeast Asia, has been awakened by Nguyen Thanh Tung who always has a great passion for exploring new things.

Over the past years, Tung volunteered to collect information and images of the cave system and send them to scientists to seek recognition of Chu B’Luk as a volcanic geological park.
The legends of ancients

Many village patriarchs of E De ethnic minority community in Krong No District, Dak Nong Province told legends related to the mysterious Chu B’Luk volcano.

Legend has it that, thousands of years ago, the ancestors of the E De people lived deep underground in the area’s caves. They called the sacred mountain Chu B’Luk which was the origin of the cave system. ‘Chu’ means ‘mountain’ and ‘B’Luk’ means ‘origin’. One day, a man from the community was expelled from Chu B'Luk Cave for his violation of the precepts. Over the years, he practiced hunting, gathering, and farming. Then, they gathered together and set up their village above the ground.

Nguyen Thanh Tung was born in 1975 in Duc Lap village, Dak So commune, Krong No District. When he was young, Tung and his friends often travelled along the banks of the Serepok River to fish. They came near the Chu B’Luk caves, but no one dared to enter the dark hollows except Tung. With a burning torch, he was impressed by the mysterious vegetation. He tried to remember the location and distance between caves to avoid losing his bearings.

In 2007, Tung returned to his hometown as a tour guide after many years of living and working in the southern region. Realising the potential of the cave system in the district, he collected all the images and documents he could find and presented them to Dak Nong province’s cultural sector.

In late 2007, he met Dr La The Phuc, former Director of the Geological Museum and principal researcher of the Vietnam Museum of Nature, who was studying geological forms in the Central Highland provinces. “I brought Dr Phuc to the caves and he was the first scientist in Vietnam to affirm that it was the largest volcanic cave system,” Tung recalled.

Dak Nong province has submitted a dossier for recognition of Krong No volcanic geological park as a national relic site.

Awakened caves

After the project on ‘researching and investigating and assessing the geological heritage and building a geological park in Krong No District, Dak Nong Province’ of Dr La The Phuc was published in domestic and foreign magazines, scientists from the General Department of Geology and Minerals of Vietnam (GDGM) and the Japan Caving Association (JCA) suggested a study of the remaining cave systems in the District under Tung’s guidance. Nearly seven years later, the expedition made an announcement to the pride of Vietnam that the Central Highlands are home to the longest volcanic cave system in Southeast Asia. Chu B’Luk is a unique natural heritage formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

Tung shared that during the time hew was discovering the caves, he and the expedition team had to live and work in difficult conditions and faced numerous dangers. However, all people overcame the difficulties to enter the deep caves. He said that it is a miniature world of jagged basalt rock surfaces and cool air. Exploring some unknown caves, the expedition’s members found many archaeological relics that date from the Palaeolithic Era (Old Stone Age – 6,000 years ago) to the late Neolithic Era (New Stone Age) and the Early Metal Age (4,000 – 3,000 years ago). They were considered as valid proof of the caves being a habitat of prehistoric humans, which is consistent with the legends told by E De ethnic people.

Scientists also discovered that the Chu B’Luk cave system is connected to the large waterfall complex on the Serepok River, so they have a huge tourism potential. Tung and his friends are still exploring the unknown caves. Tung also emphasised that with the knowledge that he has accumulated over the past years, he is willing to introduce the wonders of the caves in the locality to visitors.

The rick vegetation in Chu B'Luk cave system

The 2,000 square kilometre volcanic cave system extends from Krong No District to some neighbouring communes of the Cu Giut, Dak Min, Dak Song, and Dak Glong District and Gia Nghia town. According to researchers, the park has seven out of the ten types of geological heritage as classified by UNESCO, so it was assessed as the longest and most beautiful lava cave in Southeast Asia.