“Caves are fragile environments. They don’t regenerate very quickly, and once they’re broken, they’re broken.”
The world’s largest cave, the mammoth Hong Son Doong in Vietnam, is a relative babe-in-arms when it comes to natural history: The cavern was first discovered in 1991, then lost, then found again before it was first explored in 2009. But less than a decade later, environmentalists are scrambling to save the site from thousands of tourists and a development company set on thrusting a cable car into its depths.
Located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Son Doong stretches more than 5.5 miles underground, reaches heights of 650 feet and is home to its own jungle, ecosystem and river. Just one tour company has a concession to venture into the cave, and only a few hundred people are allowed inside the fragile environment every year.