Return to Hang Son Doong

This January I was once again presented with the amazing opportunity to do some more photography work in Son Doong cave thanks to Oxalis. (Photos from my previous trip to Son Doong.) Oxalis needed to prepare some things for the upcoming tours and I was able to tag along with Howard, Deb, Watto, Adam, Bamboo, Thanh, and the brilliant porters from Phong Nha on their trip into Hang Son Doong. I have to say that these photos wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous help from everyone.

Bamboo standing in a passage in Hang Son Doong looking out towards the second doline.
Bamboo standing in a passage in Hang Son Doong looking out towards the second doline.

Unfortunately we were in some tight time constraints as we only had one full day in the cave and it was a long 10 hour day taking photographs. This trip I was better prepared with flash bulbs from Meggaflash¬†and homemade bulb firers that could be triggered wirelessly. This made photographing the cave/daylight points much easier and I’m incredibly happy with how they turned out.

Bamboo in the first doline and Watto and Thanh lighting up the cave passage. The second doline can be seen in the distance.
Bamboo in the first doline and Watto and Thanh lighting up the cave passage. The second doline can be seen in the distance.
The red glow from sunset is seen at the exit of Hang En.
The red glow from sunset is seen at the exit of Hang En.
Garden of Edam in Son Doong Cave
Garden of Edam in Son Doong Cave

It’s incredibly difficult to put into words how amazing Hang Son Doong really is. From the shear size of the cave to the two doline where plant life has started growing inside the cave. It is truly otherworldly and something that probably can’t be experienced anywhere else in the world.

Bamboo looking towards the second camp. Watto is in the passage with a flashbulb lighting it up.
Bamboo looking towards the second camp. Watto is in the passage with a flashbulb lighting it up.
Bamboo entering the first doline. The light coming from the distance is from Watto and Howard, who are only a few pixels big in the photo.
Bamboo entering the first doline. The light coming from the distance is from Watto and Howard, who are only a few pixels big in the photo.
One of my favorite parts of Son Doong Cave, the view back into the first doline.
One of my favorite parts of Son Doong Cave, the view back into the first doline.
Bamboo and Thanh standing in a passage in Hang Son Doong looking out towards the second doline.
Bamboo and Thanh standing in a passage in Hang Son Doong looking out towards the second doline.
Thanh standing by a massive stalagmite in Son Doong cave.
Thanh standing by a massive stalagmite in Son Doong cave.
A small sunbeam coming through the entrance of Hang Son Doong.
A small sunbeam coming through the entrance of Hang Son Doong.
Bamboo about to descend into Hang Son Doong.
Bamboo about to descend into Hang Son Doong.
Watto on the Hand of Dog.
Watto on the Hand of Dog.
Bamboo looking back toward Watch Out For Dinosaurs.
Bamboo looking back toward Watch Out For Dinosaurs.

We also were incredibly lucky to witness sunbeams in Hang En the last morning we were there. At first we didn’t think it was going to happen as with was cloudy and foggy outside. Everyone decided to call it and head back towards civilization, but I wanted to stay and Thanh was kind enough to stay back with me. When the clouds broke and sunbeam started forming my breath was taken away. It was an absolutely incredible sight.

Thanh standing in a sunbeam in Hang En.
Thanh standing in a sunbeam in Hang En.

 

Thanh standing in a sunbeam in Hang En.
Thanh standing in a sunbeam in Hang En.

 

Thanh standing in a sunbeam in Hang En.
Thanh standing in a sunbeam in Hang En.

I will leave you with the rest of the photos from the trip. I hope you enjoy!

View to the first camp leading to the first doline in Son Doong Cave
View to the first camp leading to the first doline in Son Doong Cave
Thanh and Watto in the first doline in Hang Son Doong.
Thanh and Watto in the first doline in Hang Son Doong.
Howard, Bamboo, Watto, and Thanh in the first doline in Hang Son Doong.
Howard, Bamboo, Watto, and Thanh in the first doline in Hang Son Doong.
On the path up to the Garden of Edam
On the path up to the Garden of Edam
Plant life growing in the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Plant life growing in the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Plant life growing in the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Plant life growing in the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Bamboo standing amongst the plant life in the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Bamboo standing amongst the plant life in the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Heading into the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Heading into the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Heading into the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Heading into the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
In the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
In the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
In the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
In the Garden of Edam in Hang Son Doong.
Looking out the first doline at night.
Looking out the first doline at night.
Deb and Adam in a passage of Hang En.
Deb and Adam in a passage of Hang En.
Watto, Deb, and Adam in the exit of Hang En.
Watto, Deb, and Adam in the exit of Hang En.
Trees grow inside the Garden of Edam which is located at the second doline in Hang Son Doong.
Trees grow inside the Garden of Edam which is located at the second doline in Hang Son Doong.

Gunung Leuser National Park | Sumatra

On the way back to Vietnam from Nepal, my brother Tyler and I decided to make a short stop in Sumatra and trek into the jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park. We had originally planned to spend 5 days in the jungle, but after a long day of banking trouble (lesson learned, never rely 100% on withdrawing money with your debit card) we decided on just spending 3 days trekking through the jungle searching for wildlife. We were a bit concerned we wouldn’t see all the wildlife we had hoped for, but we would soon find that luck was on our side.

Baby Orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.

Within the first 30 minutes of heading into the jungle, we had already encountered orangutans, thomas leaf monkeys, and macaques. The orangutans we would encounter on this trip were mainly semi-wild. They had been rescued from the wildlife trade and released back into the wild.

Baby Orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Thomas Leaf Monkey in Gunung Leuser National Park
Thomas Leaf Monkey in Gunung Leuser National Park
Thomas Leaf Monkeys in Gunung Leuser National Park
Thomas Leaf Monkeys in Gunung Leuser National Park
Thomas Leaf Monkey with it's signature mohawk.
Thomas Leaf Monkey with it’s signature mohawk.
Thomas Leaf Monkey with it's signature mohawk.
Thomas Leaf Monkey with it’s signature mohawk.
Thomas Leaf Monkey in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Thomas Leaf Monkey in Gunung Leuser National Park.

I was super excited to have seen the thomas leaf monkeys. They were just some cool looking primates with a unique look.

Baby Orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby Orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby orangutan and mother in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Baby orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Male Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park
Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park
Child Orangutan at a feeding platform in Gunung Leuser National Park
Child Orangutan at a feeding platform in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Child orangutan playing in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Child orangutan playing in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Child orangutan resting in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Child orangutan resting in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Child orangutan napping in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Child orangutan napping in Gunung Leuser National Park.

Our luck continued in which we watched an incredible/hilarious scene unfold in front of our eyes. In this section of the park, the park rangers put out a bit of food for the orangutans to supplement their diet since they are used to being fed by humans from when they were held in captivity. When we first arrived, there was a mother and child orangutan there eating a bunch of bananas. Then a macaque came and tried taking the bananas from the orangutans. Macaques can be dangerous to young orangutans and even adult orangutans if there are lots of macaques ganging up on one orangutan. This situation was quite tame though, the mother barely even acknowledged the macaque and the child was playing with/trying to get the macaque to leave.

Mother and child orangutan at the feeding platform.
Mother and child orangutan at the feeding platform.
Orangutan vs Macaque
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!
Orangutan vs Macaque battle royale!

A few of these photos were also published in both US and UK newspapers which was very exciting. NY Post. The Mirror.

Wild Peacock
Wild Peacock
Poisonous Caterpillar
Poisonous Caterpillar
Sunbeams at camp.
Sunbeams at camp.
Sunbeams at camp.
Sunbeams at camp.

The morning of the second day we could hear the calls of a group of white handed gibbons. We decided that we would head of and try and find them. Once again, our luck prevailed and caught a glimpse of a gibbon. It was well worth it.

White handed gibbon.
White handed gibbon.
White handed gibbon.
White handed gibbon.
White handed gibbon.
White handed gibbon.
A hornbill bird in Gunung Leuser National Park.
A hornbill in Gunung Leuser National Park.

On the last morning, we wake to a commotion in camp. It turns out that an orangutan has come to our camp in search of food. Everyone tries their hardest to stop it from eating our food as it is bad for them but considering that they are believed to be 7 times stronger than humans, you don’t really want to get into a human vs orangutan fight.

Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutans at camp.
Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Orangutan in Gunung Leuser National Park.
Thomas Leaf Monkey chilling in the rain.
Thomas Leaf Monkey chilling in the rain.

We head back to the nearest town/village, Bukit Lawang, by floating down a raging river in tractor tubes that were tied together. It was exciting to say the least. Both Tyler and our cook fell off the tubes into the river but luckily managed to get quickly back into the tubes. We finally make it back to the village, take a much needed shower, eat a good meal, and head to bed for a good night’s rest.