Tham Kong Lor

Konglor Cave - Kong Lor Cave


Useful Information

Location: Phu Hin Bun National Park, in Khammouane Province.
(17.9564, 104.7611)
Open: All year daily 6-17.
[2020]
Fee: Phu Hin Bun National Park: Adults LAK 2,000.
Cave: Adults LAK 10,000.
Boat for three LAK 100,000.
You have to pay all three fees, but may share the boat with two others.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: Side passage: electric.
Main passage: bring torch, we mean it!
Dimension: L=12,400m.
Guided tours: boat trip, D=2.5h.
Photography: allowed but difficult
Accessibility: if you get on the boat
Bibliography: Claude Mouret (2017): Contribution to Cave Tourism Promotion in Laos, Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Speleology, Sydney 2017, pp 183-187. pdf
Address: Tham Kong Lor, Khammouane Guide Service Unit, Tel: +856-51-212-512.
Southep Phoochana, advisor in Khammaoune. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

16th cty discovered by locals in canoes with torches.
28-FEB-1890 crossed in dugouts by Pierre-Paul Cupet, Auguste Pavie, and Henri Counillon.
1994 explored and surveyed by a French speleologic expedition.
1995 cave development forced by Mr Vannivong, the former military officer responsible for this area.
2002 opened to the public.

Description

Tham Kong Lor or Tham Kong Lo (Kong Lor Cave) is an impressive 7.5km long river cave, which is visited by boat. The trip is easy, the water of the Nam Hin Bun River calm. The passages are up to 90m wide and 100m high. The cave is traditionally used by local villagers as an communication route and to transport goods. The cave is located at the end of the river valley of Nam Hin Bun River, which cuts into the limestone ridge. The lower end of the valley in the town Ban Kong Lo is the place where the river vanishes into the cave system.

The river flows into the karst mountain and reappears about 4 km away on the other side of the limestone ridge. (Cave exit: 17.941529, 104.797569) The tour includes light walking so we recommend good shoes and appropriate clothes. Children, elderly people and those who cannot swim should bring life vests, probably they are provided by tour companies. Actually one change of clothes is also a good idea.

The boats start at the jetty at the end of the town Ban Kong Lo. A short way into the cave is a side passage which is dry, equipped with trails and electric light. The boats stop here and allow you to visit this cave passage. Then the tour through the main passage continues. This passage is not lighted, the boat drivers obviously know their way, but if you want to see the cave you should borrow a headlamp at the entrance or bring your own. Concerning the enormous size of the passage, the biggest you can possibly get. We think this is a case for a Scurion.

The tour through the cave takes about an hour, plus the time you need for the side passage. On the other end, after the first river bend is another town which offers food, drink, and souvenirs. You have 20 minutes to spend getting some food and reading the explanatory signs. Then the boat will take you back through the cave which is slightly faster. All in all you should allow 2.5 hours for the trip.

The cave can be visited all year, but during the wet season there might be too much water in the cave and it may be closed during and after heavy rains. The best time is actually the dry season between November and March. In March the water may be quite low, and there will be several occasions when the boat runs aground. Normally it will be enough if the passengers leave the boat and walk a few meters until the water becomes deeper again. There are sand banks in the river, and they change continually. But despite this inconvenience the dry season is the best time for a visit.

The trip to the cave is long and strenuous, even if you have a rented car. The cave opens quite early, so we recommend staying the night at the village, there are numerous hotels, and visiting the cave early next morning. The cave is said to be 7.5 km long, but the entrances are only 4 km apart. Obviously the cave meanders inside the mountain, but the 7.5 km are actually the total length of the cave. The river passage is actually 6.4 km long.

According to legend the cave was discovered in the 16th century from the lower end. Villagers noticed a strange-looking duck, which wasn’t native to the area, swimming in the emerald pool outside the cave. Then rice seed bundles and a carved wooden buffalo yoke appeared. They began to suspect that there were people and villages on the other side. After three days exploring by torchlight on canoes, they made it to the other side, where they founded the villages of Ban Sianglae and Ban Kkunkeo. However, rowing upstream was a lot of work and the cave was not used very much.

A noteworthy exploration of the cave happened in 1890. On 28-FEB-1890 Pierre-Paul Cupet, Auguste Pavie, and Henri Counillon embark in Ban Natane to cross the Konglor cave. Cupet is captain in the french 3rd Regiment of Zouaves. Auguste Pavie is in charge of the topographic and geographical works of the mission. The were asked to investigate the territories on the right bank of the Mekong. The expedition was guided by the Lao people, who used the river every day. In the light of bamboo torches they make the trip in the dugouts of the locals.

It was actually not forgotten, until it was rediscovered in 1995. That's definitely a legend, which is reprinted in different guidebooks. But because of the political problems from the 1950s the country was off limits for foreigners until the early 1990s. In this time tourism was forced, and the country was interested to develop interesting destinations. As a result caving teams got permits to visit caves which were formerly unreachable. Tham Kong Lor was known as Tham Nam Hin Bun and was surveyed by a French team in 1994. They supported the transformation into a show cave. The military officer formerly responsible fo this area, Mr Vannivong, liked the area and was also liked by the locals. As a result he was able to develop infrastructure, like the Sala Hin Boun Hotel, and to encourage the locals to the establishment of an association in order to organize themselves to guide tourists.

In 2002 it was opened to the public, an effort to bring jobs and tourist money to the remote area. And it became quite popular with tourist, was mentioned in International guide-books, and described in the Smithsonian Institution book Earth as "one of the outstanding caves in the world". The cave has become very popular and more than 50 boats with long-tail engines now operate in the cave.