We had a chance to speak with Jungle Boss about their organization. Their origin, growth, how they help the community, and what makes them unique. We hope you’ll find them as interesting as we do.
Jungle Boss: Origins
Ok, sure, the above heading sounds like a movie title, but here we’re actually describing one man and the organization he’s created. His name is Dzung, and he’s the head honcho and Jungle Boss himself of his eponymous organization.
Mr Dzung was introduced to an NGO dedicated to conserving the plants and wildlife of Phong Nha/Ke Bang National Park. In 2008, he moved to the park to work with them and has stayed there ever since. He has two goals: to save the jungle and to help the community. Everything he’s done over the past 11 years has been put towards those goals.
When he first arrived in 2008, he assumed the role of Field Assistant Manager. At the time, the region suffered from widespread illegal logging and poaching. Through hard work, he ensured that logging was stopped, animal traps were confiscated and poaching was driven out of the park.
As a result of Mr Dzung’s efforts, the NGO built an animal rehabilitation center known as the Rescue Station, which is still in operation to this day.
As a brief aside: the park itself is home to a diverse and vast array of animal and plant life. Some of which is found nowhere else on earth. The park itself is enormous. It also links up with another preserve on the other side of the Laotian border: the Hin Nammo National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area. That Conservation Area itself links up with several others straddling the border of Laos and Vietnam, making an enormous area of protected land. And protected it should be! It’s a remote area of dense mountain and jungle, where wildlife and plant species can still remain unmolested if they’re protected.
Jungle Boss Homestay
Having worked for 7 years already in Phong Nha/Ke Bang National Park, Mr Dzung decided to open a guesthouse in the area. It started humbly, with a mere 4 employees. It quickly grew to become one of the most popular guesthouses in a national park that is gaining international fame.
The lodging is most certainly to western standards, while still having a unique, local feel to it. Jungle Boss has collected several old military vehicles from around the country, including jeeps and an old ambulance. If you’ll allow us a moment of candor, we have to say that they’re really cool. They lend to the unique blending of old and new, down-home and upscale that Jungle Boss features.
Your experience staying there can find that right balance, too. Lounge about in the hammock, take a swim in their pool, visit their organic farm, or borrow a bicycle to explore the local riverside and town.
What About the Town?
Speaking of the town, Jungle Boss has done great deeds for the local community. That’s been Mr Dzung’s modus operandi from the get-go, anyway: to look after the region.
In addition to helping conserve the local wildlife and jungle, the company now provides upwards of a hundred sustainable, responsible jobs for the local community. This is a huge boon to the region, which until quite recently was relatively poor. With steady jobs lifting people out of poverty, the local community is getting healthier and stronger every year. This leads to even stronger protection of the local environment — a positive feedback loop. It’s one of the best things that can happen to a region.
Beyond providing jobs, Jungle Boss is active in numerous charities and community services. If you want to participate when you’re visiting them, just ask. They’ll be happy to have you help as much as you’d like.
Jungle Boss: Caves and Jungle and Rivers, Oh My
The town itself is lovely if small and you definitely need a place to sleep when you’re there. However, the main draw of Phong Nha/Ke Bang National Park is its outdoor activities, which it has in spades. The park features the world’s first, third, and fourth largest caves: and when we say they’re big, we mean it. They’re really, really big! The largest, Son Doong, was only first properly explored in 2009. The cave is so big it has its own rainforest and climate, and has even made international news. Unsurprisingly – the other caves in the area receive much less attention than they deserve.
The big caves aren’t the only ones in the park, either: as the main bedrock of the park is limestone. The area also receives plenty of rain, over millions of years dozens of caves have been formed. These caves, often found at the bottom of limestone karst formation mountains, bisected by rivers and thick jungle, which leads to an otherworldly, Jurassic Park-like feel.
Jungle Boss leads tours throughout the caves, jungle, and along the river. These lead you to places that you may struggle to find on your own. In addition to custom tours and a number of others they run, they mentioned a couple of tours to us they believe stand out as truly special.
Elephant Cave, Ma Da Valley, and Tra Ang Cave: One Day Tour
Duration: 1 day (Morning + afternoon) Depart time: 8 AM Cost: 1,650,000 VND ($70 USD) Difficulty level: moderate
For travelers on a tight time budget, a tour through the Ma Da Valley and Elephant Cave is the best choice. It’s also great for those with a limited hiking background, but still, want to get the real jungle-and-cave experience that Phong Nha is known for.
On this one-day trek, you’ll begin deep in the jungle and take a short hike to Elephant Cave, known previously as a shelter for soldiers. Following that, you’ll take a walk through Ma Da Valley to the fabulously blue waters of Ma Da Lake, where you can have lunch and a swim.
After refreshments and a swim is another treat. A trek to Tra Ang cave, where you’ll gear up to swim to the furthest reaches of the cave. It may sound like a lot to pack into a day, but it’s well worth it and, you’ll feel a bit like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft!
Tiger Cave Series Adventure
- Duration: 3 days
- Depart time: Flexible, but usually 7:30 AM
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Cost: 9,650,000 VND ($415 USD)
For those with a bit more time on their hands — and those willing to get a bit more down and dirty — the Tiger Cave Series Adventure is the way to go. Lasting three days and two nights, it’s far more demanding than the Elephant Cave adventure. However, Jungle Boss advises us that fewer people have been through this series of caves than any other in the country. This is because it’s one of the least-known and least-explored treks in the region.
You won’t be able to do this trip alone: you’ll need porters, safety advisers, and guides. If you’re one to scoff at such a notion, do please consider that this area of the park is seriously rugged. An injury out here could spell disaster. You don’t want to go it alone.
On this excursion, you’ll explore the entire length of Hangover Cave, Tiger Cave, and Pygmy Cave — each natural wonders in their own right that would likely be the highlight of any other national park.
The first camping spot will be at Kong Doline — the highest known cave collapse in the world, at 450 meters high. The second camping spot will be inside Hang Pygmy cave, the fourth largest cave in the world. The cave is spectacular, complete with its own rainforest inside. Stalagmites and stalactites complement the jungle to create a truly alien feel.
Getting to Phong Nha/Ke Bang
Phong Nha itself is inland, in the mountains, and requires a drive to get there. There are several routes you can take, all of which are fairly spectacular. One of the reasons Onyabike Adventures chooses to route so many of its tours through Phong Nha is the route itself: coming in from the coast, it feels like you’re entering another world.
You can choose to take a bus from Da Nang, Hue, Dong Hoi, or Ha Tinh as those are the closest options. If you’re taking a train, you’d need to stop at Dong Hoi and take a bus overland to Phong Nha.
Of course, we think the best way to get to Phong Nha is by motorbike — whether you do so by yourself, with a group tour or even on a pillion tour. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed with what you see.
Onyabike Adventures’ Thoughts
We’re consistently thrilled by Phong Nha/Ke Bang National Park, and we’re equally thrilled to be working with Jungle Boss. They’re the right kind of people doing the right kind of thing — especially if you like a bit of adventure in your life. And hey, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t.
If you’d like to find out more about Phong Nha/Ke Bang and the tours we offer involving them, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always happy to talk and point you in the right direction. Until then, happy riding.