Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is located in the Bo Trach and Minh Hoa districts in the center of Quang Binh province. The park is bordered by Laos in the west. The road distances are about 500 km south of the capital Hanoi and 260 km north of the port city of Da Nang. The geographical coordinates are 17°32′14″N, 106°9′4.5″E.The park covers a total area of 85,754 hectares which are divided into three zones, a “strictly protected zone” (64,894 ha), an “ecological recovery zone” (17,449 ha), and an “administrative service zone” (3,411 ha).
Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park was first nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. It was recognised as a world natural heritage site at the UNESCO’s 27th general assembly session being held in Paris from June 30-July 5 2003. At the session, delegates from over 160 member countries of UNESCO World Heritage Convention agreed to include Phong Nha-Ke Bang park and 30 others worldwide to the list of world heritage sites.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park is one of the world’s two largest limestone regions. In comparison with 41 other world heritage sites which have karsts, Phong Nha has dissimilar geomorphic, geologic and biotic conditions. The karsts of Phong Nha can be traced back to Palaeozoic 400 million years ago. This makes Phong Nha is the oldest major karst in Asia. If the Hin Namno, bording Phong Nha on the west (in Laotian territory) was to be combined with the National park in a continuous reserve, the combined reserve would be the largest surviving karst forest in South-east Asia (317,754 ha).
The area has numerous grottoes and caves. Vietnamese and British scientists have so far surveyed a total of 20 caves with a total length of 70 km. Of these surveyed caves, 17 were in the Phong Nha area and three in the Ke Bang area.
The Phong Nha cave from which the name to the whole system and the park is derived is famous for its rock formation which have been given names such as the “Lion”, the “Fairy Caves”, the “Royal Court”, and the “Buddha”.
Besides the grotto and cave systems, Phong Nha has the longest underground river, the largest caverns and passageways. Phong Nha – Ke Bang also contains two dozens of mountain peaks with over 1,000 metres height. Noteworthy peaks are the Peak Co Rilata with ta height of 1,128 m and the Peak Co Preu with a height of 1,213 m.
The park is part of the Annamites eco-region. According to the results of initial surveys, the primary tropical forest in Phong Nha – Ke Bang 140 families, 427 genera, and 751 species of vascular plants, of which 36 species are endangered and listed in the Vietnam Red Book. The forest is also home to 98 families, 256 genera and 381 species of vertebrates. Sixty-six animal species are listed in the Vietnam Red Book and 23 other species in the World Red Book.
In 2005, a new species of gecko was discovered here by a group of Vietnamese biologists together with biologists working for the park, Cologne Zoo in Germany and the Saint Petersburg Wild Zoology Institute in Russia.
In addition to the diversity in the ecosystem, Phong Nha – Ke Bang is home to archeological and historical relics, such as an ancient hieroglyphic script of the Cham ethnic minority, King Ham Nghi’s base built for the resistance war against French colonialists in the late 19th century, and the Xuan Son ferry station, Ho Chi Minh Trail and Road 20 used during the Vietnam War.
Central Quang Binh province has invested into upgrading the Phong Nha-Ke Bang visitor site to turn it into the country’s major tourist destination.
Multiple eco-tourist projects have been licensed for development and the area is being heavily invested by the province to turn it into a major tourist site in Vietnam. Phong Nha Ke Bang is part of a tourism promotion program called: “Middle Heritage Road” which includes the ancient capital of Huế, the Champa relics of My Son, the city of Hoi An, and the space of Gong culture in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
In order to facilitate the increasing flow of tourists to the site, construction of the Dong Hoi Airport nearby has been in progress and due to open at the end of 2006.
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