NatGeo features Son Doong Cave in dizzying 360-degree images

Son Doong, the world's largest cave, located in central Vietnam, has been featured in astounding 360-degree images in a project funded by National Geographic Magazine.

The world-renowned magazine published a much-awaited photo essay, "Fly through a colossal cave: Son Doong in 360°"on Son Doong Cave early Thursday morning, Vietnam time.

This essay was presented under the Son Doong 360 project supported by the magazine.

The resplendent cave is secluded in the core area of UNESCO-recognized Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, located in the central province of Quang Binh.

The essay offers a series of 360° panoramas which allows anyone with an Internet connection to gain stunning peeks into Son Doong Cave, as if they were there to take in first-hand the cave’s pristine grandeur and its picturesque surrounding areas.

Readers can magnify all the photos for clearer views of details.

They can also rotate the photos in 360 degrees or have an authentic taste of lifelike forest sounds including birds’ twittering, leaves rustling and springs bubbling.

The NatGeo "virtual tour" also offers basic information on the grotto.

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Swedish photojournalist Martin Edström, the essay’s author, hopes to bring the cave to as many people as possible and wishes to document Son Doong in its relatively untouched state before any possible construction in the future might spoil the charm.

He thus set out with a team in late January to Quang Binh Province to build a virtual tour of the breathtaking cave.

The Son Doong 360 project was sponsored by National Geographic’s Global Exploration Fund, which was established in 1888 to encourage exploration and preserve nature and relics.

So far, it has funded over 10,000 projects at a total cost of US$153 million. The average sum for each project is around US$15,300, and it acts like ‘security’ to attract other sponsors.

Edström is best known for his 360º photo essays featuring environmental issues and natural and cultural heritage sites around the world.

Son Doong Cave is endowed with mammoth chambers that can comfortably fit a 747 airplane or an entire New York City block full of 40-story buildings.

The cave was first explored in 2009 by a British caving expert, Howard Limbert, and a local named Ho Khanh.

Prior to this 360-degree photo essay, National Geographic Magazine, which releases nine million copies a month in 33 languages, had already published a story and images of the cave.

The cave has made headlines in other famous media outlets, including national television channels from Japan, Germany, the U.S., England, Italy, and Spain.

Earlier this month, a crew from the American Broadcasting Company went to great lengths to film Son Doong in a live show which awed American viewers.