sign in a cave in Laos

31 December 2011

Phu Pha Phet Cave, Satun, Thailand

Phu Pha Phet Cave in Satun province, in south Thailand is a very large cave. It is large in terms of volume, or chamber size. [Looking at Google Earth it seems the cave is just over the border in Phattalung province, but the road access is from Satun province!]

In Sept 2000 I saw a signpost to this cave on the road 4137 south of La Ngu, between Ban Prae and Khuan Kalong. However the cave is a long way from here. We started to drive to it but gave up when we saw no sign of any limestone hills.

I mananged to get to the cave in Jan 2001 with the Axbridge Cave Group expedition.

Again we were driving on the 4137 road, but this time we were going north. Although the cave is signposted, there is no distance marked. Our guide said it is 30 km. We drove quite a way, then turned right onto a rough track and saw a sign for 2 caves, Phu Pha Phet and Jetkod, 20 km and 9 km. The road became very poor and we had to go over a very dubious looking bridge.

After some km we came to a sign for Golden Bell Cave on the left.

Golden Bell Cave - we drove down a rough track for a few km, and passed some limestone hills. The cave is in a hill on the right. There was one resident monk.

The first cave was more of a rock chamber with Buddhas, and at the back was a small pool with stal and many toads.

The main cave is further along the track and has electric lighting. A small entrance leads into a complex of large sloping chambers and tunnels. All the upper chambers are reached by wooden ladders made from planks, some with bamboo handrails. There were 2 or 3 beds in the high chambers.

We missed Jetkod Cave, but were told it is a river cave near Golden Bell.

It was still around 20 km to Phu Pha Phet Cave along a very rough track. We seemed to be surrounded by limestone hills most of the way. One tower on the right had an archway right through near the top. Very impressive.

Some of the hills had jagged blocks or pinnacles up hill. All very interesting.

We finally came to a sign to 2 caves, Phu Pha Phet and Tham Khong Khalod.

Phu Pha Phet - the entrance is half way up the hill. A small rock shelter with a low stooping passage leads into the main cave.

The main cave is HUGE. Wooden ladders lead down and only then we realised just how huge the chamber is. Huge stals and lots of blackness in the distance. Everything is very dry.

We walked around the chamber which is packed with stals. 2 guides showed us around. We were in a rush so didn't have time to stop and really look.

However we returned twice more to explore and survey both caves. It was more than a 2 hour drive from La Ngu (70 mins from Pak Bara on tarred road, then 70 mins on the rough track).

Phu Pha Phet is home to bats and invertebrates. At the base of the main chamber a steep slope and climb lead up to a very large opening which is really impressive (pic from Google Earth).

A side passage leads to a chamber and we could hear a river about 50 m below.

The next day we went in Tham Khong Khalod, which is a river cave at the base of the hill. We stopped when we reached deep water with a lot of bamboo and wood debris floating. We could hear the river beyond but didn't fancy the rubbish.

We realised that both these caves are connected, part of the same system. We again went up to Phu Pha Phet to check out some things including a drop into a blind chamber.

We also tried to abseil down to the river but our rope was to short.

At the time there seemed to be nothing written about Phu Pha Phet. Even now it doesn't feature on many websites. I was amused to see this site

Phu Pha Phet Cave is situated in Village number 9 Pa Pon Community Pakm Pattang Subdstrict, Manang, Palm Phattana.
Phu Pha Phet Cave in Thailand is one of the must visited places when you visit Manang district in Satun, Southern Thailand. This well kept secret has only recently been exposed to international tourism and for those who enjoy some serious Eco-Tourism or love caves, this is the place to visit. Also translated as the Diamond Mountain Caves, this is the largest cave in Thailand, the third largest in the world and apparently unavailable in most international travel guide books.

It is not the largest cave in Thailand or 3rd largest in the world. It might however be the 2nd largest chamber in Thailand, and approximately the 16th largest chamber in the world.

A full report was published in ACG Journal March 2001 and the ACG website.

Apparently there are now guided tours into the cave and headlights can be rented, according to this blog and another blog.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission


  1. I just got back from a trip to Phu Pha Phet. It looks like it's changed a lot in the last few years. The roads and bridges are all now good quality, and the route is very well signposted. I made the drive from Pak Bara in about an hour and a half. Inside the cave, there are broad sturdy wooden walkways and stairs leading to 6 or 7 chambers. If you want to go off the beaten path, you need to make an appointment. I would highly recommend the trip for everyone, not only caving enthusiasts.

  2. Thanks for the update. I suppose that's progress. Hope they are looking after the cave.