LIFE

Peek Underneath The World In This Massive And Beautiful Cave

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Not many people would choose to venture deep into the mysterious recesses of the Earth for fun.

Unless, of course, you’re photographer Ryan Deboodt, whose work focuses on the stranger nooks and crannies of the planet that attract the most adventurous of travelers.

The dark mystery of caves appeals to a lot of people — there was even one couple who held their wedding deep underground among roosting bats — and going into them is to see the world in an amazing new way: from the inside!

Ryan recently traveled to one of the largest underground rivers in the world, which flows through a series of massive caves.

Called Tham Khoun Xe, it’s located in Laos and is well-known among caving enthusiasts. However, due to safety concerns, most tourists are only allowed in up to a point.

But Ryan, thanks to his status as a photographer and an experienced cave explorer, was allowed to go deeper than anyone else. And the results are some truly breathtaking scenes of a world hidden beneath our own, at once alien and familiar.

Check out the secret chambers of Tham Khoun Xe, and be sure to check out the video at the end to really get a sense of its immense scale!

[H/T: Colossal, Amusing Planet, Smithsonian]

Tham Khoun Xe has been used as a fishing and bird’s nest gathering spot by the Lao people for centuries. But it wasn’t until 2005 that the cave was opened, and reluctantly at that, to Western tourists.

The entrance is a 60-meter (that’s about 180 feet) archway in the surrounding limestone, leading to a river that flows through stone chambers deep underground.

The largest passages are some 200 meters wide, and the cane is full of massive stalagmites and large, spherical calcite deposits known as cave pearls.

It’s amazing to consider that these massive empty spaces exist underground.

Besides his own cameras, Ryan Deboodt also brought a drone into Tham Khoun Xe with him to capture incredible aerial shots that show the enormity of the space — and how tiny he and his companions look by comparison.

In all, Deboodt as his companions spent two days in the cave, kayaking a full seven kilometers and exploring the cave’s chambers and secrets. Even more daunting was getting to the remote location.

And even more daunting than that? Evidence of extremely large spiders! But luckily, Ryan and his team didn’t happen upon any during their time in the cave.

While the cave seems massive, Ryan says that caves are actually quite fragile, and the slightest careless motion can cause damage to rock formations that have taken thousands of years to form.

Tham Khoun Xe is truly something special, and reminds us that no matter how big we may think we are, there are still places where we are very small.

You can see more of Ryan’s cave photography on his website, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.

And if you know someone who likes exploring the lesser-known parts of the world, be sure to SHARE this destination with them!