Exploring a Giant River Cave by Kayak

Four miles long and narrower than a football field, this Laos wonder makes for a one-of-a-kind paddling journey.


When we last heard from photographer Ryan Deboodt, he’d just piloted a drone camera through the earth’s largest cave, Vietnam’s Hang Son Doong. Now he’s back with a short film that’s every bit as striking: a kayaking trip on the Xe Bang Fai River in the Tham Khoun Xe cave in Hin Nam No National Protected Area in central Laos.

The cave is more than four miles long and averages about 250 feet wide and 120 feet tall. Locals have fished near its entrance for centuries and climbed the walls to gather eggs from bird’s nests. Paddling it isn’t new, either-the first Europeans came in 1904 and the first raft journey came just a year later. Tham Khoun Xe was then closed to outsiders for nearly a century, until opening to kayaking 10 years ago.

See more of Deboodt’s photography at his website, Vimeo, Instagram, and Facebook.

Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Recommended Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • cafebmw
    Reply

    in 2008 i traveled trough this cave on bicycle trip. i hired a boat man with his flat bottomed longtail boat and we poled through the cave downriver. that was at the dry season though when the water is much lower. it was terrific!

  • Vina
    Reply

    How does sone get to this cave? I understand it’s in the Khammouane region. Where is it in relation to the Kong Lor Cave? Thanks

Leave a Comment

Snaillie552a2b09a9781historical badass harriet chalmers adams