To get inside the massive Son Doong Cave in Vietnam–the largest known cave in the world–you have to hike through a dense jungle, strap on a harness, and rappel down 260 feet. The view is unreal: The cave is so large it could hold an entire block of Manhattan, including 40-story skyscrapers. A 747 jet could fly through some areas. The cave has its own river and jungle.
Until five years ago, when explorers discovered a way to access the cave, no one had ever been inside. Now, thanks to photographer Ryan Deboodt, you can take a jaw-dropping tour by drone.
Deboodt shot the video on his third trip to the cave, after two previous visits with a still camera. “I wanted to get a new perspective of the cave, as well as taking video, and a drone was a perfect way of doing that,” he says.
Flying the drone inside was a challenge, partly because the drone’s batteries could only last a little over an hour, so each flight had to be carefully planned. And because GPS doesn’t work inside the cave, Deboodt had to fly the drone manually.
“There were several near misses with the trees and walls inside of the cave,” he says.
But the resulting video was worth it. “Hang Son Doong is an incredible, otherworldly experience,” Deboodt says. “You lose sense of time and location. Am I going to see a dinosaur around the corner? Am I on another planet? It is just incredible. The sheer size of the cave makes you feel tiny, and you realize how small and insignificant you are on the grand scheme of things.”
The video offers a chance to see the cave in its current pristine condition, which may not necessarily last. A resort developer is hoping to build a cable car that could bring 1,000 tourists an hour in for a visit.