Lebanon’s limestone cave system, the Jeita Grotto, is one of the longest caves in the Middle East, spanning 9km across the Nahr-al-Kalb valley. But the awe-inspiring site has rarely been photographed; all cameras are prohibited in part because the frequent flashes of light may harm the grotto's hundreds of naturally formed hanging crystals.
In December 2013, Dutch wakeboarder and Red Bull-sponsored athlete Duncan Zuur had the rare opportunity to wakeboard through the warm waters of the stalactite- and stalagmite-filled Jeita Grotto. The result is a stunning video that illustrates Zuur’s athletic skill and brings to life the grotto’s truly spectacular environment.
In the video, Zuur glides across emerald-coloured waters and skids off boat ramps set specifically for the once-in-a-lifetime ride. “I stopped thinking about riding because there was so much beauty from around a world I’ve never seen,” Zuur said, describing his surreal experience.
Composed of an approximately 2,000m-long upper region, and a 6,000m-long lower region, the Jeita Grotto also acts as the main source for Beirut’s fresh drinking water. Once only accessible by boat through an underground river, the Jeita’s upper region now has an access tunnel and a series of walkways where travellers can witness the stalactites and stalagmites without disturbing the natural landscape.
Zuur and the Red Bull staff had to work closely with Jeita Grotto’s site curators, using special lightning techniques and production equipment to protect the grotto’s natural composition. Dr Nabil Haddad, the manager of Jeita Grotto who worked alongside Red Bull, said the video was the perfect opportunity to highlight Jeita Grotto’s stunning nature. “We are at a very unique location, one that is very hard to depict by mere words,” Haddad said. “The camera will now be able to give this place what it deserves.”
Walking tours and rowboat cruises of Jeita Grotto are available from February to December.