Bats of Battambang

One of the most amazing things we saw was a complete surprise on this little trip. At the end of our day trip, after a nice nap, we hopped back in the tuk tuk with Mr. Hoeurn to head out to a large Karst with some bats. We arrived and opted to walk up to the top of the mountain to check out a temple and some old gun placements. Around the temple was a rather angry troop of Monkeys, stealing plates of food from the vendors, and just causing a bunch of mischief. Living with Macaques takes a lot of patience, because they are always breaking things, stealing stuff, and just doing what they do best I suppose. The vendor chucked rocks at the monkeys till they dropped her plate of food. The view was gorgeous, looking over all the farm fields and village life. We then proceeded to march down the mountain to check out the bat cave, which was a ragged opening in the side of the cliff.

I was expecting what usually happens when people say a bat cave, you see a few here or there, walk over some guano, and that’s about it. Not that exciting. Well, as the sun slowing slid down the horizon, the big gash started to twirl, looking like an angry beehive. But it was all still in the shadows. With a bunch of other tourist, we hung out, waiting for something, but they just kept flying around and around. A few would shoot out of the cave, then head back in, never straying too far. Now with wildlife viewing, patience is very important. So we hunkered down on a wall, and just watched them fly in circles for a half hour or so. The smell was very strong and pungent, with a hint of ammonia. Then, with some unheard signal, they burst out of the cave in a long line. We were under the direct path of them as they flew overhead, and it was impressive. I learned an important lesson at another bat cave on etiquette; you never open your mouth when looking up, because shit happens. Here, it was happening a lot, speckling all of us with little dollops of moisture, kind of disgusting. The sight was so amazing, that I did not even notice at first.

They just kept coming and coming. We sat there for over twenty minutes watching them fly, and the numbers did not let up. We did however move out from under them. I had never seen anything like it. I have been to Austin where the bats come out from under one of their bridges, but there is just little streaks in the dark, nothing more. Here we could see the individual bats flying in perfect clarity. There had to be millions of them, literally blotting out the sky above them. Mr. Hoeurn suggested we leave to watch them from the field, I was like “Are you crazy, I have never seen anything like this before.” But he assured me that I would not be disappointed, and he was right.

We drove over to the side of the field, about a mile down, and you could see the entire mountain, the temple on top, and a long line of bats flying across the field, for miles. It was like the set of a batman movie, so freakin cool. You could see the entire line of them, going for miles, in a jagged pattern across the sky. The sun had hit the bottom of the horizon and they were still coming out. They were crossed the sky as far as I could see. At the very edge of perception they slowing started to spread out. According to our guide, they would hunt for miles and miles around, then return during the early morning hours in small numbers.

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Copyright Michael Bencik

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Copyright Michael Bencik

The type of bats in this cave are wrinkle lipped or free tailed bats, Tadarida plicata , family Molossidae. There are between 4 to 5 million bats that roost in this cave during the day.

This was really unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.

Copyright Michael Bencik

5 responses to “Bats of Battambang

  1. Very cool. If you ever get to Austin, Texas, in the middle of the city, under the Congress Avenue bridge I believe it is, are millions of bats. They take flight every evening and return in the morning. It’s quite a sight. Certainly not something you would expect in a thriving city.

    • Austin is awesome! I actually went Kayaking under that bridge, listening to them call out to each other. It really was cool. Nature is really amazing, even in a major city something like that can thrive. Austin was trying to figure out how to get rid of the bats for a while, till they realized it actually brought tourist in. In Cambodia they fly out during the day, so you can really see them for miles.

      • For about 15 years, San Diego has been trying to figure out how to get rid of the sea lions and seals in La Jolla. La Jolla hates them but tourists love them. I love them, and I’m not even a tourist! Finally San Diego said enough is enough about a week ago, and people are banned from the beach where the sea lions and seals live.

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