Growing up in a century farm house meant that usually every year we'd have a "bat incident". A bat would somehow enter the kitchen, we'd all scream and run around frantically, and then a badminton racket would appear much to the demise of the harmless bat. Combine those scarring memories and the fact that in French bats are called chauve-souris (bald mouse), I was pretty excited about a hike to the Tamana bat caves, housing the second largest colony of bats in the world.
Ok, to be honest, I WAS excited to trek out to the caves. Bats are such fascinating creatures, and our hike yesterday proved it.
The caves are located in the central region of Trinidad, about a 2 hour drive from our place, given stop and go traffic, narrow windy roads, with pot-holes the size of small craters. With Emile (our guide) and 12 hikers,we eventually reached the trailhead at 4:30 pm. A short uphill climb brought us to the cave exit, which at 5 pm was quiet and unassuming. Emile agreed to a quick climb down into the cave, which was nothing like we'd ever experienced before. The cave entrance was large, and what we considered to be bat filled. Well, how wrong were we.
Emile pointed to a small hole, and when I say small, I mean small, and said, "Ok, that's where we crawl through to get into the cave." Pardon? Paul led the way, slithering through this very tight tunnel passage. When he called out to Emile, "Are you sure about this?", confidence was not high on the meter. Somehow all 12 of us mustered the confidence to crawl through the tunnel, landing in a smelly, dark, humid and bat infested cavern. IT WAS SUPER COOL!
The Tamana caves are home to 1.5 million bats consisting of 12 different species. After exploring one of the small caverns, we re-surfaced to the cave exit. As it was dusk, the bats were exiting for their nightly feeding ritual. We stood directly in the path of thousands of bats, and let me tell you it was surreal. It didn't even look real. Bats flew directly at us, and then in the last millisecond, they'd swoop up, left or right to avoid us. The pictures don't do it justice, but if you ever get the chance to do something like this, do it. You'll gain a new appreciation for bats.
There are morepictures in the gallery!