Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going Batty

When we visited the city of Battambang in 2009, our tour guide took us to a park to show us 'fruit bats'. I'd never heard of them. They're a species of bat that feeds on fruit, which is plentiful in Cambodia, especially mango trees. As we stood beneath the trees, I wasn't really sure what I was looking at (or looking for) until he threw stones up into the trees to disturb them. When a few took flight, I was amazed at their enormous wing span!   I've since learned that fruit bats are also known as 'flying foxes' or 'Megabats'. (click on the word 'Megabats' to read about them in Wikipedia).

Even though this is our fifth time in Cambodia, and our fourth long-term stay, I never knew there were fruit bats in Siem Reap, until this year. Not too far from our guesthouse, there is a huge park opposite the Royal Residence with wide pathways and beautiful gardens...and towering trees where bats roost during the day. Funny to think I've probably walked or driven past that park several hundred times already, but never walked through it. People kept saying it was an amazing experience to see and hear the bats, so I decided to check it out for myself.

They were right! It's difficult to describe the eeriness of it all. From a distance I could hear a sound that was similar to a flock of birds.  As I approached, the tree canopy blocked out the sun and  it got darker. In the air the smell (which I assume was bat poop) was overpowering, like rotting fruit, but worse. The sound of 'birds' became reminiscent of the horror film 'The Birds', more squealing than chirping. Here's a video that's very similar to what I saw and heard. (click on the word 'video'). Lucky for you they're not putting smell sensors in videos yet.

Those things hanging down from the branches are not fruit.
They're bats.

Yep, bats.

Here's a closer view

There were about 20 or 30 trees. This is only one .
How many bats can you count?

If you think that's a lot of bats, brace yourself! About a week ago, we travelled to Battambang. This time our tour guide pointed out the opening to a bat cave near the Killing Caves. Around 5:30 pm, he stopped our tuk-tuk on the road nearby, and we waited for the bats to exit the opening on their nightly flight.

I cannot begin to describe the magnificence, the wonder and the absolutely unbelievable sight we beheld. I don't know how many bats emerged. Some people say there are millions. I wouldn't doubt it. We watched in stunned silence for almost thirty minutes as they flew out in thick streams.

If this is what we saw in the nano-second that it took to shoot this frame,
how many bats could we have seen in thirty minutes??

Too bad the battery on my camera died out just after this.
I could have taken shot after shot.

Click on the word video to see a video from youtube of bats streaming out of the cave. If you go to youtube and search for 'bats Battambang', you'll see several videos there. The sights and sounds are absolutely jaw-dropping.

Speaking of dropping... It's supposed to be lucky if you're hit by bat droppings. I got lucky four times that day.


  1. reading with mom, she came over for supper - toonie tuesday lol. Was nice to have some entertainment to go with the meal lol. Lovin the stories sis

    1. Probably not the best topic to read about over dinner LOL. Hope you clicked on the video links. They really give you the experience of what we saw. Lucky for you they haven't figured out how to send smells over the internet... Bat poop is pretty 'memorable'... :-P