Battambang, a city a couple of hours’ drive away from Siem Reap is a spot that is often left out from a typical traveller’s itinerary of Cambodia, overshadowed by the spotlight of the temples of Angkor and the bustle of Phnom Penh. However, after reading up about it in my trusty lonely planet guide, I was pretty keen to at least spend one full day there to explore the town’s surroundings.
We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day (only $18 between 6 of us!) and we did indeed have a great day out. There was certainly lots to do. We spent the day journeying on a bamboo train, exploring various different temples, wandering through a vineyard and visiting a former interrogation centre and ‘killing caves’. These were used by the Khmer Rouge back in the 70s and although it was sad to see and learn about, it was also very interesting.
But it was something else that really for the first time during our trip honestly left me open-mouthed. Bats leaving their cave for the night. Literally millions and millions of them!
Early on in our day out, I had been pretty impressed when we had seen a huge bunch of fruit bats nestled up and asleep in the trees. I had never seen bats so close, and so many at a time.
So when the rest of our group were keen to hang about till early evening to wait for a whole cave of bats to leave for the night, in all honesty, I wasn’t too bothered. This was especially the case when a local informed us that the bats often left at unpredictable times. Sometimes it could be early, sometimes it could be late. It had been a long day and I had already seen loads that day, right?
Wrong, at least nowhere near as many as I was about to witness. After waiting for half an hour or so outside this bat cave, a hefty crowd had gathered. I remember sighing impatiently and glancing down at the clock on my phone before noticing a quiet fluttering noise starting to grow louder and louder.
And what do you know, as I looked up streams and streams of bats began to waver out of the cave, the mass slowly growing in size. I stood watching in complete bewilderment. The bats flew together so streamlined, so perfectly fitting together that it was incredible to watch. I had never seen anything like it before. It was so far, one of the most amazing spectacles I’d seen out in the wild. We watched for about 30 minutes, and there seemed to be no stopping them.
I honestly have no idea how many there were. There were lots of whispers amongst the crowds that there were approximately 30 million, but that seems absurd to me and after a bit of google research numbers seem to be ranging from around 1 – 30 million, so who knows. Whatever the number, there were definitely a lot of them!
As we drove off whilst the sun was starting to set, you could see the bats still pouring out of the cave, creating beautiful formations in the sky. It truly was an absolutely incredible scene to witness from a city I foolishly hadn’t really expected much from – way to go Battambang!