Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Inside the Bat Cave!

When I arrived in my village nearly two years ago, I was fascinated by the nightly exodus of thousands of bats from a nearby bat cave isolated just up the coastline. Most of the locals were rather “ho-hum” about it, because they had seen it all their lives. It really wasn't much of a big thing to them. However, I enjoyed going down to the shore to wait for the bats to stream out (frequently joined by some of my students).

I wrote my initial blog story about the bats in my first few weeks here during August 2015. A few short weeks later, I wrote a second blog story telling how one of the local residents led me on a challenging journey to the opening of the bat cave. About a year ago, I wrote a third story about when I went up on L'islette to observe the exodus of the bats from a different angle.

Even though I have not written any additional bat cave blog stories, I never lost interest in it. I made several more visits around the rocky point to the cave entrance, but had never tried to make the difficult passage to actually get into the cave.

I did perform some Internet research and made contact with a group of scientists (including a bat research team) who will be coming to Dominica next month. They are from an international science group called Operation Wallacea. I have already talked to them about doing an educational presentation for our community about our bats. We need to better understand our neighbors (and fellow mammals).

However, the upcoming visit by scientists is not the big news about our bats. The big news is that a new trail has been blazed that makes access to our unique bat cave much easier (and safer) than it used to be. It is amazing to see the big ocean waves roll up the narrow inlet and into the gaping black hole at the bottom of the cliff that is the mouth of the cave. We hope it will help bring more tourists to our little community, where they might spend some money to help our economy. I've already taken a number of visitors over there to see it, and they have all loved it. The picture above shows me on the wooden bridge that was installed which lets people safely get over to the rocks that lead into the cave itself. Prior to the building of this bridge, it was extremely difficult to go inside the cave.
The pictures above and below this paragraph show the posts and cables that have been installed to help provide extra safety. The new path was carved out of the rock so that hikers stay above the waves of the ocean. For those daring enough, you can still climb up the rocks and steep cliff to get there as well, if you want to do it the hard way.
Using the new bridge, I was finally able to enter the cave itself. Bats hanging upside down were clustered thick on the ceiling of the cave roof. I tried to stay quiet and move slowly, but still my presence spooked a bunch of them. If you look close in the picture below, you can see some of the bats flying out and around mouth of the cave (you can also see one of my students who did not venture into the cave).
I certainly enjoyed the view looking out from the cave towards the Atlantic, but I didn't stay long enough to explore the entire cave. I decided I had already disturbed too many of the bats, so I still don't know how far back it goes. I could not see an “end” because it looked as if it curved further back. One would definitely need a flashlight if you wanted to explore the entire length of the cave.
I gave a lecture to our students (one of whom is pictured above running up the new steps on the trail) the next day during morning assembly, warning them that although it is now much easier to access the cave, we should all be respectful of the bats. In other words, don't make a lot of noise back there, avoid playing in the cave area, never throw rocks to stir the bats, etc. My biggest fear is that the bats may decide to vacate the cave because humans are disturbing them too much. However, even if the bats move away, the trail will still be an interesting hike to see an unusual oceanfront cave—but hopefully the bats will persevere with their newfound stardom and stay in their home.

[One of the local young adults made a 13 minute video (featuring Dominican music) that details the hike to the bat cave. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okMzSyqx7aM&feature=share.]

P.S. I just wanted to once again plead with my readers to donate towards building a playing court for my village, as part of the matching funds to the grant I won (described in this previous story) from an American charity.

For anyone leery of donating via a website using your credit card (the instructions for the electronic donation process can be found in the link above), it is also possible to donate the old fashioned way. You can mail a check to Courts for Kids, and just note “Thibaud, Dominica community court” in the memo line. Make the check out to “Courts for Kids” and mail it to:

Courts for Kids
PO Box 873786
Vancouver, WA 98687

Thank you for at least considering a donation, whether electronically or by check! It will make a big difference for my students and others in the village. The good folks here will surely appreciate your generosity!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading about the bat cave! My daughter Rebecca is doing a Peace Corps Response stint on Dominica as well. Teaching Ballet of all things! When she was in Thailand with Peace Corps we all went to a similar bat cave. Fun times!