The Bat Caves of Na Yang, Thailand
When our principal ecologist was on holiday in southern Thailand and was told about a local cave complex at Na Yang, from which millions of bats emerge at sunset, as a licensed bat consultant, naturally Graham couldn’t resist finding out more about this natural spectacle.
The bat caves of Na Yang are situated a couple of kilometres to the southeast of the small town of Cham-am, which in turn is located 175 km to the south of Bangkok. The caves, in addition to other caves complexes in the prefecture of Phetchaburi, are located within densely forested erroded sedimentary rock outcrops (khao in the Thai language) that are common throughout this part of the Thai landscape.
In contrast to the UKs 18 species of bat, Thailand is host to 119 bat species, in addition to 16 other bat species for which information is either not available or is limited. The cave complex of Na Yang supports a mixed species colony in excess of 2 million individuals. Unfortunately, very little information is available on the species that use the caves. However, based on information for other bat roosting cave sites in southern Thailand, wrinkled-lipped free-tail bats are likely to be the dominant species.
The amazing spectacle begins shortly before sunset, with a sudden emergence of millions of bats from a large sink hole located in the northern side of the Na Yang outcrop. Depending on light levels, weather and a range of other factors, including presence of predators, the bats stream into the surrounding countryside in a long narrow undulating stream.
When Graham visited the caves at Na Yang, he viewed the emergence from a custom-built viewing area located to the north of the caves that is operated by a local business. For a small fee, the viewing platform provides unbroken views of the caves and a panoramic view of the emergence. The location also provides wonderful views of numerous birds of prey – these wait on trees located around the sink hole and hunt bats as they emergence from the caves, following the thin ribbon into the surrounding forest and felids, as can been seen from the short clip below.
If you happen to be on holiday in Thailand and want to see the bats emerge from the caves at Na Yang, you should contact you hotel and/or local tour operator. They will be able to arrange a private hire to take you to the bat viewing area. A word of caution, the viewing area can become quite busy so it pays to get there early and snag yourself the best seat in the house.