Before I visited the Monfort bat cave (officially known as Monfort Bat Conservation Park) in Samal island, I heard that the place has a large concentration of Geoffroy’s rousette fruit bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus). "Large" turned out to be a huge understatement: the caves are packed with over a million fruit bats!
According to one estimate, there are about 1.8 million fruit bats roosting in the cave safeguarded by the Inigo-Monfort family in Babak district in Samal (IGACOS or Island Garden City of Samal). That makes it the largest bat roost in the world.
cave walls blanketed with bats
The cave, located in a 23 hectare protected area, is just a very short hike from the beach. It is less than 100 meters long. Some of the cave ceiling have collapse thus one can see clearly the guano covered floor as well as the walls. From the entrance of the sanctuary, there are at least 5 "openings" where you can easily see the bats.
one of the cave entrances
It was such an overwhelming sight, and smell too! (My wife called it quits by the time we reached the 4th opening). The walls are so crowded some of the bats are pushed out to the ground level near the roots of the huge trees at the edge of the openings.
bats up to the ground level
While the bat population of other caves nearby are declining due to excessive hunting (yes, folks here eat bats and they are considered a delicacy) and destruction of their habitats, the bats here are under constant protection. Norma Monfort, the current trustee of the cave, played an integral role in the conservation efforts.
fruit bats up close
With the protection the bats enjoy, the colony continues to grow. They only have their natural predators to fear, like feral cats, rats, and snakes (encountered one on the way to the cave). However, the bats become vulnerable to hunting when they leave the cave to feed.
a "visitor" near the bat cave
To educate the public on the importance of the bats in the ecosystem (they are excellent pollinators), Norma Monfort had been conducting conservation lectures and workshops together with local experts and members of the Bat Conservation International (BCI). She also co-founded the Philippine Bat Conservation, Inc, a non-profit organization which aims to educate the general public and promote bat awareness as well as spearhead bat conservation efforts and researches.
adult fruit bats
how to get there and where to stay
The bat cave is just a few minutes ride from Babak pier. You can rent a motorcycle (habal-habal) to take you to the cave. Its best to come late in the afternoon to witness the bats leaving the. The park has a couple of rooms for rent (Php 600/night or about 30 USD) for overnight stay. Contact number: +63-84-3031915.
entrance to Monfort Bat Sanctuary
There is a camping area in front of the park and its got a great view of the beach. There are open cottages for rent too.