October 12, 2009

Hanging Out
fruit bats in Monfort Bat Sanctuary

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.

Monfort Bat Cave: Crowded Wall
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.

Monfort Cave Entrance 3
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.

Monfort Bat Colony 2
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.

Huddled Bats
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.

Snake in the Garden
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.

Monfort Bats Siesta Time
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.

Facade - Entrance to Monfort Bat Sanctuary
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.

Samal Noon Palms
view from the campsite
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  1. wow galing! i've been there and the place is really fascinating. Your captures of the bats are really awesome!

  2. There are bats in my property ( Chateau Du Mer Beach Resort)in Marinduque, but I considered them pests as they eat all my fruit trees-papayas and chicos before they are ready to be harvested. Now that I knew they are good pollinators, I will not drive them away. Eating bats, it is not for me, unless I am really starved!

  3. @Marites, sobrang daming bats ano?

  4. @David - those bats are probably from a cave nearby. that is one of the problem with fruit bats, they eat soft peeled fruits. In some areas, like Davao, they are beneficial to the durian trees because they pollinate when they suck the nectar. I guess its the balance of nature

  5. I really want to go to Samal, dapat sana this year ano, sige, mayaya nga si Rikoy!

  6. @sheng - pirme kamo sa davao, sidetrip lang sa samal. mas mayo overnight either sa talicud or sa canibad

  7. ayos ah... di pa ko nagagawi dyan, hanggang paradise beach resort lang ako sa samal... hehehe.

  8. Wow... you are brave... I am afraid of bats...seems they can get stuck in your hair... and the smell is terrible... I would not dare wake up such a big colony of bats.
    Awesome images.

  9. Grabe! Ang dami! Pang National Geographic mga shots :D

  10. @lino - next time bro, pag uwi ni Tawie, sama ka sa kanya sa davao :)

  11. @sidney - the smell is nauseating, very! :D. I would have love to enter the bowels of the cave not its not permitted. well even if it was im pretty sure my wife will protest :D

    @ferdz - sobrang dami bai, pwde mo nga nga sila kalabitin dahil nasa ground level na sila

  12. The amount of bats was quite shocking...huh, glad that we arrived to the open beach at last!

  13. awesome pics! nakakakilabot ang wings nung bats! :) we got fruit bats flying around in our garden every evening. katakot coz they swoop down.

  14. @chrome3d - shocking indeed! :D. my wife stayed near the beach while I took more photos of the bats :D

    @carlotta - fortunately they won't bite humans hehehe.

  15. It is probably an impressive sight to see them stream out of the cave's mouth in the evening to foray for food.

  16. bai stop showing photos of beaches. napapapunta ako sa mga pinopost mo. hehehehe... great shots of the cave and the bats bai. saw this first in born to be wild. astig!

  17. @bertN - probably is. we went there as a sidetrip on the way back to davao city, next time i'll try to catch them in the late afternoon :)

    @dom - adto na bai! :D

  18. hi, new to this blog. i am so thrilled looking at the first pic! how i wish i could experience this one day when i retire from work. it is so amazing to see the joy of capturing photos as beautiful as this.

  19. Wow, that's a lot of fruit bats!

    It's a good thing to know that the bats there are under constant protection. Kudos to Norma Monfort for her conservation efforts.

    Nice photos here as always. Superb ang pinaka-last nga photo in this post ;)

  20. @bing, thanks for the visit!

    @dodong, Salamat bai. I hope more of us will see these fruit bats as wildlife worth preserving

  21. That's right, Bai. The keyword here should be "preservation." We wouldn't want to invite another environmental disasters...

  22. Woe, impressive shots! I've never seen this kind of colony of bats. Must have smelled bad!

  23. @Dennis - really really bad bro! :D

  24. i've been to this place---3 years ago! but i wasn't brave enough to enter the cave. i remember how mosquitoes feasted on our bare legs.:p

    the beach photo is gorgeous!

  25. @luna miranda, nobody can last long in that cave without a gas mask :D

  26. The Guinness World Records recently certified the MONFORT BAT CAVE AND CONSERVATION PARK as the world's biggest colony of fruit bats, with an estimated population of about 1.8 million.

    Individuals and organizations may arrange a visit to the park by contacting (082) 234-7958, (082) 286-6958, (082) 224-2972, or monfortbat@gmail.com.

    The park accepts overnight accommodations. It also has facilities for workshops/seminars, teambuilding activities, camping, and other outdoor activities.

    Samal's adorable vanishing island is very near the site and the park has a boat that can take visitors there.

    Enjoy! :-)

  27. c u sa friday...visit kami jan...UP MIndanao employees....

  28. [ronnie Payopelin] - i learned several years ago that these fruit bats are responsible for pollinating durian since durian flowers open only at night.

  29. The bat cave is one of the most interesting places I want to seek adventure with, but I'm scared of bats. haha!http://www.cdokay.com/

  30. Hi Sir.. How much po rent ng motorcycle from Babak Pier to Monfort? Open po whole day ang Monfort? In case po na stay kami overnight, pwede po kaya mag pitch ng tent sa campsite and kung pwede, how much po fee? thanks a lot..:)..


  31. @Cory, not sure how much the tricycle fare is nowadays. For accommodations, contact these numbers:(082) 234-7958, (082) 286-6958, (082) 224-2972, or monfortbat@gmail.com

  32. Thank you so much, Lantaw, for this post and for posting the latest phone numbers. I was able to contact them just now. :)

    xo Love