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05/04/2018 - 07:39

Mysterious bat caves

They consider bats a gift granted by God. They are allowed to catch bats in the cave just once a year with strict regulations.

The road to the cave is rather difficult.

1. Village 2 (Thuong Quang Commune, Nam Dong District) nestles at the foot of Ka Lang Mountain. In the mountains are large and mysterious caves where bats inhabit. Co Tu people regard bats as treasure.

Mr. Nguyen Van Can urged me to visit the cave after many failed appointments. According to Mr. Can, the bat cave in Thuong Quang was discovered by Co Tu people when they were in the forest looking for rattan and picking fruits. The cave soon became a hideaway for Co Tu people when encountering beasts. The cave is also shelter for mountain bats living on fruits. 

As tribute for the bat whose house helps protect people in danger, every year in September, Co Tu people throughout Ka Lang Village organize a ceremony with lots of offerings to worship the bat god. The festival lasts within a month when people are allowed to catch bats. This custom has been existing for decades now. 

Thuong Quang bat cave was being surveyed to become a tourist attraction.

Before entering the cave, Mr. Can looked at me, making a signal with two fingers. Seeing my embarrassment, he explained: "Because we are entering the cave off the season, we have to ask for permission. Offerings are usually chicken and wine, costing VND 200.000 only. If not, the bat god would get angry. We are not allowed to catch bats at this time of the year. 

After completing the routine, we got into the mysterious cave. The way leading to the cave was so hard. From Village 2, we spent 20 minutes riding our motorcycle on woodland paths, then walked about one kilometer to the mountain foot. The cave had three openings, blocked by big mossy rocks. It looked wild and mysterious as a masterpiece granted by nature. 

Queer and original patterns on the cave walls.

For those who are familiar with the forest like Mr. Can, breaking into the cave is quite easily but to me, it is a real challenge. Hearing sounds, the bats on the cave roof, more than 50 meters high at some places, flew in disorder. In the flashlight, compartments, stalactites and stalagmites of diverse forms and shapes appeared. Without the light from the sun, the cave looked tempting to those who like adventure and exploration.

"You have to go slowly; beware of the stalactites above your head. There are many corners and compartments down here. You don't know the cave well; follow me to avoid stumbling on the rocks," Mr. Can kept reminding me.

Deep in the mountains, the only light source for the cave came from the openings covered with leaves. The cave thus became ideal shelter for mountain bats. In the quiet of the forest, now and then we heard big sounds echoing. “The cave is divided into compartments full of rocks of queer shapes, glossy with time. Part of the floor is always wet. We have kept the cave in natural conditions for decades," said Mr. Can.

It is necessary to use flashlights to move in the cave

"More bats can be found in the cave in September-October according to the lunar calendar. They are just like the signal for a new crop. We often have a ceremony in September dedicated to the bat god, praying for a good harvest and safety. After that comes a month of bat catching. We are not allowed to catch bats in other time. If we do, the bat god will get angry," said Mr. Can.

Despite strict regulations, some people ignored the advice by old people. They got into the cave to catch bats. We found nets in there while exploring the cave. There have been some sudden deaths due to breaking the rule. "The rule of the village is catching bats in September only; violators will be punished," said Mr. Can.

Mr. Hoang Van Chuc, Head of Nam Dong Forest Protection Unit, said: "Although Co Tu people have the custom of catching bats once a year, they are well aware of preserving the bat cave, avoiding negative effects by humans. It is hoped that the cave will soon become a tourist attraction."

2. In northern or central provinces, bat caves are not strange. Some caves are historical; many in Son La, Vinh Phuc, Quang Nam, etc. have become tourist attractions. 

In Thua Thien-Hue, there are bat caves in Phu Loc, A Luoi, Nam Dong. According to Mr. Nguyen Van Tuan, Head of the Culture and Information Department of Nam Dong District, besides the one in Thuong Quang, there is a system of bat caves which have not been explored yet.

Compared with other areas, caving tourism in Nam Dong is still new, incompatible to its potentiality. Anyway the tourism in Nam Dong is making long-term plans to develop ecotourism and community based tourism, introducing and conserving the culture of Co Tu people. The bat cave in Thuong Quang will be a destination.

"There are suggestions to make bat caves tourist attractions. These caves are a source of mystery. Thuong Quang Cave in Nam Dong has been planned to become a destination for exploring tourism. We have plans to explore this cave and others, making them a system of tourist sites," said Mr. Nguyen Van Tuan.

Story and photos: Quyen Vien

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