Vihear Luong Cave, Cambodia

Merlin sits inside the Vihear Luong Cave entrance photographing the Asian wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon plicatus) emerging at sunset along the high ceiling of the cave.
Merlin sits inside the Vihear Luong Cave entrance photographing the Asian wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon plicatus) emerging at sunset along the high ceiling of the cave.

Following our field trip to the bat farms along the Mekong River south of Phnom Penh in Kandal Province, Merlin and Neil Furey of Cambodia put on a two-day cave workshop for about 10 participants. They lectured with slide presentations to students who already had more than basic knowledge and experience with bats. After lunch, we drove to several caves. At the Phnom Chhngauk limestone mountain the students trapped bats at one of the cave entrances, and Merlin demonstrated bat portrait photography onsite.

Paula Tuttle and Ith Saveng climb the 100-meter vertical climb to Vihear Luong Cave, Cambodia, to photograph the Asian wrinkle-lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus) one-million-strong emergence.
Paula Tuttle and Ith Saveng climb the 100-meter vertical climb to Vihear Luong Cave in 100-degree heat to photograph the Asian wrinkle-lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus) one-million-strong emergence.

Merlin, Neil and Ith Saveng, one of Neil’s former students and Cambodia’s first bat PhD, and I traveled on to the Tuk Meas district to visit the Vihear Luong Cave where an enormous colony of the Wrinkle-lipped bat (Chaerephon plicatus) lives.  There Merlin and I got photographs of the spectacular emergence from inside and outside the cave while Jeff Acopian, one of our founding partners, got video.

Can you just imagine what it’s like inside that cave, when more than a million bats fly out for their evening meal of rice crop pests? You can see Merlin in the video constantly cleaning his lens.

Lucky me, I got to sit high on a ridge perpendicular to the entrance and shoot the columns of bats as they pour into the sky. Tons of bats exited a smaller entrance above the main one and merged with that column to create a Y formation. We did this two nights in a row, and both nights the emergences were spectacular!

Aboout a million Wrinkle-lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus) emerge from the Vihear Luong Cave in Cambodia at sunset.

About a million Wrinkle-lipped bats (Chaerephon plicatus) emerge from the Vihear Luong Cave in Cambodia at sunset.

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