Kelbe Photography

Batty Tales

Just south of Gobabis is one of the longest cave systems in Namibia, the Arnhem caves

It is situated on a private farm which is also run as a guest house and camp site. The caves are said to be 4.5 km long, as long as the Kango caves in South Africa, perhaps longer as they have not yet been fully explored. They are home to at least 6 bat species and for some years were mined for bat guano. Sections of the cave are easy to penetrate and navigate and allow sightings of the bats. These bats are habitual cave dwellers. They do not fly out en mass but rather live their lives in the cave with sporadic forays outside in small numbers. This is unlike the bat caves of Mexico and Zambia where mass bat migrations occur and so this experience requires penetration and no claustrophobia.

Arnheim Caves--2

The route up to the caves is up a stony koppie. Our guide and owner of the caves tells us of the 120 springbok he bought 2 years ago to stock the farm most of whom were taken by cheetah. It is the illustration of the cheetah farmer conflict here and clearly can be devastating. The springbok were gone within 18 months.

Arnheim Caves-

The entrance is a wide chasm in the rock and the path then leads steadily down into the dark. The air is surprisingly cool and fresh especially as the heat outside is still scorching. We move from chamber to chamber, the chambers are lofty and not oppressive. A few bats swoop in the air around our heads and the ground is thick with powdery bat guano which swirls up with each foot step in a dusty atmosphere. I would not want to be down here in a big group as it must be like walking in a sand storm of dust. There is a strong smell of urea and you are not sure how much of it is being deposited on your head as a sensation like sporadic rain drizzle surrounds you and the acid burns your nose. Best to keep your mouth closed while walking! In the third chamber we spot the bats roosting on the ceiling. They are small, the size of a ping pong ball . These are the southern bats and tend to roost individually. They are skittish to approach. The next section is low and we must bend to get through. Immediately the atmosphere is hotter and now there are many bats attached to the roof and ledges in clusters of up to 50. These are the long toed bats but they are tiny like little pompom fluff balls. They swoop and land from the groups,shadows elongated on the wall. We see the droppings of the slit faced Egyptian bat and the giant leaf nosed bat but they are deeper in the system and do not come out for us today.

As no flashes are allowed photography is near impossible by torch light.