Crawling Through Poop At The Lanquin Bat Cave
As I lay there in the Lanquin bat cave covered in bat poop, my headlamp the only thing separating me from complete darkness and despair. I couldn’t help but call my decision-making skills into question. What had I gotten myself into?
The source of my current predicament was a small statured man who worked at the hostel where I was staying. I was in the small village of San Agustin Lanquin or just Lanquin as the locals call it. I was there on the hunt for the natural pools of Semuc Champey that were located in a nearby village.
This man assured me that the best adventure to be had was the bat cave on the edge of town. The cave, he told me, was full of bats, the beginning of the Lanquin river, and the villages sole source of water. Wow, I thought. I had been to a massive cave in Belize a week earlier, but I’d never been to a cave filled with bats before. I just had to check it out.
The twenty-five-minute walk to the cave was smoking hot and all uphill. Large trucks flew by leaving me in a constant cloud of dust. What I found when I arrived would make the dirt filled sweat completely worth it.
The icy turquoise water flowing out from the darkness was mesmerizing. I couldn’t get enough. I had to get closer.
Just as I was about to jump in, a very angry man came around the corner and started yelling and pointing at something. There turned out to be a sign that read “no swimming, potable water”. It made sense that I probably shouldn’t be swimming in the villages water supply. I apologized, called myself a stupid gringo (which made him smile) and prepared myself for the adventure ahead.
My headlamp plastered to my forehead, my phone and an extra light in my bag, and my camera strapped to my chest I entered Xibalbá (the Mayan underworld).
The Lanquin Bat Cave
I knew the cave would be pitch dark. A perfect opportunity to practice my light painting photography (long exposure shots and a light to make the dark space viewable to the camera sensor).
As I furthered into the cave the light started to fade into the distance. It was cold, wet, and there was a funny smell in the air. My headlamp was doing the job of keeping me on my feet, but I couldn’t see much else.
I could kind of make out a stalagmite that looked like it filled the room. So I set up as far back as I could along the edge of the cave and snapped a shot.
I was standing in a massive cavern and I didn’t even realize it. There where stalactites and stalagmites everywhere. I couldn’t believe how well my camera was able to capture a room that was completely void of light inside the earth.
The Whole Truth: The pictures in this post are not the first taken in each room. They are the final product of many trial runs. Taking photos while light painting is fickle when you’re working with a headlamp that barely lights up a 10 x 10-foot space. It tends to leave light streaks making the white balance very uneven.
After seeing what my camera could eventually produce I was suddenly hit by a wave of energy. I was super excited to check out the rest of the cave in all its glory.
The path through the cave was fairly laid out. Wax candle drippings from past explorers lit up by the beam of my headlamp lead the way as the corridor started to narrow.
I almost ran face first into a handrail that came out of nowhere. The handrail and the old lighting strung up made it seem as if the cave was once a very well lit tourist attraction. I was glad to be there after its hay day, it made it more fun.
Every turn seemed to reveal yet another piece of cave art, be it a calcified cascade or some low-hanging stalactites.
As I journeyed deeper the cave seemed to get smaller and smaller. So much so that at one point I was hunched down duck walking through the darkness.
Then all of a sudden it opened back up. I couldn’t tell before I took the photo just how big the cavern was. The picture doesn’t do it enough justice.
The room was massive!
It marked the end of the railing and the end of man’s civilized approach to the Lanquin bat cave. The level of adventure was now entirely up to me.
With the next rendering of the cave, the soft squishy floor I had been walking and crawling on would finally be revealed.
You guessed it… Bat poop.
It was at this point that I had to make the difficult decision to put the camera away. It was getting very tight and messy the further I got, and the thought of ruining my semi-newish camera made me sick to my stomach (something that my greasy lunchtime hamburger was doing for me already).
Now fully concentrated on not getting hurt or lost I became much more aware of the strange noises happening all around me. I am not a believer in ghosts or demons, but when you are alone in absolute darkness in a place where Mayans surely sacrificed hundreds of people and a bat flaps its wings right behind your head, there is not much you won’t believe in
Caves are supposed to be completely silent!
I would spend the next hour on all fours slipping and sliding around the last bits of the cave. My headlamp lighting up the heavy dust in the air cutting my visibility down to a couple feet. I was covered in bat guano and was ready to be out of the darkness. Luckily I found a small underground river that helped clean the build up of bat poop from my face and hair. I then began the long trek out.
The backside of the giant stalagmite meant that I had made it back to the entrance of the cave and sweet freedom from the dark abyss. As I emerged from the cave I could hear the bats starting to stir.
Don’t Miss This: The man who told me about the Lanquin bat cave somehow forgot to mention that you should be there at sundown to witness thousands of bats fly out of the cave to go mosquito hunting. It would have been an amazing experience I’m sure. If I had only known about it.
The walk back was much like the one before, dusty and hot. This time, however, I was rewarded with a cold refreshing Coca-Cola and some pan dulce (sweet bread). The cathedral of Lanquin had marked my return to civilization and relaxation deep in the jungles of Guatemala.
Getting To Lanquin, Guatemala
Traveling and booking accommodations in Guatemala is fairly developed. The transportation to Lanquin can be found in the form of a shuttle service or Colectivo. Taking one of these services from Guatemala City or Flores will be your best bet. It shouldn’t cost you more than $18 USD.
Accommodations are just as simple. Visiting any booking site like Hostelworld or Booking.com, you will find quite a few options. I stayed at the Hostel Oasis in Lanquin and it was incredible, however, if you like to party I would recommend the Hostel Zephyr.
Thanks For Reading!!
Does crawling through bat poop seem like an adventure you would enjoy?
Do you think you could brave the cold creepy darkness?