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I went there for the bats!
How many times have you heard that given as the reason to visit somewhere? Probably not too often, though I’m not alone. Anyone who loves wildlife spectacles will be thrilled by the sight of thousands and thousands and thousands of bats emerging from their caves at dusk, their tight formation creating a snake-live ribbon of motion across the sky as they head out to feed for the night.
Seeing this daily phenomenon was a key reason I included Khao Yai in our 3 week Thailand itinerary this year. Once I found out about the bats that emerge from their caves as the sun sets, Khao Yai rose to the top of the list! There is plenty of other wildlife to see inside and outside Khao Yai National Park, as well as a range of other attractions in the area, not to mention many more adventurous activities across Thailand.
As we had a rental car, we booked two days accommodation at the Nhapa Khaoyai Resort, an architectural gem less than 10 miles drive from the Northern entrance to Khao Yai National Park.
The car was a godsend for exploring the wider area – we visited local wineries, vibrant local food markets, an organic dairy farm and ice cream store, a chocolatier’s factory with onsite cafe, shop and restaurant, and even a couple of pick-your-own strawberry farms by the roadside. We also giggled at some of the over-the-top themed hotels the area has become known for, replicas of Italian hillside towns and traditional British villages of chocolate-box cottages, fairytale castles and Hobbit-homes, Wild West saloons and a futuristic space station…
To help give us the best chance of seeing both the bats and other wildlife inside the national park, we booked a private one day tour with a local operator, making a special request to leave the park early so that we could make it to the location of the bat caves in time to see the bats emerging.
Inside Khao Yai National Park, we enjoyed multiple sightings of White-handed gibbons (also known as Lar gibbons), which we were able to observe for some time as they gambolled in the trees. Surprisingly, these animals range from pale beige to almost black in colour, so much so that I initially thought they were two different species until our guide put me right. We also spotted three huge Great Hornbills up in the highest reaches of the trees, a Water Monitor lizard basking in the sun by a river, and several plodding Sambar and Barking deer. Had we been able to spend longer in the park, our guide may well have been able to find some of the wild Asian elephants that make their home here too.
Once we left the park, we had a 15 mile drive to the location of the bat caves, about 40 minutes on the road. I was surprised when we parked up to realise that the best viewing spot was a short stretch of dead-end tarmac in the heart of a rural farming area, bush and tree covered hills to one side, fields of crops to the other, and a few scattered farm houses amid the fields. No facilities have (thus far) been built to take advantage of visitors to this natural spectacle, and we shared the ‘bat show’ with a handful of other visitors.
Our guide walked us into a grove of trees, her experience of the wind, weather and bat behaviour predicting that they would first emerge quite low to the ground, passing over our heads, before swinging round by 80-90 degrees, and flying much, much higher off the ground.
We watched the sun set, knowing it wouldn’t be long afterwards that the bats started to exit the caves.
As we waited, two excitable dogs played an energetic game of chase through a wheat field, while swifts swooped and spiralled around us. Predator birds circled above the caves, knowing they could pick off a few of the bats – it’s why the bats exit the caves in big numbers – safety in crowds, the individual chance of a predator catching an individual bat is tiny.
Suddenly it was time, and the first few thousands of bats flew out of the caves. In January, the thick foliage on the hillside obscures the view of the cave openings, so the first you see of the animals is the undulating line against the blue sky.
Our guide was spot on, and we were alone standing right beneath their path. The noise they made sounded like the buzzing of a huge hive of bees. We cupped our ears towards the sound and I couldn’t believe how clearly we could hear the thrumming of their wings, thousands and thousands of them beating the air at high speed as they pelted from the caves.
After several minutes, the bats switched direction, almost as one, and the ribbon rose high into the sky. We stood beneath in rapt fascination as time ticked by. Half an hour later, the daily exodus hadn’t slowed, not for a moment. There was still a relentless stream of tiny flying mammals snaking across the sky, out across the landscape to find insects on which to feast.
Our guide said that it continues for well over an hour, sometimes two; she has watched until the sky has gone black and still there are bats coming out of the caves. Hard to even imagine the sheer number of tiny animals that must represent!
How to Find the Bat Caves of Khao Yai
It’s easy to drive in this area of Thailand, so don’t feel you must book a guided tour to see this wonderful wildlife spectacle. You can find the location using Google Maps – navigate to this point.
If you visit on your own, without a guide, make sure you time your visit to arrive just before sunset, and shortly afterwards, the bats will start to exit.
A Fantastic Khao Yai Hotel
- Nhapa Khaoyai Resort is an architectural gem but as it’s located in a remote rural spot, it’s best if you have a rental car (as we did). The hotel is built within a disused stone quarry and each room is a stand-alone cube with floor-to-ceiling glass walls on at least two sides. Our cube was built right into the rock face, so that the rock itself formed the fourth wall – just beautiful! Another highlight is the modern and traditional art and pottery in the grounds, rooms and public spaces. There are two pretty pools, and the hotel offers full board dining. Let them know in advance of any food restrictions as it’s a no-choice menu each night. We paid 8,000 baht per night (full board).
Other Khao Yai Hotels We Shortlisted
- Lala Mukha Tented Resort, as the name suggests, is a resort in which most of the rooms are tents. Like luxury safari camps common across Africa, the tents include comfortable beds and an ensuite bathroom.
- U Khao Yai is one of many local resorts offering a classical European aesthetic.
- The Private Pool Villas at Civilai Hill look utterly stunning, and perfect if you have the money for a huge splurge.
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Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!75 Comments to "A Wildlife Spectacle | The Bat Caves of Khao Yai"
You’re definitely not the only one. I would love to go there to see the bats too!! And since there are so many bats, I can imagine how loud they are, though it must have been amazing!
When they are low down, you can hear them like bees. If you cup your ears towards them it’s quite amazing the sound. But once they rise up higher you can’t hear them at all anymore.
It is quite an unusual phenomenon and one that is worth taking a trip for. I suppose you can only see them coming out of the caves but you yourself, cannot go into the caves – must be scary to do that as well. I hope I get to go and see this myself.
I think the caves can be dangerous and the locals have built some blocks to entry after some accidents there, that’s what I’d heard. It might also disturb the bat populations too, perhaps.
What an amazing experience! I’ve never visited Thailand but it sounds like a place where you can visit whatever the style of travel experience you are after. I love this kind of nature visit, I bet it stays with you now.
Lucy, yes Thailand has so many facets for visitors. You can be a beach baby in the most luxurious resorts, or more rustic and simple. You can explore nature in the 127 national parks and surrounding areas. You can enjoy the sights of the big cities, or the more chilled vibe of smaller ones. You can explore the culture all around the country. There are even wineyards in Thailand!
I went to New Zealand for the penguins and I would absolutely go to Khao Yai for the bats. This is a spectacle I have always wanted to see. I am fascinated with bats and wasn’t sure where I could see something like this.
I’d love to visit the penguins in NZ! We’ve been to Antarctica twice for penguins, and also a separate visit to the Falkland Islands. I’d love to see the teeny tiny fairy penguins!
oH THIS IS SO COOL! I’ve done thailand but never even heard of the bats in Khao Yai (Feeling pretty silly right now…. and jealous)
A colleague at work told me about them when I mentioned I was thinking about visiting Khao Yai and that was it, it suddenly became a MUST VISIT on our itinerary!
I love travelling to see wildlife! Visiting rural Thailand is high on my near-future to-do list! I’ll definitely keep this activity in mind when planning a trip! Thanks so much for sharing such a detailed, engaging article 🙂
My pleasure, and if you are heading into the national parks, check out my post on a floating camp in Khao Sok as well. ❤️
This is truly an amazing site to see…saw it happen in Battambang, Cambodia, didn’t realize Thailand had a go-to place for this too! Plus, you got to see white-handed gibbons, that’s extra awesome! love having specific reasons to travel, pushes you to go unexpected places.
Oh wonderful! I’ve seen similar sights on TV wildlife documentaries from various places around the world, so was very happy to be able to see this in Thailand!
Wow! What a fascinating sight to behold! This must be an enthralling and exhilarating experience! I didn’t know Thailand has a place like this. I would love to experience this magic in person. This gives me a reason to visit the country again. Thanks for sharing.
I was lucky that a friend mentioned it to me when I said I was considering Khao Yai for my itinerary. When he told me about the bat caves, I was determined to see the bats emerge too!
What an incredible natural sight! I know what you mean about bats – not a lot of people are fans. But I would totally go somewhere to see them, especially if there were as many as you saw. Adding this to my Thailand bucket list for sure! 🙂
It’s just such an amazing spectacle to see! Like the wildebeest in the Mara, that same shock at the sheer scale of it!
We have a bridge with bats here in Phoenix (I guess like they do in Austin, Texas) but I have not visited yet. The bats play an important part of the ecosystem here with the saguaro cacti but I haven’t pulled myself together enough to go out to see a whole bunch at once!
I really appreciated this experience as the bats stay up in the sky and so there’s no fears about them coming too close or anything!
Wow what an awesome experieence and very cool photos. For a minute there I thought you were going inside the caves and they would fly past you and I was like…. no way! So cool you got to see gibbons and lizards as well.
I think the locals have actually tried to block access to the caves because it can be quite dangerous, but also so that visitors don’t disturb the bats either. This is all from the road, and amazing to see!
Great post about something different. Nature related and with a meaning. Love the photos of the bats in the sky. The sunset photos add depth to your post. Thanks for sharing.
I love the idea of getting away from it however I hate bats so I’m not sure I would want to do this exact trip. There used to be bats on the street where I lived and they freaked me out. Great sunset though
There’s plenty of other wildlife for you to enjoy in Thailand’s national parks, so you can definitely avoid the bats if you prefer but they are amazing and they stay up in the sky above you the whole time.
What a lovely and very different experience in Thailand. Honestly, I’m quite afraid of bats, and would be a bit nervous seeing them in a big group! However, your photos of the large migration is actually quite beautiful, and would love to see this if I ever return to Thailand one day.
They are high above you, and they won’t dive down towards you or anything, so it’s a great way to see them even if you’re a bit nervous! Go for it!
That’s so cool! I would totally go there for the same reason, to see bats! I have only seen them hanging in caves, not exiting or entering. I bet that is a spectacular sight!
I’ve not seen them inside their caves, I’d love to see that!
I love wildlife but bats make me nervous. But this is a site to see. Great tips on how to get there and when to ensure you see the bats exiting the cave!
Being out in the open rather than in or near the cave, you don’t need to worry about being swoop-dived by by the bats, they’ll be up above you the whole time.
Eek! I’d love to see this spectacle too, but I would be quite terrified of the bats at the same time, lol! It does look like a beautiful scene though. It’s crazy to think that there are so many of them that it can take well over an hour for them all to get outside! We are heading to Thailand later this year so we will have to consider adding this onto our itinerary!
These are really small insect-eating bats, and they are high enough above you that you don’t need to worry about any swooping down low and coming near you, so don’t worry at all.
I heard about these bat caves recently. Come to think of, the scene would have been quite creepy 🙂 And the noise too! So you enjoyed the experience 🙂
Not at all creepy, as they are high above, it looks much like a huge flock of birds, but the sound of their wings beating is different, more like buzzing from bees.
Whoa that is amazing! I could almost hear them through your words and imagine the sky turning black. It goes on for an hour – that really stuns me! I hope to witness this some day.
Apparently even longer, but our guide has watched it for over an hour personally!
that orange sky is so wonderful and what a good day you went out for that wonderful blue sky. The hotel you stay seemed like a good deal too and amazing location. We are looking forward to plan a similar trip!
Yeah I loved our hotel’s architecture and interior decor, and the artworks in the grounds.
What a cool experience getting to see the bats take off en-mass like that. That’s interesting to read about the loud noise they make. Fascinating. The resort, on the other hand, is one amazing piece of architecture. Will be heading back to Thailand later this year and I’m quite curious about checking out Khao Yai and the resort. Thanks for the tip!
The resort was such a good pick, I did a tonne of research, basically I think I looked at almost every hotel in the vicinity, but am so happy with that choice.
Woah, it must be quite an experience to see that massive number of bats flying out of the cave. The sunset that follows looks amazing as well. Hopefully I will get a chance to visit this place on my next trip to Thailand!
It was an amazing sight, yes!
I can imagine the extreme fun of this adventure at Khao Yai National Park. Enjoyed watching the video. The number is huge, just flying and flying altogether :D, really fantastic. Loved!
I wish the quality were better, it’s just what I took on my mobile phone, but yeah, it’s so impressive!
Bats always creeped me out a little bit and seeing so many at once seems like a scary but awe-inspiring experience. I can’t even fathom thousands of bats at once, especially since it only takes one for me to be a bit grossed out haah
They are far above you and none swoop down to where you would be standing, so I think you would not be too grossed out!
This sounds so interesting! We had visited the bat temple in Bali but I believe seeing the bats flying like this relentlessly is a different experience. Really liked watching the video.
It was like giant flocks of birds!
What a great experience. We actually went to Austin Texas for the same purpose. To see the bats fly from one of the bridges. Only about 1.5 million fly out! It’s an amazing spectacle of wildlife.
It’s crazy amazing, isn’t it?
I would have never have thought about bats in Thailand. Wow at them all flying. There were so many of them.
Yeah I hadn’t thought either really!
This is so fascinating! I never particularly liked bats until I learned they consume mosquitos! Having grown up in an area which has a huge mosquito population, that was all I needed to hear for them to become one of my favorite animals! 😉
Yes, GREAT POINT, they eat insects, it’s a win win!
Bat caves have not traditionally been high on my wish list. I have this big fear of bats getting tangled up in my hair. Had a scary experience as a child. I understand your comment about enjoying seeing thousands of them all launch at once. It was quite amazing to see that in Cairns, Australia. But we watched that spectacle out of the path of the bats. I don’t think I would want to be under that thumping sound of wings.
Luckily in this case, you are standing far below the caves entrance/ exit so they don’t swoop down to where you are at all, they are far above you even when they were at a lower height for a while before they went up really really high! Also, the sound if they are lowish (still way above you) is like buzzing bees, not super loud, you can help to hear the thrumming wings by cupping your ears but if you don’t want to, you can not cup them!
I have for some reason always imagined that bats stay inside the caves only. So when I started reading the post I thought you would be going inside the caves. But I was amazed to read that they cfly out in such large numbers that the sky gets blackened. What a fascinating spectacle. I watched the video too and this is a truly spectacular phenomenon.
They have to come out to find insects to feed on. 🙂
This is an awesome sight. Yes, timing is everything if you want to see the bats by the thousands.I give my tumbs up for he Bat Caves of Khao Yai. 🙂
Such a sight!
Hi may I know what time should I reach there to see the bats fly out?
Hi Bryan, it varies according to sunset so you’ll need to ask a local wildlife guide for guidance.
Wow, this looks amazing. I love travelling to see nature. I have always thought Thailand was just beaches and temples but I guess not. Thanks for opening my eyes, definitely adding this to my bucket list!
So much more! I’ve shared several posts on our different experiences there on a three week itinerary, and we didn’t even do the beaches! Click on Thailand at the bottom of the post to find the rest, if you’d like to read more.
Didn’t know they had this in Kao Yai. It’s very similar to the bats coming out at Tham Lod (coffin cave) in Soppong, northern Thailand. If you like to see bats, you should visit there too 🙂
Haha! Actually my mom went to a tiny village in southern India just to see the bats there.
So, its ok, I can totally relate to it if you went somewhere for that reason.
If I ever plan a trip to Thailand, I’ll definitely make sure to head here.
I have never heard of the Khao Yai National Park, but certainly the place looks very interesting. I’m generally scared of encountering bats in closed places, considering this is in cave I am not sure I have to me to tour it. But spotting the different types bats will certainly be very fun.
What an experience, we saw quite a few bat filled caves in Thailand but nothing as incredible as this. When we return to Thailand we will be sure to check it out! It’s great to discover new places to visit!
Wow, you were right about the sound. I mean even in the video, where the noise depends on my volume level, it seems quite powerful.
You are right and you are not alone. Would love to see this daily phenomenon. I hope to see the sky turning black by their sheer number,,!
wow that is a lot of bats but so intriguing and interesting to watch in the wild. I have not heard of anyone hiring a car in Thailand before which I think it is pretty cool. I really Nhapa Khaoyai Resort and I agree it is definitely an architectural gem. Thanks for the tip that you would need a car to get there as it is so remote
Wow it is great that you included beautiful caves of Kaho Yai in your 3 week tour to Thailand. Wow you could see bunch of bats flying over you and it must be interesting to watch them flying in flock. Khao Yai hotel looks for perfect stay!
Ahhh interesting… safety in numbers! But WOW, that is a lot! I have never seen a bat before! What a fascinating experience 🙂