Onward to the Bat Cave! Cueve de Ambrosio, Cuba

posted in: Caribbean, Travel 2

Cueve de Ambrosio and Cueve de Musalmanes

CubaSpider
*picture credit: birdspiders.com
Cuban Bird Tarantula. This is the spider variety I nearly stepped on while hiking to the first cave. She disappeared inside a hole in the rocky path before I could snap her pic. She’s about the size of a human hand–her legs as long as fingers.

 

On our last day in Cuba, I decided to check out some pre-Columbian caves once inhabited by various indigenous cultures of Cuba. The caves were frequented by both the hunter/gatherers– Guanhatabey and later the fishing/agricultural aboriginals–Taino.

Cueve de Musalmanes

The first cave (Cueve de Musalmanes) was a short hike through a coastal forest to a cave containing 2500 year old bones (discovered  in the 1980s). Peter found the hike a challenge as he was eaten alive by mosquitos.

I wasn’t touched–we didn’t have on repellant but for some reason mosquitos don’t like my smell and stay away. Also, I am one of the  rare humans who is not allergic to mosquito bites so their bite is completely unnoticeable on my skin (no redness, no swelling). I could be bitten by 100 mosquitos at once and no one would be able to tell (its a genetic thing I inherited from my dad–our ancestors must have evolved in pretty intense mosquito country for us to develop immunity).

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Termite home in forest near Varadero.
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One of 4 unique lizard species we spotted on our Cuban coastal hike.
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One of the caves on the way to the pre-Columbian human remains. Yes, I stupidly wore flip flops on the hike and regretted it right after this pic was taken as I nearly stepped on a giant purple tarantula on the path ahead of me.
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Lizard spotted on hike. Note the rock–this hole riddled rock made up most of the pathway through the jungle.

The small section of coastal jungle seemed to hold no exotic dangers ( I assumed) as it is nestled in a narrow strip of forest between the Caribbean coast and a major roadway. But what that small section of jungle has, is an unbelievable amount of floral and fauna. We spotted a minimum of four different lizard species, so many cactus, flowers, swamp plants, many birds and, of course, the bee colony in the rock face that we carefully had to run past.

Most surprisingly was the bird tarantula. While walking naively along in my flip-flops, I suddenly came toe to hairy-toe with a giant purple tarantula! I was so surprised, I screamed and she quickly scuttled into a hole in the rocks and disappeared from view. I couldn’t believe my eyes; when does one share a wilderness path with a tarantula in one’s life time? It was such a thrill, I only wish I could have captured my tarantula on camera. I’ll never forget her glossy black body and hairy indigo legs. I talked with a local naturalist about my discovery and he was impressed–the tarantula is uncommon in the area.

bees
To reach the cave we had to walk right beside this rock face with a bee colony. They were buzzing in and out of their little cave and there was no way to avoid running through them: on one side rock wall, on the other swampy jungle. We were fortunate to run by without annoying the colony.
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Peter standing near the 2500 year old human remains and wondering why he’d ever followed me into the mosquito infested forest.
The 2500 year old human bones.

Cueve de Ambrosio

We walked out of the jungle on to the roadway and headed west toward the largest and deepest cave (3oo meters) Cueve de Ambrosio to check out the pre-Columbian cave drawings. By the time we reached the cave Peter was hot and tired of being bitten by mosquitos; thus, he decided to sit outside and wait as I explored the cave.

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One of the cave drawings in Cueve de Ambrosio. The cave was used by many pre-Columbian Cuban aboriginal peoples for religious ceremonies.

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This drawing is said to be the aboriginal’s depiction of the Spanish soldiers when they first arrived on Cuban shores.
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This drawing is speculated to be a likeness of the first African slaves when they arrived off the ships onto Cuban soil for the first time.
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The four compass directions.

A guide appeared to take me inside Cueve de Ambrosio (with a flash light) to show me the drawings. The cave is big and dark and filled with five species of bats…I was happy to have a guide. He carefully led me to all of the individual cave drawings. While we walked, bats continually swooped down and called out to us. I was a guest in their enormous home. cavedraw1

In all truth, bats might just be one of the gentlest mammals on earth. What other mammals would allow a human being to walk into their home (cave) and snoop around without any aggressive actions? I cannot think of another mammal that would behave in such a gentle and unthreatening manner as bats.

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Note: some of the bats are tagged as the bats in this cave are being scientifically observed.

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Once he’d illuminated the last of the cave drawings, the guide handed me a flashlight and told me that for the next half of the tour, I was to explore the cave alone. At first I was nervous for him to leave me inside the huge dark caverns alone–well, not alone; I had hundreds of bat friends everywhere! I took the dim (almost dead) flashlight and soldiered forth, exploring some narrow passage ways on my own. The bats were more plentiful the deeper I went into the cave.

selfieCaveIn the above selfie, there were many bats, very near by, along the darker coves on the cave, screeching to me. I suddenly became aware, once again, of my pathetic flip-flops as I squelched along the rough rock floor, over piles of bat poop. The guide had long disappeared–left the cave I suppose–just as I realized how easily one becomes disoriented in a cave. What I thought was the passage that lead to the main cave drawings, was another passage. Luckily for me the cave wasn’t too huge and it took me only a few moments to retrace my steps and find the right cave corridor that would ultimately lead to the cave entrance.

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*Note for any eco-adventurists wanting to visit Cuba. Cueve de Ambrosio (Ambrosio Cave) and the bats are currently being scientifically studied and one can volunteer to be a part of the team.

2 Responses

  1. Ben
    | Reply

    That selfie is pretty good. The darkness between you and the oval lit cavern is almost surreal, the way you’re looking up as if you’re anticipating something coming from the darkness. A little editing to get rid of the glare from the flash and warm it up, maybe sharpen the cavern and it would be awesome. The encounter with the tarantula makes me regret booking a vacation though.

    • Mix Hart
      | Reply

      Thanks, I never thought of the selfie as being a great shot, but now I’m looking at it again. Not to worry, the tarantula was a very rare sighting and also, they are hardly poisonous at all. Their bite hurts and that’s about it. I live in an area teaming with the deadliest spider–the black widow. I find them in my house all of the time. You learn to check your shoes before you put them on.

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