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Getting the Shot
Missing the Shot
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Photo of a bat net

Photo of Krug before entering a hollow tree

Photo of Krug inside the hollow tree

Photo of a steaming creater in Masaya Volcanoes National Park

Black, oily guano

Follow the National Geographic team deep into the caves of Nicaragua, home to thousands of vampire bats.
Getting the Shot

“IT WAS A CLIMAX FOR US”

Rakhi: This was almost a vampire bats film with no vampire bats in it. We had gone into all these spectacular settings—lots of seaside caves—and there were no vampires. Then, toward the end, we reached Masaya Volcanoes National Park, near Managua, and we were told about this cave with thousands of bats in it.

We went right into this lava tube. The ground was firm and then suddenly squishy. We looked down and saw there was about a foot [0.3 meter] of guano, and we realized the bats were close by.

When it got dark the bats started streaming out. Initially there were hundreds, then thousands. And it’s just amazing. You’re standing there being hit by bats brushing past you, and—it was a climax for us. Never mind if it’s the climax to the film. To us, it was like the shoot led up perfectly to this moment.

You’d think if you were standing in a stream of bats (RealPlayer video) you’d be frightened, or you’d feel like, Ugh, stay away from me! But, it’s just beautiful.

Kevin: And the only sound you can hear is the fluttering of wings. There’re no squeaks, no squeals, just air moving past you. It’s really unforgettable.

Sarah Kern, who runs the Florida Bat Center, was just standing and laughing. This was heaven for her, to be in a stream of bats at rush hour.

“BATS HAD BEEN POOPING ON HIM”

Kevin: We had some great equipment to film these bats at night. One was an image-intensifier lens, which shows everything at night in a ghostly greenish hue.

We also used a small digital video camera that had an infrared feature, which was very effective in capturing the scientists’ faces in dark caves as well as bats in pretty tight places.

Rakhi: One of the most interesting techniques we used was sending Kevin up a hollow tree to get shots of very disturbed vampire bats—bats that had just been poisoned.

Every few minutes we’d hear Kevin go, “Oh, damn.” We were wondering what was happening in there, and finally Kevin told us the bats had been pooping on him. We only got one good shot (RealPlayer video), but it was worth it to see Kevin go through that.

Kevin: I look up the hollow tree trunk with the light, and above me there’s nothing but black glistening slime—vampire bat guano—just creeping down.

If I were ever to do that again, goggles would be a must.






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