The Time I Trekked into Bat Caves During a Hurricane

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SafetyWing (my go-to all-time favorite travel insurance for digital nomads) challenged us to share our most memorable and bizarre travel stories with our audiences. Personally, I love this challenge because so often when blogging – there’s this feeling that if a piece of content is serving our audiences, we don’t share it!

You know like 19 Countries Offering Digital Nomad Visas… or How to Spend a Week in Koh Samui

I go into every blog post ready to help YOU. From planning trips and packing to working remotely so you can travel more! This usually means my funny, crazy, and weird travel stories are often left in my journals. 

When was the last time that my experience trekking into bat-infested caves during a hurricane ever helped you plan your trip… except to maybe tell you what not to do… 

Or how about that time I got lost in Norway and ended up sleeping on a stranger’s couch (for a week), walking her dog, and borrowing her car to explore Lofoten (sorry Mom!) All that would do is scare people out of traveling… 

Actually, when you think about it, that should inspire people to travel more. It’s a reminder that people out there are amazing

Regardless, I love the challenge. So, today I’m going to share my most memorable and bizarre travel experience.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase something I’ve recommended, I may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you!) This helps me keep living my dream and writing these guides. Thank you for your support.

The Time I Trekked into Bat Caves During a Hurricane

I’m going to take you back to 2016. I was backpacking through Central America, during the days when I volunteered at hostels and didn’t have to worry about pesky things like wi-fi and laptops…

Ahhh the good ‘ol days. 

I was staying at the Selina Hostel in Bocas del Toro, volunteering for room and board and it was my job to clean up after meals, clean rooms, and serve breakfast. A friend I’d made was in charge of taking people on the tours and day trips available. 

One day, when I had some time off, I was able to jump on the beach hopping tour with her. The day was to be perfect, we would take 10 people from the hostel to the best beaches around the island to snorkel, sunbathe, read, and end the day with a BBQ on the beach. 

However, when we left Selina’s on the boat that morning, the weather turned – fast. Suddenly it was pelting us with rain and the swell was getting stronger. My friend, not wanting us to waste the day, offered to take us on this cave tour instead. Since they were caves, we wouldn’t have to worry about the rain and she promised we would love it.

Excited for the adventure, we said yes. 

None of us were prepared for what came next. 

The boat meandered through mangroves and under a tunnel of trees until we got to shore. We walked a short distance to a local’s house and there we left our shoes, bags, and clothes. 

The family manages caves, which are part of the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimento. They lent us headlamps for the journey. These are normally available to rent but on this occasion, they were kind enough to lend them to us.  

Since we were expecting to spend the day at the beach – most of us had nothing but bikinis and swim trunks on by the time we trekked into the forest, barefoot, of course. 

Welcome to Nivida Bat Cave

Before we knew it, we had entered the caves. Bats were flying overhead, whip scorpions were climbing on the walls and all I could think was, “I’m barefoot and I’m going to die in here.” 

On we trekked. The entire cave system is filled with freezing water. There were parts where the water was so deep I had to swim. 

We made it to the first swimming hole, and our guide told us that going just a bit further would take us to another, even bigger swimming pool within the caves. 

At this point of the tour, we had to scale up some rocks and then put our backs on one side of the cave, and our feet on the other, shimmy ourselves over a deep crack to the other side. 

I remember thinking as the girl in front of me went, her bum scraping along the stone of the cave wall… “This is not what we signed up for today…

Luckily, no one dropped into the ravine below and we all had a great time jumping into the swimming pools and splashing around. 

The whole journey took about 40-60 minutes. It wasn’t too bad if you could get over the smell of bat guano and ignore the terrifying whip scorpions… 

We emerged from the caves to find the storm getting worse. By the time we made it back to Selina’s, we didn’t even have time to shower before we had to help sandbag the exposed areas and local homes. 

We had emerged to a hurricane warning.

Hurricane Otto was on its way. 

Luckily the storm passed without doing too much damage to the island’s homes and establishments. Within a few days, things were back to normal and I was finally able to spend the day at the beautiful Boca del Drago and Isla Pajaros.

The best part about the entire experience? I’m not sure it’d ever happen that way again. This adventure took place in 2016, at a time when I wasn’t traveling with the internet at my fingertips. Bocas wasn’t overly crowded and hostels were happy to accept volunteers on arrival and change tour plans (even if the new activity costs more). Oh, how travel has changed! I researched this Nivida Bat Cave tour with Selina’s for the purpose of retelling my story, and it doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic as it felt at the time.

My lesson learned, is always say yes to adventure. You never know when the opportunity for something amazing could present itself.

Are you up for anything when you travel? If so, I highly recommend traveler insurance. 

Digital Nomad Insurance

 I’ll be the first to tell you that I used to travel without insurance… and when stuff went wrong or I found myself in a bat cave scaling a ravine… I would end up wishing I’d had travel insurance just in case. 

I’ve paid thousands out of pocket for lost luggage, stolen computers, and hospital visits. 

Learn from my mistakes and make sure that you’re covered wherever you go! SafetyWing offers digital nomad insurance. I’ve used them for several years now (and will continue to use them anytime I leave the US). They have great prices, good coverage, and really helpful customer service! 

Learn more about Nomad Insurance from SafetyWing.

If you’re ready to start traveling the world full-time, and you want some more inspiration about where to go, read this post next. 

What’s the craziest experience you’ve ever had while traveling? I’d love to know! 

Come hang out over on Instagram where I’ll be better about sharing the good, the bad, and the memorable on my adventures! 

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