Montagu Guano Cave

Montagu Cave - Guano Cave


Useful Information

Location: At the Montagu Guano Cave Resort. About 160km east of Cape Town.
Open:  
Fee:  
Classification: ExplainKarst cave
Light: electric.
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Bibliography: Steven A. Craven (2018): The Montagu Guano Cave: South Africa’s latest show cave. Cave and Karst Science 45 (1) 39-43.
Address: Montagu Guano Cave Resort, R62, Montagu 6720, Tel: +27-84-553-4187.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1890s mining of the bat guano.
1964 excavated by Charles Keller.

Description

The Montagu Guano Cave is the newest show cave of South Africa, although it is not a show cave as we list them normally. It is actually a resort with an integrated cave.

Once there was a large entrance hall, followed by a smaller tunnel filled with bat guano. In the 1890s the guano was mined as fertilizer, and the cave got its current shape. It this time it was named Guano Cave. During the works two important archaeologic items were found, a bored stone and a stick of olive wood with a rounded head at one end. Obviously this cave was of archaeologic importance, but at this time nobody really cared. Most likely there were much more remains, but they were thrown away or destroyed.

The first archaeologic excavation was in 1964, when Charles Keller, an American archaeologist, excavated a third of the main chamber. He found several thousand artefacts shaped like spear-heads. He interpreted the cave as a factory site where hand-axes and other tools were made. He dated the remains between 50,000 and 20,000 years old. We are not sure about his competence, as he reportedly used dynamite for his excavations.

This cave is a famous bat cave, the bat guano has already given it away. Montagu Guano Cave is home to four, possibly five, species of bats. The two main bat specias are Natal long-fingered bat (Miniopterus natalensis) and Temminck's hairy bat (Myotis tricolor). The cave is used as a maternity roost during the summer by both species. Sharing the roost is quite common for those species. They migrate between their maternity cave and thier hibernation cave, so this is not the place where they hibernate.

Miniopterus is brownish-black, has an average mass of about 11g and a total body length of about 110mm. The wings are dark, almost black, and pointed. They are extremely fast fliers and they usually fly quite high. When roosting the tapered tips of their wings are folded back which gave them the name bent-wing bats.