Parangiju Lodge is about an hour’s drive from town where eight of us meet to do the Bat Caves walk. From here, we pick up three guides: one front guide, one back guide, and one guy to watch our vehicle.
It’s 11:30 am by the time we’re ready and possibly the worst time ever to start a hike in the Solomons. Some of our group were out watching rugby and drinking the night before and desperately needed their beauty sleep. Because much of the walking is covered and through a river, we can get away with a late start on this occasion.
Our starting point begins at a river basin about ten minutes drive from the lodge. We set off and get our shoes wet with our first river crossing 10 seconds into the walk. They stay wet for the duration of the hike which doesn’t involve a lot of walking at all but a lot of zig-zagging across the river via scrambling, climbing, jumping, wading, and slipping. This is our second hike in the Solomons and we have decided to lower our expectations by not ever expecting a path when someone says ‘hike’.
Jungle bush, babbling water, mossy rocks and big fallen trees along the way are simply arresting. This walk is stunning.
Somewhere along our path, our guides prove their worth by spotting a red snake sunning itself on rock and make us cross to the other side of the river to avoid it. If this is what we pay our guides for then they are worth every penny!
After just over an hour, we reach the entrance of the bat cave.
Where Tenaru Falls is grand and thundering, this waterfall is of the subtle, picturesque kind and the perfect spot to stop for a snack before exploring its depths.
I’ve been into bat caves before and they are always dark, smelly, drippy, and harbouring creepy crawlies. This one is no exception. Worse in fact because the only way to get through it is by steadying onseself on rocks covered in piles of bat shit. The calibre of this bat shit is up there in the wettest and most substancey bat shit I’ve ever sunk my fingers into.
The walk to the opposite end of the cave and back takes about 15 minutes and we can confirm there are many bats with orange, glaring, bat eyes. It is pitch black inside. Someone in our group is reminded they have a fear of bats. I have the fear of getting hit by a flying shit. I started to think my frens are overworking themselves but the B.O. smell is actually the stench of guano.
There is light at the end of the tunnel and a fallen tree blocks the exit. Depending on the water levels, you could come out the other side to explore but it looks complicated manouvering around the tree. The sensible way back is back the same way.
If one has an aversion to bat shit, you could avoid most of it by doing this hike during the wet season or when waters are high and the rocks are covered. In saying that, if you’re a small person, you may find yourself getting washed down the river. See below example. Me, an averagely tallish, not small person wading waist-high in the middle of dry season.
By the time we come out of the cave, everyone is covered in some quantity of shit and ready for a rinse in the waterfall. I’d definitely do the walk again, but would think twice about going through the caves a second time.
We make the return trip by doubling back – it’s always doubling back in the Solomon Islands, we need more loops! – and of course, it starts to rain.
Like, really rain. Since we were quite wet already, none of us were very much upset but it does take us over two hours to get back to our starting point. Every now and then our guides would look over their
shoulders to check the water levels just in case…
For the last thirty minutes of our walk, rainwater washes the loose dirt from the logging into the river turning it into an environmentally concerning tea colour. I can’t help but dream of a refreshing Thai milk tea with pearls.
We head back to Parangiju Lodge with our wet bums and senses of accomplishment for a cold beer which is pretty exciting because beers aren’t always served cold here in the Solomons.
One twisted ankle, a few fears conquered, and only a few blisters, this walk is beautiful and remains our favourite Honiara day walk. A reasonable level of fitness will get you far, but it’s sure-footedness that will mean the difference between whether you enjoy the walk or not. A spectacular walk well worth a few bat shit stains.
Contact Stephen Riniu on 740 5220. He owns Parangiju Lodge and arranges all walks, meals, and accommodation at the lodge. If you are looking to eat there, let the Lodge know beforehand otherwise the kitchen may not be open. It pays to call Parangiju Lodge beforehand to organise a guide and also to check whether it is walkable if it has been wet.
SBD 200 per person
Free car parking
Meals at Parangiju Lodge are SBD 100-140. Call ahead if you’re ordering.
Because the drive to Parangiju Lodge takes a while it pays to meet up with your crew beforehand for carpooling. ANZ cafe in Ranandi is good for loading up on prewalk coffees and lunch snacks. The Parangiju Lodge turnoff is about 30 minutes east from town, then around another 30ish minutes along some gnarly logging tracks to get to Parangiju Lodge where your guides will be waiting. Take 4wds otherwise your adventure may be a completely different one to the one we had.
If you’re coming in from town, allocate most of a day. The drive itself takes about an hour. The walk to the batcave can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour-and-a-half each way depending on how fit you are and how big your group is. The bat caves take 15-20 minutes to go in and out.
- A 4wd
- Drinking water
- Walking shoes (+duct tape)
- Lunch and snacks (+extra for guides)
- Drybag for phone and camera
- Towel, change of clothes, and jandals to leave in the car.