Geoff Brooks

Bat viewing sites around the world

Orient Mine

Between 1880 and 1932, the Orient Mine in south central Colorado was the largest iron ore producer in the state. At its peak, the mine had two associated town sites with a total population of 400 people. Today, the mine’s seasonal bat residents far surpass the historical records of human dwellers in the area.

The sweeping open landscape in the San Luis Valley allows bat-watchers to keep clear of the mine’s entrance. Photo courtesy of Uncover Colorado.
Mexican free-tailed bats. Bat Conservation International.

An estimated quarter-million Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) migrate to the Orient Mine each year in warm weather months to rise from the mine’s entrance each evening to sweep over the majestic San Luis Valley and feast on bountiful insects. 

Until recent years, bat viewers stood near a fence at one of the entrances to the mine to watch the bats exit into the night. Proximity to the mine is not recommended at this time. Colorado Parks and Wildlife have closed the mine due to the threats of White-nose syndrome, a debilitating fungus that causes bats to rouse from hibernation and expend necessary body fat during winter months when insect prey is unavailable. White-nose syndrome has resulted in the deaths of millions of North American bat species over a decade and continues to decimate bat colonies. It is not transmissible to humans but humans can transmit the fungus to bats.

The San Luis Valley region is known for its vast views. Find a spot at dusk, from a distance, to watch the bats ascend like a fluttering ribbon into the night sky.

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  • In the vicinity of the Orient Mine, Great Sand Dunes National Park offers towers of explorable sand dunes, some as tall as 750 feet high, set against a backdrop of rugged 14,000-foot peaks in Sangre de Cristo mountains. The national park and preserve have been recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as a “Dark Sky Park.” 
  • In addition to migratory Brazilian free-tailed bats, there are 18 bat species within the state of Colorado. Brazilian free-tailed bats are also known as Mexican free-tailed bats.
  • Email Colorado Parks and Wildlife to check on the status of the mine. The state agency asks for 48 hours to respond.
  • The Orient Land Trust – which works in partnership with federal and state agencies as well as conservation organizations to protect natural resources in the area – may also be a good source for information on visiting the area. 
  • The Orient Trust offers high-elevation, rustic accommodations in relative proximity to the mine. Note, that there are no nearby gas stations, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery, or general stores. All properties, including the Trust’s trails and ponds, are clothing optional.
  • In the broader area,  a free visitor guide provides recommendations on accommodations, restaurants, and additional places to see in the region.  

Monfort Bat Cave

Is it any wonder that two million fruit bats are perfectly content on a lush “resort island?”  Samal Island, also known as the “Island Garden City of Samal,” is the largest resort destination in the Philippines. Crystal-clear waters with beaches of white sand and verdant blossoming vegetation everywhere make this an island paradise – for humans and bats.

Geoffroy’s rousette bat. Bat Conservation International.

Monfort Bat Cave on Samal Island holds a remarkable distinction: it’s home to the world’s largest colony of Geoffroy’s rousette bats (Rousettus amplexicaudatus), a species of megabats found throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania, and other locations. Geoffroy’s bats feed on fruits and also sip nectar, and are valued as one of the main pollinators of the island’s vegetation and plantations in Davao City on the mainland

The bat cave is part of the Monfort Bat Sanctuary with over 50 acres of protected land owned by Norma Monfort and her family. The property has been developed into an active conservancy and eco-park with views of the sea, the neighboring islands, and native greenery. Lectures, seminars, and workshops are available.

Visitors to Monfort Bat Cave peer into one of five cave entrances. There, in the darkness of the relatively small cave, roost up to two million mega-sized bats packed tightly together. At an estimated density of 645 bats per square meter, visitors often comment on their perception of a “ceiling carpet of bats.” As dusk falls, visitors are awestruck as a seemingly endless stream of large, powerful bats pour out of the cave to forage for fruits and flowers.

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  • Philippine travel agencies should be consulted for the most up-to-date information on this destination.
  • Entrance to the Monfort Bat Cave requires a small fee (typically about $2.50 in American dollars) and a modest environmental tax.  
  • Island cottages which face the Davao Gulf are available as well as more conventional accommodations.
  • Getting to the island requires a short ferry ride. The most prominent way to get around the island is by habal-habal (motorcycles).  

Millie Hill Mine

Get out your handheld trail-finding app. You’re going to need it to find the Millie Hill Mine. (Slightly confusingly, this destination is also called the Millie Mine Bat Cave.)

Big brown bat. Photo by Michael Durham / Minden Pictures.

Located on Iron Mountain, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this bat-viewing destination is considered one of several significant bat hibernation sites in the Midwest to view migrating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus).

At one time this abandoned iron mine was considered a safety hazard and was scheduled to be sealed off. Just in time, conservation groups and local businesses joined together to construct a steel structure over the mine shaft to allow bats to fly in and out freely and to keep people at a safe distance.

Travelers to Iron Mountain and locals in nearby towns report seeing hundreds of thousands of bats exit the mine at dusk during peak migration times. The best viewing times are April to May and September to October.

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Mabul Island Palau Mabul

Mabul Island is home to many Borneo Large Flying Foxes

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Kasanka National Park

Imagine a small and lush African forest the size of two or three football fields. Then, imagine millions of fruit bats migrating to this forest each year to rise up, up, and up into the night.  

Bat viewing sites, international
Straw-colored fruit bats take to the air at Kasanka National Park, Zambia. Photo by Dr. Brett Lewis / Kasanka Trust.
Bat viewing sites, international
Lodging to view bats is located near Wasa Lake at Kasanka National Park, Zambia. Photo by Dr. Brett Lewis / Kasanka Trust.

In Kasanka National Park, between October and December, an increasing number of travelers gather to witness the extraordinary sight of African straw-colored bats (Eidolon helvum) flying from their daytime roosts in a swampy evergreen forest to forage through the night.  

Every year, the big fruit bats – with wingspans up to three feet –  migrate from the nearby rainforests of the Congo to Kasanka National Park in Northern Zambia. During the day, the bats densely roost, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the small patch of forest.  

As the sky darkens, they take flight to forage for ripe oval berries, mangoes, wild loquats, and other wild fruits, gorging themselves on as much as four pounds of fruit each night. Three months later, the bats begin their return migration, spreading seeds through their droppings and serving a vital part in regenerating plant growth in the region.

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  • Kasanka is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks. It is located in a region of rivers, lakes, wetlands, meadows, and forests. The diverse landscape supports a variety of wildlife.
  • There are approximately three dozen species of bats in the region including migratory African straw-colored bats. 
  • The not-for-profit Kasanka Trust, working in collaboration with Zambia tourism agencies, offers information on how to experience Kasanka National Park and bat viewing. The Kasanka Trust operates the Wasa Lodge, the nearest accommodations to bat-viewing sites. Visit Kasanka Trust or email internationalres@kasanka.com.
Straw-colored Fruit Bat. Photo by Steve Gettle / Minden Pictures.

Straw-colored fruit bat. (Eidolon helvum)

African straw-colored bats are distinctive with pale yellowish fur on their backsides, tawny olive and brownish fur on their undersides and long black wings that can span nearly three feet. Light coloring and their size provide an exceptional viewing experience under the stars on the high plateaus of south-central Africa.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the African straw-colored bat as “threatened.” Water extraction, deforestation, and commercial agriculture are among the issues that threaten bats and other wildlife.

Clarity Tunnel

In Texas terms,  Clarity Tunnel might be called a “two-fer” destination for the two distinct experiences it provides.

Bats and moon infrared image.
Bats in flight, through infrared photography. Photo by Thomas Kunz, Boston University. Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Located in Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas Panhandle, Clarity Tunnel provides visitors with opportunities to walk through an abandoned historic railroad tunnel during the day and to later observe up to the 500,000 Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) in flight as the sun sets.

Visitors in the tunnel during the day may observe resting bats in the wooden trusses overhead and hear the bats’ soft fluttering sounds. The migratory bats seasonally inhabit the tunnel between late-April and mid-October with peak numbers of bats recorded in early September. Few pups are seen. Railroad tunnels, because they are open on both ends, do not make suitable bat nurseries because the internal temperatures and humidity levels are unstable.  

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  • Clarity Tunnel, also known as the Quitaque Railway Tunnel, was constructed in the late 1920s by mostly Irish and Swedish immigrants and opened for trains to operate by 1930. The tunnel was cut through the region’s sandstone. Originally the tunnel was nearly 800 feet long.  A trainwreck in 1973 closed the tunnel. Reconstruction crews upgraded the rails to handle heavier traffic and shortened its length to its current 582 feet.
  • The tunnel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and was designated a Texas State Antiquities Landmark in 2003.
  • Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway offers bison viewing, camping, and 90 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails in the rugged geology of the flat, high plains of the Llano Estacado to the west and the lower Rolling Plains to the east.
  • Texas is home to 32 of 47 bat species found in the United. States. Check out other Texas bat-viewing sites.

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Find a seat and adjust your eyes. At sunset, during warm weather months, the sight of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) streaming swiftly from the entrance of  Carlsbad Cavern into the night is not to be missed. 

Bat viewing site. National Park. New Mexico.
Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns view emerging bats from the park’s amphitheater. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.
Bat viewing site. Carlsbad Cavern. New Mexico. Cave formations.
Understanding cave systems helps us understand the wide array of bat habitats. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Brazilian free-tailed bats are certainly the stars of seasonal nightly bat flight programs. But, if you’re keen on bat identification, you’re also likely to see cave myotis (Myotis velifer) and fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) identified by their mouse-like ears, as they fly with free-tailed bats from the cavern’s entrance.  

Free bat flight programs are offered every evening, weather permitting, from Memorial Day weekend through October. Participants are seated in the Bat Flight Amphitheater located near the Natural Entrance to Carlsbad Cavern. Seating at the amphitheater is on a first-come-first-seated basis. 

National Park Service rangers provide a talk before bats begin their flight. Start times for the programs are based on the time the sun sets. To protect the bats, electronic devices of all kinds are not allowed at bat flight programs and in surrounding areas. The National Park Service notes that the behavior of bats changes when bats, accustomed to total darkness and silence, are disturbed by sounds and light. 

Seventeen bat species reside in this Chihuahuan Desert national park that sprawls between New Mexico’s Guadalupe Mountains and the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Not all bats roost in the park’s famous caves. Eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) roost in the park’s trees. Canyon bats (Parastrellus hesperus) roost in rock cliffs and cracks throughout the desert landscape.

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  • Park tours, ranger talks, displays, and published materials offer excellent opportunities to understand caves and their importance. Hidden beneath the surface of the national park are 120 known caverns, possibly more, formed millions of years ago when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone.
  • Self-guided tours through the Big Room of the cave system are popular and require a timed pass to traverse a relatively flat trail through cave formations of all shapes and sizes. The Big Room is the one of largest single cave chambers in North America. 
  • To get to the Big Room, visitors take an elevator 750 feet below the ground or may opt to hike the steep and strenuous Nature Entrance Trail, which takes an average of an hour to complete.
  • What’s the difference between stalagmites and stalactites? Stalagmites grow from the ground up. (Note the “g” for ground in the name). Stalactites grow downward.
  • Visitors to the park should always reference the National Park Service’s up-to-date announcements regarding surface hiking, backcountry camping, and other access considerations
  • Hotels, RV parks, camping sites, and glamping options are available within proximity of the park.

Bracken Cave Preserve

Bracken Cave Preserve is home to the world’s largest known maternity colony of bats—an estimated 15 to 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis). Pregnant female bats migrate from Central Mexico to Bracken Cave each March and April to give birth. The yearly migration creates the world’s largest bat colony and one of the largest concentrations of mammals on earth.

BCI's Bracken Cave Preserve, Jonathan Alonzo
Visitors to Bracken Cave Preserve witness one of the largest assemblies of mammals on earth. Photo by Jonathan Alonzo.
Viewing events are family-friendly. Bat Conservation International.

From May to September, visitors to Bracken Cave Preserve assemble on wooden benches near the cave entrance. Anticipation builds. At dusk, millions of bats begin flying from the mouth of the cave into the evening sky for their nightly meal. The experience is sensory. Visitors hear bats in flight grow dramatically louder, watch increasing numbers of bats rise from the cave, feel the rush of air generated by flight motions, and catch whiffs of pungent bat guano from below.

Bat Conservation International owns and manages the cave and the surrounding 1,500-acre preserve. Bracken Cave is vital to the science of understanding migratory bat species. It also offers the public paramount opportunities to witness the wonders of bats.

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Bear Gulch Cave

Bear Gulch Cave in Pinnacles National Park is uniquely a bat cave you can walk through – during seasons specified by park rangers.

Bat Viewing Site. Bear Gulch at Pinnacles National Park. California.
Bear Gulch Cave is open to walkers when the National Park Service deems disruption to bats is minimal. Photo by Kurt Moses. Courtesy of the National Park Service.
Townsend’s big-eared bats. Photo by Jason Corbett.

The cave is home to a colony of several hundred Townsend’s big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii) which hibernate in the cave in the winter and raise their young in late spring and summer. It is the largest colony of this bat species between San Francisco and Mexico.

Townsend’s big-eared bats roost on the walls and ceilings of the cave’s large rooms instead of tucking into cracks and crevices. Because bats are highly sensitive to human disturbance, the National Park Service closely monitors and manages Bear Gulch Cave to protect the colony.

Following several years of study, the Park Service constructed a gate in the cave and outlined a complex schedule of partial cave openings to protect the bats while providing the visiting public with nearly ten months of cave access each year. The entire cave is typically closed from mid-May to mid-July while the bats are raising their young.

Pinnacles National Park is home to 14 bat species including western pipistrelle (Parestrellus hesperus), western red bat (Lasiurus blossevilii), and hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus).

Townsend’s big-eared bats are easily identified by their pale gray fur, two large glandular lumps on both sides of the nose, and enormously long ears that, when laid back, can extend to the middle of the bat’s body. When bats roost in large rooms, their fur is erect for maximum insulation and their ears are coiled. This species is common throughout western North America yet their numbers are declining due to roost disturbance and destruction. 

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  • Bear Gulch Cave isn’t the place for a rushed power hike. The two-mile round-trip walk through the entire cave (when both sections of the cave are open) typically takes two to three hours. Cave passages are narrow with low ceilings.
  • Always check the park website for updates on access to the cave. When the cave is closed, the National Park Service recommends hiking the Moses Spring Trail which winds alongside and above Bear Gulch Cave. The trail provides a glimpse of the geologic processes that created the cave and views of a luxuriant fern grotto near a dry waterfall.
  • Pinnacles National Park is a spectacular park located in Central California about 80 miles southeast of San Jose. The national park’s distinguishing features are rock formations – pinnacles and unusual talus caves – created by multiple volcanic events millions of years ago.
  • There are no hotels inside the park boundaries but there are campgrounds with tent and RV sites, and canvas-sided tent cabins are available by reservation
  • Outside the national park are many food and accommodation options in the Salinas Valley, the City of Soledad, and King City.

Adventure Mine

In the densely forested and thinly populated region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Adventure Mine Tours provides several options for touring a historic copper mine. Those who sign up for tours put on hard hats with headlamps to walk and rappel through an 1860s mine to learn about the old-time ways of early miners.  But, make no mistake, bat conservation is part of the mine’s message.

a tricolored bat in flight
Tricolored bat. Photo by J. Scott Altenbach.

Adventure Mine owner Matthew Portfleet has witnessed the wrenching decline of little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) and tricolored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) due to White-nose syndrome, a debilitating often fatal fungus that has decimated huge populations of bats across the U.S. 

Portfleet recounts seeing thousands of hibernating bats in the mine during cold weather months when he was a college student several years ago. He now talks to mine visitors about dwindling numbers of bats and the need to save them. In addition to running his tour operation, Portfleet has become actively engaged in bat conservation. Using standards established by Bat Conservation International, Portfleet builds bat gates that allow bats to fly freely in and out of mines and caves while restricting human access. His gates are now commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources.

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  • Adventure Mine offers four types of tours, beginning in May through the summer months. The tours are offered seven days a week.

Yolo Basin

By all accounts, the engineers who designed the Yolo Basin Causeway never imagined its design would provide the perfect summer roost for an estimated 250,000 migrating Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis).  Nor did the designers anticipate that thousands of people would gather on summer evenings to witness and marvel over what locals call  “the flyout.” 

Mexican free-tailed bats. Photo by Michael Durham / Minden Pictures.

The three-mile elevated roadway between Sacramento and Davis, California – once noteworthy for its innovation in providing motorist access over a broad expanse of environmentally significant wetlands – is now perhaps equally noted for attracting and hosting hundreds of thousands of bats during warm weather months. 

Faithfully every summer, Mexican free-tailed bats make their way to the Yolo Basin Causeway to roost tightly between the causeway’s expansion joints, below the road’s rumbling traffic, above marshy wetlands thick with insects, and generally inaccessible to prowling predators.  Notably, the causeway’s concrete holds the warmth of the sun for pregnant bats to give birth to their pups. As the sun sets, thousands of ravenous bats rise into the sky in a ribbon-like formation, weaving through the sky.

While there are several places near the causeway to watch the bats’ remarkable emergence, the Yolo Basin Foundation provides summertime Bat Talk and Walk events that begin with a presentation on bats followed by a tour of the wildlife area’s wetlands and rice fields.  Then, bat watchers settle in place to observe “the flyout.”

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  • Bat Talk and Walk events offered by the Yolo Basin Foundation are family-friendly and last about three hours. Adults are charged a modest fee; children under 15 are free.  The events are offered from June through September and sell out fast.
  • The Yolo Basin floodplain was once an 80,000-acre wetlands marsh. While conservation acreage has been whittled down over the years, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is vibrant with wildlife.  Once inhabited by herds of Tule Elk, the vast wetlands are home to beavers, muskrats, river otters, turtles, toads, snakes, and nearly 200 species of birds. The wildlife area is open every day except Christmas and is always free.

Wyandotte Caves

Visitors to the recently re-opened Wyandotte Caves in southern Indiana experience the subterranean world of bats – a place of interconnected passages, limestone chambers, underground streams, and exotic-looking cave formations where rare and federally Endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) hibernate each winter.

WYANDOTTE CAVE (INDIANA)
Guided tours are available at Wyandotte Cave. Photograph courtesy of Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
WYANDOTTE CAVE (INDIANA)
Guided tours at Wyandotte Cave offer information on geology and wildlife. Photograph courtesy of Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Endangered Indiana bats. Photo by Jim Kennedy.

Over nine miles in length, Wyandotte Cave is one of the largest caves in Indiana. It is part of a system of interconnecting caves that shelters wintering bats. During summer months, when disturbances to bats are lessened, guides lead visitors through meandering and scenic routes of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, and columns.

In addition to Endangered Indiana bats, Wyandotte Cave hosts several other species of bats including little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), and eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus).  

Bats roost, breed, and hibernate in Wyandotte Caves, The caves provide a suitable habitat for bats due to stable temperatures and humidity levels, as well as the availability of dark, sheltered areas within the cave’s passages and chambers. Cave crickets, salamanders, and other troglobites and troglophiles also live in the cave.

Wyandotte Caves is a success story of prudent wildlife management. In 2010, when the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) detected the first cases of White-nose Syndrome (WNS), the cave system was closed to the public to ensure the health of bats. White-nose Syndrome — a debilitating fungus that causes bats to rouse from hibernation and expend necessary body fat during winter months when insect prey is unavailable — is not transmissible to humans but humans can transmit the fungus to bats. In 2023, the cave was re-opened for visitors.

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  • Wyandotte Caves offers fee-based guided summer tours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. Tickets become available in April or May here.
  • The Little Wyandotte Cave tour is easy, without stairs, and takes 30 to 45 minutes. This smaller cave, totally separate from Big Wyandotte Cave, offers views of interesting cave formations.
  • The Big Wyandotte Cave Tour is considered “rugged.” The two-hour, 1.5-mile tour traverses the deep sections of the Big Wyandotte Cave where rare formations of helictites are prominent along with gypsum, epsomite, and prehistoric flint quarries. Tour-goers, wearing helmets and headlamps, must be in good shape to navigate the steep terrain and stairs. Everyone is required to walk across a decontamination surface near the cave entrance to prevent transferring the fungal spores that cause White-nose Syndrome.
  • Jackets are recommended for all cave tours because the cave temperature is always 52 degrees F. Comfortable and sturdy shoes are a must. Pets, alcohol, and tobacco use are strictly prohibited.

Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple

At dusk, an estimated million or more Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats (Chaerephon plicatus) fly from a bat cave within the sprawling complex of the Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple in Thailand’s countryside north of Bangkok. 

Many temples in Thailand – like the Wat Khao Cho Pran Temple (pictured above) — welcome visitors to observe bat flights. Shutterstock photo.

The temple is one of several in Thailand where bats find refuge to roost in large colonies. Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats are widespread in Thailand. The temple itself, its location, its sacred shrines, and Buddhist history combined with bat-watching make this a unique travel experience.

The Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple nestles in limestone mountains, surrounded on three sides, facing a wide open valley to the East. Its location is advantageous for the insectivorous bats to devour swarms of planthoppers each night which helps suppress pests in the countryside’s rice fields. Temple monks collect and sell bat guano to financially support the temple.

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  • Statuary and shrines at the Wat Khao Wongkhot Temple include an immense golden Reclining Buddha at the base of one mountain, a swan pillar where a footprint of Buddha is enshrined, a monument to the founder of the temple, and a crystal coffin where the monks say a corpse has rested for decades without decaying. 
  • The temple is open throughout the day but the best time to visit is around sunset to witness the bats’ evening emergence
  • Check Tourism Thailand and other online sources for more information.
  • Travelers to the temple are encouraged to dress and adapt their behavior to the Thai and Buddhist culture.                                                            

University of Florida Bat Houses

Spirited college campus wildlife is not to be confused with the actual wildlife at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. More than 400,000 bats reside on campus in the world’s largest occupied bat structures – two bat barns and a large bat house.

Three bat species – Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis),  Southeastern bats (Myotis austroriparius) and Evening bats (Nycticeius humeralis) – roost all day in the shelters and emerge each evening to create a mesmerizing display against the Florida sky. 

The bat structures were erected in the 1990s to relocate bats from under the bleachers of two of the university’s sports stadiums after a fire devastated their attic home in a historic building. Since then, the university and community have formed an active bat conservancy to protect bats and educate the public about the importance of bats in healthy ecosystems. The university estimates that the campus-sheltered bats consume up to 2.5 billion insects nightly – the equivalent of 2,500 pounds of insects! — to the benefit of regional farmers and agriculture producers.

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  • The bat houses are located on Museum Road near the Florida Museum, an impressive not-to-be-missed natural history museum.  Benches along the fence line on Museum Road and across the road near Lake Alice offer opportunities to observe the bats over the lake, pine trees and around streetlights.
  • While the bat emergence can be seen year-round, warm weather months – spring through summer, when days are increasing in length –  offer the best viewing.
  • Arrive before sunset to find parking and get situated. The bats normally emerge 15 to 20 minutes after sunset.
  • Take a stroll. The University of Florida’s 2,000-acre campus showcases a diverse collection of native and cultivated plants.
  • An online portal provides travel recommendations for Gainesville accommodations, restaurants, events, and additional places to see in the region.  
  • Brazilian free-tailed bats are also known as Mexican free-tailed bats.

Sauta Cave

In northeastern Alabama, Sauta Cave shelters one of the largest summer bat colonies east of the Mississippi River. Between late spring and early fall, with numbers peaking midsummer, as many as 300,000 to 400,000 Endangered gray bats (Myotis grisescens) emerge from the cave flying tightly together into the night in what might be described as a rousing cloud of motion.

Bat watchers at Sauta Cave bring umbrellas and other protective gear as bats fly overhead. Photo courtesy of Alabama Travel.
Gray myotis. Photo by J. Scott Altenbach.

Visitors to the Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, a mere seven miles from the City of Scottsboro, experience the most numbers of bats in nightly summer emergence than any location in the eastern U.S.  Notably, viewers witness a healthy population of a federally Endangered bat species.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, human intrusions in caves populated by gray bats caused steep population declines which resulted in the species being added in 1976 to the list of U.S. Endangered Species.  Accordingly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) closely monitors and manages Sauta Cave. Bat-gates have been installed at both cave entrances which maintains airflow and allows bats to fly freely to and from the cave while restricting public access.

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  • Visitors, who stand near the cave’s entrance as thousands of bats exit overhead, are encouraged to bring umbrellas, caps and hats, and other protective gear. 
  • For other travel information to Sauta Cave, click here.
  • Nearby accommodations and other traveler amenities are available in Scottsboro.
  • Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge is one of several destinations in Alabama that offer bat viewing. Check out Alabama Outdoors for a list of other locations.

Pemba Island

Traveling to Pemba Island to see the island’s impressive namesake bat can be challenging.

Pemba flying foxes. Photo courtesy of Outdoortrips.com.

Transportation to the island, located 31 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is generally by small aircraft or by ferries that operate only a few times a week on timetables that are likely to change. There, on the small island, there are dala dalas (shared rides in minibuses and converted trucks) or rental bicycles to get you to the Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary where a guide/guardian may or may not meet you to collect your entrance fee. If he’s not around, says guidebook Lonely Planet, his phone number is scrawled on the wall of an unused building at the edge of the sanctuary.

Witnessing Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi) is worth the travel challenges. The Pemba flying fox, found only on this small island. It is one of the largest species of fruit bats with a wingspan of approximately five feet. During the day, the bats visibly hang in a forest of large trees. As the sky begins to darken, the bats lift into the night to forage for figs, mangos, and breadfruit. 

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  • Pemba Island is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, a series of several islands often called the Spice Islands. The archipelago is located off the coast of East Africa. 
  • Pemba bats have thrived on the island, in part, because of minimal human disturbance. The Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary is remote and isolated. Nearby burial grounds, which are taboo in native culture to visit, keep humans from the area.
  • Tanzania is well known for its spectacular destinations including Serengeti National Park, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the beaches of Zanzibar. Over 30 percent of Tanzania is set aside for conservation.  
  • Pemba Island, according to the Tanzania Tourism Board, “is fast becoming a unique destination in its own right.” Nevertheless, travel planning information requires online sleuthing. Bat Conservation International recommends beginning your research with the Tourism Board or inquiring with tour providers who offer wildlife tours.
  • Pemba Island’s culture is conservative and based on Islamic values and traditions. Travelers are asked to dress modestly and to respectfully honor the island’s culture. 
  • Swahili (kiswahili) is the native language of Pemba Island. Travelers are encouraged to learn some Swahili before arrival and carry a translating phrasebook.

Waugh Drive Bridge

Home to a summer colony of about 250,000 Mexican free tailed bats in Houston Texas

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Stuart Bat Cave

Located within Kickapoo Cavern State Park in southwestern Texas, Stuart Bat Cave is a limestone cavern that houses a seasonal population of about one million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats. From March to October, visitors can witness these bats spiraling out of the cave’s entrance at dusk to feed on insects in a magnificent aerial display.

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  • The Mexican Free-Tailed Bats contribute significantly to controlling pest populations, making them beneficial for local agriculture.
  • Stuart Bat Cave is one of 20 known caves within Kickapoo Cavern State Park, a site noted for its geologic features and wildlife.

Travel Tips 

  • Bat flight viewing is possible during the warmer months but call ahead to the state park for the best times and any restrictions.
  • Guided tours of Kickapoo Cavern are available, but require advance reservations. 
  • Always remember to stay on designated trails and respect all wildlife.

Pura Goa Lawah Bat Cave Temple

Located near Klungkung Bali

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Old Tunnel WMA

Abandoned railroad tunnel with up to 3 million Mexican free tailed bats and more than 1 000 Cave myotis

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Nickajack Cave

Summer emergence of 100,000 Gray myotis over Nickajack Lake

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La Gruta de Quintero

Located near Quintero Tamaulipas Mexico

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Gomatong Caves

Located in the Lower Kinbatangan area Sandakan Sabah Malayasia

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Congress Avenue Bridge

Largest urban colony of bats in the world located in Austin Texas

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Congress Avenue Bridge - Red Sunset.
A dramatic deep red sunset accentuates the bats in flight at Congress Avenue Bridge. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Congress Avenue Bridge with blue sky.

Naracoorte Bat Cave

Largest breeding colony of Southern bentwing bats located in Naracoorte Caves National Park

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Bracken Cave Preserve
Jonathan Alonzo

Bracken Cave

This BCI-owned site is home to the world’s largest colony of bats, and it’s located just outside of San Antonio, Texas. During the summer months, visitation to Bracken Cave for BCI members can be arranged by making a reservation.

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Congress Avenue Bridge
Amanda Stronza, Bat Conservation International

Congress Avenue Bridge

One and a half million bats emerge each summer evening from beneath this bridge in Downtown Austin, Texas as crowds reaching hundreds or occasionally thousands of people look on.

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Bracken Cave Preserve
Jonathan Alonzo

Bat-Watching Sites of Texas

Texas is home to the greatest number of bat species in the United States. BCI has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife to create this useful guide for viewing some of the amazing bats that call Texas home.

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