Bat viewing sites around the world
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.”
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 a number of 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.”
- 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 June through September and sell out fast.
- The Yolo Basin floodplain was once an 80,000 acre wetlands marsh. While 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.
Largest hibernacula for endangered Indiana myotis in the world located in O Bannon Woods State Park Leavenworth Indiana
Waugh Drive Bridge
Home to a summer colony of about 250,000 Mexican free tailed bats in Houston Texas
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.
The temple is one of several in Thailand where bats find refuge to roost in large colonies. Wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats are common and widespread in Thailand but the temple itself, its location, its sacred shrines, and Buddhist history combine to make this a unique bat-viewing 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 undoubtedly advantageous for the insectivorous bats, who are valued for their role in pest suppression. Scientific studies have documented that wrinkle-lipped free-tailed bats devour white-backed planthoppers and possibly suppress brown planthoppers. Both insect species cause significant damage to the countryside’s rice fields.
Buddhist monks who reside at the temple are actively engaged in protecting the bats, recognizing the bats’ significant role in the local ecosystem and the appeal of attracting visitors to nightly.bat flights. The monks also collect and sell bat guano to financially support the temple.
- 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 online sources for more information.
- Travelers to the temple are encouraged to dress and adapt 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 an historic building. Since then, the university and community have formed an active bat conservancy to protect bats and educate the public to 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.
- 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.
Bats have been found to live in several areas of the zoo including the zoo s forests bamboo groves underground tunnels and culverts and bat houses
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Located at the Selman Living Laboratory
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
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. – and, no less, 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.
- 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 caves in Alabama that offer bat viewing. Check out Alabama Outdoors for a list of other locations.
Pura Goa Lawah Bat Cave Temple
Located near Klungkung Bali
Traveling to Pemba Island to see the island’s impressive namesake bat can be challenging.
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, is one of the largest species of fruit bats with a wingspan of around 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.
- 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, help limit human disturbance.
- Tanzania is well known for 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 Tourist Board or inquiring with tour providers who offer wildlife tours.
- Pemba Island’s culture is conservative, based on Islamic values and traditions. Travelers are asked to dress modestly and respectfully honor the island’s culture.
- Swahili (kiswahili) is the native language of Pemba Island. Travelers are encouraged to learn some Swahili prior to arrival and carry a translating phrasebook.
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 and a population of 400 people. Today, the mine’s seasonal residents far surpass the historical records of human dwellers in the area.
An estimated quarter million bats 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. Close 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 (WNS), a debilitating fungus that causes bats to rouse from hibernation and expend necessary body fat during winter months when insect prey is unavailable. WNS resulted in the deaths of more than seven million North America 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, from a distance, to watch the bats ascend like a fluttering ribbon into the night sky.
- 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 has been recognized by the International Dark Sky Association as a “Dark Sky Park.”
- In addition to migratory Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), there are 18 bat species within the state .
- 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, and 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, 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.
Old Tunnel WMA
Abandoned railroad tunnel with up to 3 million Mexican free tailed bats and more than 1 000 Cave myotis
Summer emergence of 100,000 Gray myotis over Nickajack Lake
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 and verdant blossoming vegetation make this an island paradise – for humans and bats.
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 considered one of the main pollinators of the island’s vegetation and plantations in Davao City on the mainland
The bat cave is part of Monfort Bat Sanctuary, 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 two million megasized bats packed tightly together. At an estimated density of 645 bats per square meter, visitors often comment on their perception of a 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 fruit and flowers.
- Entrance to the Monfort Bat Cave requires a small fee (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
Located in Iron Mountain Michigan
Mabul Island Palau Mabul
Mabul Island is home to many Borneo Large Flying Foxes
La Gruta de Quintero
Located near Quintero Tamaulipas Mexico
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.
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) fly 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.
- 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 email@example.com.
Straw-colored fruit bat.
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.
James River Bat Cave
Maternity colony of 4 million to 6 million Mexican free tailed bats located at the Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve
Located in the Lower Kinbatangan area Sandakan Sabah Malayasia
Frio Bat Cave
Privately owned cave with a colony of up to 10 million Mexican free tailed bats
Large sinkhole inhabitated by 3 million Mexican free tailed bats located in Devil s Sinkhole State Natural Area near Rocksprings Texas
Congress Avenue Bridge
Largest urban colony of bats in the world located in Austin Texas
Abandoned railroad tunnel located along the Trailway of Caprock Canyon State Park
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.
At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Brazilian free-tailed bats are certainly the stars of seasonal nightly bat flight programs. But, if you’re keen at 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 first come-first served.
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, used 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) and hoary bats (Lasiurus cinerus) roost in the park’s trees. Canyon bats (Parastrellus hesperus) roost in rock cliffs and cracks.
- 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 on average of an hour to complete.
- 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 close proximity of the park.
Summer home to millions of Mexican free tailed bats Open Wednesday through Sunday nights with reservations through October 10
Bear Gulch Cave
Bear Gulch Cave in Pinnacles National Park is uniquely a bat cave you can hike through – during seasons specified by park rangers.
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.
Because Townsend’s big-eared bats roost on the walls and ceilings of the cave’s large rooms instead of tucking into cracks and crevices, the 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).
- Bear Gulch Cave isn’t the place for a rushed power hike. The two-mile round-trip hike 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.
- 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 available by reservation.
- Outside the national park are many food and accommodation options in San Benito County, the Salinas Valley, the City of Soledad, and King City.
Largest breeding colony of Southern bentwing bats located in Naracoorte Caves National Park
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.
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.
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.