In honor of Bat Appreciation Day, we’ve tracked down the best locations in the world to see bats in their natural environment.
Kasanka National Park in Zambia
Plan your trip between October and December to see the millions of straw-colored fruit bats
Every year between October and December, 10 million straw-colored fruit bats migrate to the swampy forest of Zambia’s Kasanka National Park to feast on the fruit growing in the park. The straw-colored fruit bat can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa and is known for living and traveling in colonies of more than a million bats. To truly appreciate the sheer size of these colonies, head to the park in the early evening when they begin to hunt for fruit.
Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo
Visit Deer Cave to see more than 3 million bats that roost there
Deep inside the caves of Gunung Mulu National Park live 12 different bat species. If you don’t have time to visit all of the caves, make sure Deer Cave is at the top of your list. Inside you’ll see more than 3 million bats roosting – and as the sun sets, they flock from the cave in search of food.
Less than 1.5 miles from the park, Mulu Marriott Resort is located in the lush rainforest that bats love.
Cairns in Queensland, Australia
See for yourself why the largest species of bats is called the flying fox
In the tropical Northern Australia, the city of Cairns is home to one of the largest species of bats in the world – the flying fox. These canine-sized bats spend much of their time hunting for food in the rainforests bordering Cairns.
Cairns is also home to the Tolga Bat Hospital, where injured, sick, and orphaned bats are rehabilitated. To learn more about Australian bats, drop into the hospital’s visitor center where you might get to see one up close.
Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is an 8-minute walk from the beach and offers activities like diving and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, perfect for anyone interested in seeing more of Australia’s wildlife.
Spandau Citadel in Berlin, Germany
The Spandau Citadel is home to 11,000 bats of different species
There are 2 reasons you should visit Berlin’s Spandau Citadel. It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved Renaissance fortresses and, even more importantly, it’s home to one of Europe’s largest bat colonies. Shortly after construction was finished, 11,000 bats of different species moved into the citadel’s vaulted roof during the cold winter months. They’ve since been embraced by the Citadel staff, with a dedicated viewing area and guided tours taking visitors through the vaulted roof.
Centrovital SPA & Sports Hotel features 6 saunas and a large indoor pool, as well as a rooftop terrace bar where you can try to spot the bats as they leave the Citadel, located less than half a mile away.
University of Florida in Gainesville, USA
Thousands of bats live inside the university's bat houses
At the University of Florida’s campus, you’ll find the world’s largest occupied bat houses. Hundreds of thousands of bats live inside the structures, with the most common species being the Brazilian free-tailed bat, Southeastern bat, and Evening bat. The best time of year to visit is during the spring and early summer, as the lengthening days mean the bats emerge while there’s still lingering sunlight. For the best views, look west over the pine trees and lights on Museum Road.
Home2 Suites By Hilton Gainesville is just half a mile from campus and offers free onsite parking, making it easy to get to and from the bat houses.
Tips for watching bats
When watching bats in the wild, there are a few things to take into consideration to guarantee the experience is positive for everyone involved:
- Avoid making loud or high-pitched noises.
- Maintain a safe distance from any bats.
- If you see a bat on the ground, keep your distance. Bats infected with rabies are sluggish and are often found on the ground. While they don’t show aggression like other mammals, they could bite in self-defense.