Beyond Batman: Bat Caves and Other Batty Destinations

View the nocturnal food flights of these furry squeakers as they swarm from caves and bridges around the world.

It’s hard to be a Batman fan when you’re a girl named Robin, but I am. If you and your youthful wards are bat fans, here are some top spots to get your bat fix. As Adam West would say, “Quick, to the bat mobile—there’s not a moment to lose.”

Bat Cave

Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southeastern New Mexico can witness the extraordinary night flight of the Mexican free-tailed bats, which takes place between Memorial Day and mid-October. (Between late October and mid-May, the bats act like retirees and head to Mexico for the winter.) Almost 400,000 bats leave the cave every night to feed on insects. The expedition starts at nightfall when the first bats corkscrew out of the dark cave. Within minutes, thousands more join in and soon, the desert sky is filled with an undulating swarm of bats that cut a swath across the sky like a massive loose-weave shawl caught in swirling winds.

The best time to visit is July and August when the baby bats, born in June, join their parents in the nightly food flight. Once a year, in mid-July, early risers are also invited to a Bat Flight Breakfast, between 5 and 7 a.m., to watch the bats return and dive bomb back into the cave. Cameras are not permitted, as white lights disturb the bats. The timing varies with the sunset, so check with the visitor center for exact times. During the day, visitors can explore the caverns; there’s a basic self-guided tour and six more challenging ranger-guided tours. Strollers aren’t permitted in the cave, and children under 3 aren’t permitted on guided tours.

Bat City

Austin, Texas, is known as Bat City for the almost two million bats that reside under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The airborne mammals moved in after the bridge was reconstructed in 1980 and today, the bridge’s denizens make up the largest urban bat colony in the world. Tourists flock to see their nightly flight. Austin residents were leery of the bats until they learned that their nocturnal neighbors eat 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects a night! To get updates on the bats and estimated flight times, call the Bat Conservation International (BCI) Bat Hotline at 512-416-5700, ext 3636. If you’re in Austin for Labor Day, visit Batfest, a music and craft festival with activities including a bat costume contest, kids’ face painting and live music. The craft show is juried so you can pick up beautiful jewelry, woodwork, sculptures and pottery. Bat Conservation International, tel. 512-327-9724.


Welcome to Eurobats, the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats. The organization sponsors many bat events, the jewel in the crown being European Bat Night, which is held at the end of August every year. More than 30 countries participate in the annual event including Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Norway, Switzerland and Spain. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the “Things That go Squeak in the Night” event takes place at Holyrood Park where participants are accompanied by the Historic Scotland Rangers and the Bat Conservation Trust’s Scottish Bat Officer (just imagine his business card). Holyrood Park faces Holyrood Palace, the official Residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland.

There are three bat species in Holyrood—two pipistrelles (the smallest and most common species in the United Kingdom) and the Daubenton’s bat (also known as a water bat, because it likes to live near water). Bat walkers are equipped with electronic bat detectors that pick up the extremely high-pitched squeaks that are inaudible to humans. The walkers head toward Saint Margaret’s Loch, which is also the bats’ destination. Initially, a few pipistrelles graze the treetops. Their jerky flying style inspired the ancient name of the bat—the flittermouse. As you get closer to the lake, the larger Daubenton’s bats appear, skimming over the water like little hovercrafts

”Things That Go Squeak in the Night” is for children over 8 years old. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the Holyrood Ranger Service at +0131-652-8150. In London, the London Wetland Centre on the banks of the Thames offers bat walks for kids 10 and older accompanied by an adult every Thursday from mid-May to mid-September. For reservations, call +0208-409-4400.

Destinations: Austin, Edinburgh, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, London

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures

User Comments

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