Wildlife tours are nothing new, and they usually provide tour-takers with an entirely new outlook on the way specific animals survive in their environment. Common examples of this include the ever-popular safari tours around the world, as well as tours of marine life such as those at the country's best aquariums. One wildlife tour that doesn't often come to one's mind, however, includes those which allow tour-takers to watch bats in their natural habitat.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

When it comes to prime bat-watching, there's one location, in particular, that's home to a colony larger than any other in the world. Those living in the Texas Hill Country or outside San Antonio are likely familiar with the flying shadows that appear over their houses at dusk, and they usually come from the Bracken Cave.

What Is A Bat-Watching (Or Viewing) Site?

Those interested in observing these nocturnal animals for themselves will be happy to know that there are many sites throughout Texas. The state is a wealth of information when it comes to bats as a species and how they live and thrive in their natural habitats, thanks to the high humidity and temperatures in Texas caves.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the state is home to 32 of 47 species of bats that are found across the U.S. It also holds the title of being home to the largest colony in the world, found at Bracken Cave, as well as the largest urban population of bats, which can be seen from the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin. Therefore, Texas is home to a number of bat-watching or viewing sites both in its cities and just outside of them.

Related: Osa Peninsula: Visiting The Last Remaining Lowland Rainforests In Central America

Bracken Cave Preserve

The best chance one has at seeing the highest concentration of bats is at the Bracken Cave Preserve. This area alone is home to more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats. The reason behind this is partially due to the fact that it's the perfect mating and nesting environment for adult bats. Crop pests, such as the corn earworm moth, are the main sources of food for Mexican free-tailed bats, and Bat Conservation International - which also owns the cave - estimates that more than 100 of these insects can be consumed in a single night.

Visiting the Bracken Cave Preserve is not as easy as just showing up, since visitors must be members of Bat Conservation International in order to partake in its tours. Reservations are required and the membership starts at $45, which gives members access to special Member Nights at the cave and on the preserver's 1,500 acres.

Congress Avenue Bridge

The largest urban colony of bats can be seen from the Congress Avenue Bridge. Bats are quite resilient and will nest in anything from a cave to someone's attic if it provides enough protection and warmth. Therefore, it's easy to see how 1.5 million bats could potentially take up residence within the bridge itself. Today, the bridge remains a popular tourist spot for those who wish to see the bats in person, bringing more than 100,000 visitors to Austin each year.

  • Boat Tours: Lone Star Riverboats, Capital Cruises

Additional Bat-Viewing Sites In Texas

There are plenty of other places around Texas from which to see these incredible night fliers, as well. While most of them reside just outside of San Antonio, there are several other bat hotspots around the state.

  • Bamberger Ranch Preserve (privately owned)
  • Camden Street Bridge
  • Clarity Tunnel (Caprock Canyons State Park)
  • Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area
  • Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve (privately owned)
  • Frio Bat Cave (privately owned)
  • Old Tunnel State Park
  • Stuart Bat Cave (Kickapoo Cavern State Park)
  • Watonga Boulevard Bridge
  • Waugh Drive Bridge

Bat-Viewing Ettiquette

Simply standing by to watch bats in flight might seem simple enough but there are some etiquette rules that bat-watchers should be familiar with beforehand.

  • Bats aren't predictable. While people gather in crowds to watch bats emerge at dusk on certain days, it's not always guaranteed that they'll be in flight. The temperature and weather conditions have a significant impact on whether or not bats with migrate or be on the move.
  • Collisions are possible. Bats are great at flying but this doesn't meant they've never accidentally collided with a human. Giving them enough space and viewing their flight from a safe distance is always recommended.
  • Never touch a bat. On the rare occasion, youngling bats do struggle to fly at times. If a bat ever falls or lands on the ground near an onlooker, avoid touching it. For the safety of humans and the bats, it's best to not get involved and to notify a professional.
  • Remain quiet and avoid using bright lights. It might be tempting to use a flashlight to observe the bats easier but this should never be done. Bats are incredibly sensitive to light and sound, and the best thing that onlookers can do is remain quiet and allow them to continue their emergence under the cover of nightfall.

Next: Want To Make The Most Of Your Stay In Yellowstone National Park? Consider A Wildlife Tour