Review: Bat Punt Safari

Ru Merritt 26 May 2014

Warning: this article contains many bat-related puns.

Bizarrely charming, Scudamore’s Bat Punt Safari most certainly floated my boat. Quite frankly, I haven’t stopped talking about these winged little mammals since. Some might even say I’ve been driving my friends and family batty (I apologise).

Initially apprehensive, I was immediately reassured that we were “just waiting for our Batman” and it dawned on me that even if I found the whole experience to be some horrendous vampiric nightmare, I would at least be entertained by the potential for bat-puns when it came to writing this article. Thankfully, my qualms turned out to be redundant and within a few minutes, alter ego Iain Webb arrived in true two-wheeled Cambridge style with his 'bat box' in hand. We were ready to go bat punting.

Whilst Webb’s appearance may not have had the same threatening presence as DC’s original comic creation, his infectious enthusiasm was a superpower in itself, so that even I (with limited interest in natural conservation) found myself hanging on to every bat-fact he procured from his apparantly infinite depth of bat-related knowledge.  We were on the search for two types of bat specifically: the Soprano Pipistrelle and the Daubenton’s bat.  Both of which can be found along the banks of the River Cam living with six other species known to be habiting in Cambridge. We were handed a bat detector each (promptly renamed Batometers) and patiently waited to hear the sonar clicks ring through the fuzzy crackle of the machine. Surprisingly, we didn’t have to wait long and within a half hour I soon became engrossed in trying to aim my Batometer most effectively at the creatures flying overhead – much to the annoyance to the gentleman next to me.

Although bat safaris may seem a rather niche interest, it has enjoyed a considerable amount of success. Founded five years ago, the safaris have been over-subscribed three times, and I was informed that one couple even flew back from New Zealand to enjoy the “Best Bat Experience in Britain” [Webb]. Moreover, Oxford has been in contact with Webb requesting he set up a similar Bat Safari with punts along their river. Needless to say, it would be inferior to our Cam experience, but it goes to show that Bat Safaris certainly have an alluring charm which is set to grow in popularity over the coming years.

Naturally, if you have no inclination to sit in a punt, wrapped in a half-sodden blanket, trying to spot “winged rats” in the dark, then I can hardly recommend this safari to you. But with a smidge of open-mindedness, the Bat Punt Safari provides a refreshing alternative to the usual cultural events offered in the city. After only two or so hours out on a night time punt, not only has the tour widened my knowledge of bats significantly (although admittedly this was negligible to begin with), but it has also increased my awareness of conservation in and around Cambridge which undoubtedly will please my college’s environment officer. Perhaps we need to give more admiration to the mammals which are able to temporarily disconnect their eardrums to avoid being defended, or give greater credit to the creatures which pollinate the blue agave cactus, used to make our Tequila shots in Cindies.

I would thus like to officially put a claim in for the Bat Punt Safari to go onto the TCS Cambridge Bucket List – it’s truly fangtastic.

Bat Punting Safari's are available on Friday evenings from 16th May – 19th September.