Join the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers for a sunset adventure in Mt Etna Caves National Park 25km north of Rockhampton, on tours from 2 December until mid-February.
Join the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers for a sunset adventure in Mt Etna Caves National Park 25km north of Rockhampton, on tours from 2 December until mid-February. Contributed.

Nocturnal friends out to play

SUMMER evenings are the time to witness a wildlife spectacle at Mt Etna as thousands of tiny bats head out to find dinner.

Join the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers for a sunset adventure in Mt Etna Caves National Park 25km north of Rockhampton, on tours from 2 December until mid-February.

Each summer, rangers lead small groups of visitors to see the amazing sight of tens of thousands of tiny insect-eating bats emerging from Bat Cleft at sunset to feed. Principal Ranger Peter Moore said QPWS would again be running the Bat Cleft tours three evenings a week.

"The tours are perfect for families, and the small groups make for a personalised tour experience,” Mr Moore said.

"Once again the friendly, enthusiastic and experienced guides will lead our guests through remnant dry rainforest up Mt Etna, and across the limestone karst landscape to Bat Cleft. On the way they will discover the geology, plants and fascinating history of Mt Etna and enjoy lovely views across the surrounding landscape.

"As dusk falls at Bat Cleft they will witness the spectacular sight of up to 180,000 little bent-wing bats flying out from their roost to feed.”

Bat Cleft is one of only five recorded little bent-wing bat maternity sites in Australia, and houses 80 per cent of the known population of breeding females.

"Visitors will witness the emergence flight and might also spot a python or giant green tree frog feeding on bats that fly too close to the cave walls,” Mr Moore said.

"They'll also gain an understanding of Mount Etna's other animals, its plants, and the conservation battle that saved Mt Etna from limestone mining,” he said.

The tour, some by torchlight, takes approximately three hours. Visitors need to be reasonably fit for the 2.4 km return track and should wear sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots, plus bring a torch, a litre or more of water, personal medication and insect repellent. Bat Cleft tours are held Monday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Bookings are required Tours cost $11.40 adults, $5.55 children, $7.45 pensioners and family $34.20.