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A batty night out in Cambridge

We jumped aboard the night punt with The Wildlife Trust and got to know some of Cambridge's most mysterious residents - bats!

All aboard the batmobile!

Looking for something a bit out of the ordinary to do on a Friday night? How about a bat safari on the River Cam? Starting from May 20th 2022, The Wildlife Trust and Scudamore’s Punting are combining forces to offer bat safari punting, a unique wildlife experience where 50% of the ticket price goes to helping local wildlife. We tested it out, and as nights out go in Cambridge, it’s pretty special…

Instead of heading to the pub last Friday, I made my way down Mill Lane to Scudamore’s punting station to join The Wildlife Trust for an animal adventure in the dark. Don’t worry I haven’t gone completely batty – we stopped off at The Mill pub before we set off.

The Mill is just opposite Scudamore’s so the perfect place to stop off for a drink before your safari

As a born and bred Cambridge girl I’ve done my fair share of punting – both civilised guided tours and Prosecco-fulled punts that always ended with someone falling in. This experience was like no other though. For starters I’ve never done a night punt, but I really recommend it. We only saw two other punts the whole time, and it was so tranquil. It’s hard to believe you’re in a city as you meander down the river towards Grantchester Meadows surrounded by greenery, cattle and birds.

On arrival we were given a handheld bat detector that picks up their echolocation (which is far too high for human ears to hear). As dusk fell, our guide Iain Webb from The Wildlife Trust told us to turn them on, and just minutes later we heard our first distinctive bat squeaks. Iain filled us in on all the incredible facts about these flying mammals (what he doesn’t know about bats isn’t worth knowing), and by the time the first tiny Pipistrelle bats starting swooping over our heads my opinion of these funny creatures had changed from rather creepy Covid carriers to clever and fascinating one-of-a-kind animals.

Bat man, aka The Wildlife Trust’s Iain Webb

When the sun set our bat detectors went into overdrive and Iain helped us identify three different types of bat and their various calls, clicks and buzzes. While the bats were definitely the stars of the show, we also saw lots of other wildlife along the river – a fox, lots of herons, moorhens, sedge warblers, woodpeckers and an extremely cute little water vole swimming by (a rare spot apparently).

I’m no twitcher or bat enthusiast, but as an alternative night out in Cambridge I’d definitely suggest it. As well as gaining a new appreciation for bats, punting while no one else is on the river is really quite wonderful and it just made me love our gorgeous city even more.

Bat safaris run every Friday from 20 May until 23 September and every Saturday from 18 June until 24 September. Book here.

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