Volunteers must be vaccinated for rabies to handle the bats, and provide proof of vaccination status before they arrive. Volunteers are needed all year round but especially during tick paralysis season, when hundreds of adults and orphans come into care. It is very busy October to February, particularly November to January. We usually need 4 - 8 full time people, as well as our dedicated group of local part-time volunteers.

Our Visitor Centre is open daily and we appreciate volunteers with an interest in environmental education.

We prefer a minimum stay of one month in busy season, and one week the rest of the year. Experienced flying fox carers can be an exception to this rule.

Work at the hospital in tick season is varied. Typically volunteers will help prepare large amounts of food for the adults and orphans; feed/clean/weigh/measure the orphans, clean the cages, handle large amounts of bat and human laundry, assist in trips to the rainforest to search or release (depending on season); and help with miscellaneous projects around the hospital. We buy fruit in bulk (apples1000kg and bananas 350kgs) and these need to be unloaded into boxes for storage in fridge or food safe. We make large amounts of banana smoothie on particular days, and this is then stored in the freezer and brought out as required. Caring for sick or young animals is like caring for sick or young humans, many tasks are very repetitive but your love and respect for the animals will make it very rewarding.

Abie and Clare from the UK

The bat hospital is 7kms or about 4 miles from Atherton. Although a relatively small town, it has all the necessary infrastructure for banking, health care etc It is about an 80 minute drive from Cairns, the nearest international and domestic airport.

Once you get to Cairns in far north Queensland, there are 2 ways to get here. The easiest is by Tablelands Tours and Transfers, a private bus that will bring you door to door. This is especially useful and good value when you are arriving. For $100, you will be picked up at the airport and brought straight to the bat hospital; a bit more if it's 6pm to 6am. It depends on your arrival time and other bookings as to how long you will need to wait for pick up. Please contact Darrin through his website, any problems let me know and I'll contact him. We highly recommend this service, especially for those arriving on long flights from overseas.

The other way to get here, for $40 in total, is to catch Transnorth Buses ($25) from Cairns to Atherton but you need to allow 1.5 hours to get from the airport to the bus stop in the city centre by airport shuttle bus ($15). It is only a 5 km trip but the bus might take 15 minutes to leave, and it drops off people at their accommodation places on the way. Ask the Airport Shuttle to drop you under the Cairns Central Shopping Centre, platform 1.The Transnorth bus leaves from here and we will meet you off the bus in Atherton.

Transnorth Buses can deliver you back to Cairns for $25 or to the airport for $30. They are allowed to drop people off at the airport but not pick up, so they can be the cheaper way to leave. Analyse all this bus information if you have some control over your flight times and you will avoid long wait times for the transfer to Atherton.

Tolga Bat Hospital Facilities and Expectations

Rabies Vaccination: Volunteers need to be vaccinated for rabies. This is a series of 3 intramuscular injections of 1ml given over 3-4 weeks. The course must be completed before getting to the bat hospital. Rabies is extremely rare in Spectacled flying foxes. However it is a condition of our permit to make sure all volunteers who handle the bats are vaccinated. You must be able to provide us with a copy of the vaccination certificate or recent blood titre test results before you arrive. We do take unvaccinated volunteers but they do not handle the bats.

Volunteers from 2012. We don't get a lot of male volunteersbut this time we had Marston from USA and Clement from France. The 3 women Kiri, Ester and Claidia were all from the UK.

Working Hours:
During tick paralysis season, volunteers typically work 7 days per week for an average of about 10 -15 hours per day. November is always the busiest month as we can have up to 200 babies being hand-fed 4 times a day. Volunteers unable to commit to this pace are encouraged to live offsite and roster on as it suits. Every effort is made to give long-stay volunteers a break for a few days during the season.

Outside of tick season the atmosphere is far more flexible, and days off for excursions or a break can be easily accommodated.

Meals: We eat very well at the Bat Hospital and can cater for vegetarians and vegans. We have a delicious healthy meal at night but everyone caters for themselves during the day. All volunteers are expected to help with preparing and cleaning up for evening meals. We discuess with each volunteer when they arrive what they would like for breakfast and lunch, and provide the makings but everyone prepares (and cleans up) their own food during the day. Alcohol is tolerated at the hospital but its consumption must be in moderation. Smoking must be away from the house.

Costs: For the first full month all volunteers contribute AUD$50 per day to assist with accommodation, meals, laundry and Internet access. It does not cover alcohol or snacks or special diet food. If staying for less than one month, this fee is higher but varies with length of stay. After one month, the daily rate reduces further. After 2 months the rate is negotaible. Volunteers wanting to undertake research projects need to negotiate a rate as there will be demands on the coordinator's time. We offer a truly unique experience for bat enthusiasts in beautiful surroundings and excellent facilities.

Length of Stay (weeks)
Daily Rate $
Total $
Everyone pays a minimum of $50 a day for the first 4 weeks, then the daily rate reduces further

Volunteers need to pay a non-refundable deposit of $350 when their application is accepted. We use the first week as a trial period and reserve the right to terminate your volunteering if necessary. This is a clause in our contract with you to allow for the very occasional volunteer (only 2 in the 10 year history of the project) with whom there are too many difficulties. Please go to the Donate button on our home page to make the payment, using Paypal or credit card. Our bank deatils are there too if you'd prefer to do a bank transfer, a good option if you have an Aussie bank account.

Accommodation: Volunteers are accommodated in several ways. The two-room self-contained apartment is the central base.  It contains a separate bedroom with 2-3 single beds; a living area with TV etc; compact kitchen, bathroom, and verandah area. The apartment provides well above the usual standard of volunteer accommodation. We also have some large confortable gazebo tents that offer more private accommodation, and a single room in an attached building. There is power to the tents but all bathroom facilities are up at the main house.

We always have to factor in accommodation when we take volunteer bookings. Please let us know if your dates of volunteering need to change as soon as possible.

Communications: We have wireless internet. Volunteers are encourageed to bring their own computers/tablets /smartphones etc. There is no mobile phone reception here but volunteers can put their phones into the car that goes to town every day to pick up messages, or get a lift into town.

A Day in the Life: In October to December when new babies are coming in daily, we try to have some volunteers working late, and others starting early. Early shift starts by 6am, and late shift ends about 11pm. We all work 10 -12 hours a day though at this busy time of the year, with breaks as often as possible.

What to bring: It will depend upon the time of year you are here as to what to bring. Atherton is known as the cool tropics as we are at an altitude of 800 metres. October to December is a warm dry season. For work in the colony, you will need light clothing with long sleeves, long pants and closed boots. Around the hospital, wear shorts, tshirts and sandals. For 'wearing' baby bats it is good to have some old long tshirts that you can pin up to create a hammock for them to sleep in. We provide all bed linen and towels, and have a lot of tshirts. Please bring a headtorch, personal medications etc

What we look for in a volunteer: Volunteers need to be able to work as members of a team of people committed to the welfare of the bats, as well as to the welfare of the volunteer team. The ability to look after oneself and work well in a team requires a certain type of person as well as a certain level of maturity. For this reason, persons under the age of 22 are less likely to be considered.
We need volunteers whose primary motive is to enjoy contributing to the conservation and welfare of bats. We need self-motivated people who who can learn quickly, genuinely care for the bats and are a real help to the permanent workers here.

Workplace Health and Safety: We require all volunteers to sign off on a checkist of competancies, and produce proof of rabies vaccination status.

Please remember:

  1. The bat hospital is also the coordinator's home. Please take notice of and respect her ways of doing things.
  2. If you have an idea to improve things, or repair things, please discuss it first.
  3. You are here to help, not holiday. In return you have the unique privilege of working with bats in a wonderful environment.
  4. During tick paralysis season we usually need to work long days (and nights). It is important to work well as a team. We make every effort to balance long hours with some time off - swimming, country markets, movies, bushwalks etc - but it is not always possible.
  5. Please be aware of your own limits and let someone know if you need help or time off.


We are very thankful to a number of organisations who have been able to help us find volunteers:

1. Green Volunteers who publish the World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation

2. WWOOF Willing Workers on Organic Farms

3. Animal Experience International aims to help animals around the globe by matching clients with animal related volunteer opportunities at sanctuaries, hospitals, wildlife rehabilitation centres, conservation projects and government programs.

Charlotte Gray from the UK who has volunteered many times.