By Jennifer Hayes
The sky rapidly changes to glowing golden hues and the sun sets on yet another incredible day at sea. You sit back on the top deck with your drink in hand and imagine that it just can’t get any better than this. Sure enough, it can and it does. Gazing towards the horizon you see fluttering activity, and soon enough that blazing sky is filled with graceful creatures taking wing. You can’t believe your eyes! It’s a sky full of giant fruit bats!
Indonesia has some of the most diverse and interesting bat fauna in the world, including 62 species of fruit bats, or flying foxes. The main difference between regular bats and fruit bats is their size. These flying fruitarians are enormous, weighing up to 1 kg with wingspans that reach up to 1.6 metres. Superstitious travellers can rest easy, as these creatures are vegetarians and are happy to feast on nectar and fruit. So forget those old Dracula movies and enjoy the show!
Flying foxes and bats are the only mammals that can fly, their wings made up of extra-long arms and fingers covered with stretched skin. Unlike their smaller counterparts, fruit bats don’t need to use echolocation to navigate in the dark. Their huge eyes are highly adapted for night vision, and they can see 20 times better than any human Flying Foxes are intelligent have a complex social system, spending their days in permanent treetop communal camps. Each night at dusk they take wing in search of food, flying around 40kph and up to 50km each night, returning to their roost before dawn, happy and well fed.
Flying‐foxes are extremely important to maintaining biodiversity in Indonesia forests through pollination and seed dispersal. Without bats forests would become genetically weak and less diverse in number of species without the help of bats.
Aboard our ships, our guests are often fortunate to often encounter flying foxes at sunset. Cruises stopping in Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores and Raja Ampat have reliable roosts where you may have a chance to witness this spectacular sight for yourself.