Flying foxes and soft tropical nights
The first one arrived at speed, landing on a lower branch a few trees away from the open dining room where I have dinner. I’m at the Eco Shamba Kilole Lodge on tiny Mafia Island, off the coast of Tanzania. There’s a favored branch out there, and after four nights of watching these creatures arrive at dusk, I realized that this particular branch allows them to land at speed, sway for a while and enjoy themselves.
At least that’s what it looks like to me, for there’s nothing to eat on it. The humidity here is very high and it’s mango season. At night, when these foxes (or fruit bats) are busiest, you can hear them rustling in the trees just outside the window. When they do find fruit, the fragrance of the pulp floats into the window as they feast. After they’ve arrived, in full dark, if you walk from the dining room to your bungalow, the light from your headlamp launches them skyward, where their five-foot wingspan not only dominates the night air but fills it with whispering of their leathery skin.
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During the day, if you take a hike through nearby Chole Island which has just a few human inhabitants, you can find them sleeping. Trees are draped with them, hanging upside down, opening their wings in the sun to cool off, looking for all the world like dark, ripe fruit themselves.
They are my favorite part of nights here. I go to bed not long after they begin to arrive. With the all-important fan moving the air in my room, I can’t always hear them gossip in the dense trees that surround my bungalow.
Today I was up at about four, as thunderstorms threatened on the horizon. The moon backlit some clouds and lightning lit up the bellies of those hanging just above the waters of Chole Bay. As I waded quietly through the shallow end of the warm pool that borders the dining room, enjoying the last of the visible stars before the sun rose, the flying foxes flapped overhead.
Going home. Solos and in pairs, some small groups, they wended their way back to the trees on Chole. Time to sleep in the tropical sun.
I could barely make them out, flying gracefully, rising on the warming air. One of Nature’s wonders, here in Paradise.
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