Bats can swim

We were on a diving boat in Indonesia between the Indian Ocean and the Flores Sea.  I was one wildlife cameraman on a team filming Komodo dragons.  The middle of the day was a time to take a rest in the shade of a tarpaulin and just watch the world go by.  I find it difficult to completely switch off as there is always something new and interesting to see.  One of the crew members spotted something swimming a few hundred metres from the boat.  Usually somebody will be able to say, ‘Oh, that’s a green turtle..’ or whatever the species might be.  This was different.  A few tentative suggestions were mumbled unconvincingly, and I didn’t say a word, because I didn’t have the faintest clue what it was.  Whatever it was seemed to be using up a heck of a lot of energy to make precious little progress.  A species of turtle, maybe a sea snake, perhaps a fin of something or other, were ideas put forth.

For the world it looked to me like some sort of mini demon doing the butterfly stroke, but we stepped in with a rescue and blew that explanation apart.  It was a fruit bat.  Instinctively it was heading for the daytime roost numbering several thousand of its own species: we had watched them fly home from their feeding grounds every morning.  This one must have had a mishap and fallen into the sea, so who knows how long it must have been swimming.

Fruit bat – still wet from swimming

One of the crew rescued it, and without much ado we hung it from a furled up sail, where it stayed for some time watching us lounging about before getting back to work.  In the picture it looks rather suspicious of our intentions, and who could blame it.  I can’t remember whether it detached itself and flew off or was given a helping hand, but it made a straight line for the roost, like a bat out of hell I suppose.

Maybe it was the heat of the day or just plain laziness, but we should have filmed the swimming behaviour because it was, in hindsight, remarkable.  On the other hand, it had nothing to do with the film we were making, and I think most wildlife cameramen would have gone to its aid rather than film its demise.  I know we were all happy about the outcome.