Heptune presents:

Satonda Island: Home of the Fruit Bat

Text and photos by Brenna Lorenz

East of Bali, in the Nusa Tenggara portion of the Indonesian archipelago, lies a tiny, uninhabited island offshore of Sumbawa, separated by a narrow strait from Tambora, the site of the largest and most devastating volcanic eruption in human history.

View of Tambora from Satonda.
Coming down the path from Satonda's cone, you can see Tambora's remains across the water.

Satonda itself is a volcano, a small black basaltic cone rising out of the sea. You can land on its little beach, follow a trail to a cleft in the cone, and enter the volcano's caldera. The caldera contains a narrow strip of land surrounding a black, salty lake. Trees grow inside, decorated with mysterious hanging stones over what appear to be graves. The heat inside the caldera is terrible, because the walls of the cone block off all breezes.

Inside Satonda's caldera.

Rocks are tied to the branches of trees inside Satonda's caldera.

Satonda's beach is remarkable because a major portion of its sediment consists of pebbles of pumice. Pumice is foamy volcanic glass, so light that it floats on water. As the waves lap in and out, the pumice portion of the beach washes in and out as well. It is impossible to wear zores (flip-flops) on this beach, because with every step you take, pumice pebbles wash into the space between your foot and your sandal. The pumice pebbles vary from black to white, and some are porphyritic, containing large crystals of black pyroxene.

The jungle growing up around the outside of the cone is home to thousands of enormous fruit bats. They live high up in the trees, circling over the jungle, sleeping in the trees and lazing around during the day. Walking through the jungle beneath them, you can hear them chattering to each other, see them stirring amidst the branches, and smell them in their abundance. At dusk they all fly out at once, darkening the sky like bombers in an old World War II news reel.

Fruit bats hang from the trees in Satonda's jungle.

The clumps in the trees are hanging fruit bats.

Fruit bats fill the sky above the jungle.

Fruit bats fill the sky above the jungle.

Fruit bat illuminated by the sun.

The local people call the bats paniki. On Guam, the fruit bats are called fanihi, and there are very few left because people have eaten nearly all of them. Fruit bats no longer darken the skies of Guam in the early evening.

Unlike most bats, who are insectivorous, fruit bats eat fruit and flowers. They are resposible for pollinating the flowers of many trees and dispersing their seeds.

Published 2/28/01.

Visit Komodo Dragons and Their Islands to read more about Indonesia.
Visit Critters of Guam to read about more Pacific island animals.
Learn more about fruit bats.

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon, is a beautiful children's book about a fruit bat.

All contents copyright © 1998 Brenna Lorenz, Megaera Lorenz, Malachi Pulte. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction of any part of site without express permission is strictly prohibited.

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