We are making our way across Sri Lanka towards Namal ~ the baby elephant whom we met last year and vowed to help get a new leg.
Ben is done with meetings and once again it is a tuk tuk driver who is the catalyst to our explorations and experience at Tissa Lake.
Jana picks us up at dusk in his tuk tuk decorated with paintings of Bob Marley all over, and we are off. He says he has a very specific spot with special trees he wants to show us. Lake Tissa and its surroundings are the ‘backyard’ he has grown up with, and knows like the back of his hand. On the way to “the tree” we stop at the side of the road to watch small white herons and other birds walking through the shallow waters at the edge of the lake, in search of their insect meal.
When we get to the huge trees, they are full with what appears at first to be hanging nests? Jana tells us that no, these are not nests, but are fruit bats!
Here in Tissa Lake, we are in “fruit bat” territory. These bats are much larger than the small bats that used to keep our home free of mosquitoes and who used to be “hunting practice” for our several cats. Their large wing span and sharp angle maneuvering in the sky above lead Ben to comment on the “crowded airspace” above…
It really is quite magical to watch these amazing and very graceful mammals flying through the air and communicating with each other. Our tuk tuk friend’s “special tree” is indeed quite a spectacle. Home to literally thousands of fruit bats, it is (by day) a living sculpture of branches and large winged bats hanging in pod-like forms.
Their black “exterior” reveals, once they take flight, a beautiful yellow/orange under belly.
We stand mesmerized while watching, as day slowly turns to a golden pink dusk and the ink-black pods of inverted bats, start to stretch their limbs creating a living mobile. The population gradually “awakens” and they start to take flight, first one by one, and as the sky darkens, in larger seemingly coordinated packs.
Pretty soon, the sounds and wing flaps turn to a near frenzy as the entire community soars toward nearby fields of fruit trees.
“Truth be told, bats have an unsavory reputation” although much of which is believed about them is in fact in correct, according to Pamela Sacks in “Finding the Beauty in Bats.”
“For instance, bats are not blind; they just don’t see well at night. And they don’t get tangled in peoples hair. Their biological sonar, known as echolocation, keeps them from fling into humans. They emit calls and listen to the echoes that return from objects in the environments. Thats how they navigate and hunt.”
From personal experience, I (Peta) used to have a fear of bats, which is not an uncommon human response to these mammals. However, after living in Nicaragua and having quite a few encounters with bats in our home, I got to understand them better. Their faces are initially scary and they do look a bit like rodents, although they are not. Bats are extremely intelligent and quite beautiful once one gets over the stereoptypic response many of us humans have in reaction to their ‘ugliness.’
There is certainly nothing to fear.
There is only one variety of bat, the so called “vampire bat” which feeds on warmed-blooded animals, such as cows, horses and goats. Having a name like vampire bat, certainly does not help its image or reputation.
Stopping at a small store to buy fresh fruit for the journey.
We so enjoy the beauty of the overall Tissa Lake region. Nature is easily accessible – languid lakes, bountiful birds, fantastic fruit bats, always popular water buffalo, playful monkeys and magnificent trees.
Ben and I are both passionate about spending time in nature, in wild places. Watching, observing animals. Being surrounded by the greens of trees and the blues of water, this for us, is bliss.
I have long felt that access to nature for me is way more than a desirable pleasant activity. It is a necessity and a core component to who I am. I feel depleted when living in an urban environment without frequent and repeated time immersed in nature. I have a very strong conviction that people can recharge their energy and healthy by connecting with nature.
For those interesting: there is academic and scientific research around a field called “nature connectedness” ie. the extent to which individuals include nature as part of their identity.” The documented benefits to between nature connectedness and health and well being are quite significant. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4157607/)
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