8 Million Bats Fly To Zambia For Annual Migration

bat For travelers who want to get away from the fake blood and costumed zombies this Halloween, there is more authentic experience to be had at Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. The spectacle is said to be the world’s largest mammal migration, with 8 million straw-colored fruit bats arriving from the Congo to eat the wild musuku fruits in the park.

During the migration an overwhelming amount of bats spiral through the skies, screeching and colliding as they return each year to settle in the fruit trees, covering them until there is no longer visible bark. The most memorable time to watch is at sunset, when the bats fly out to find food, creating a thick straw blanket in the sky.

Said Jim Holden, President of African Travel, Inc., in a press release, “The annual migration of millions of bats from the Democratic Republic of the Congo across the border to Kasanka National Park is an astonishing sight. Africa is full of such natural wonders, and most of them are not well known, as with this natural occurrence.”

For a visual idea of the bat migration, check out the gallery below. If you’re interested in seeing the bat migration for yourself, visit the African Travel, Inc. website to book a tour.

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[Image above via Shutterstock; Gallery images via Shutterstock, Kathy Richardson, Frank Willems / Kasanka Trust]

Wild Texas: the critters of the Lone Star State

When it comes to viewing wildlife in the U.S., most people naturally gravitate to the western part of the country, where you’ll find a wide variety of species in abundance. Places like Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and of course Alaska, have great reputations for offering travelers an opportunity to see a large number of animals in their natural habitat. One place that doesn’t garner this kind of attention however, is Texas, despite a surprising array of creatures within the state.

Most visitors to the Lone Star State, expect to see plenty of deer, squirrel, and armadillo of course, but they are often surprised to hear that they can also spot more exotic creatures. For example, if you want to see Black Bears, you can head to the western portion of the state to Big Bend National Park or the Guadalupe Mountains, where they still wander the thickly wooded or desert scrub areas. While you’re in that part of the state, check out one of the five small herds of elk that still roam the region as well.

Moving to central Texas, you’ll have an opportunity to spot the elusive mountain lion, whose numbers have increased substantially over the past decade. The big cats are known to wander the Texas Hill Country, just west of Austin, although you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled to spot them. Mountain lions aren’t the only wild cats to wander the Texas backcountry however, as ocelots are found in the southern part of the state, and in the Rio Grande valley, which also serves as home to Jaguarundis, a species that isn’t much bigger than a common house cat. Bobcats are also fairly common, and found in nearly every corner of Texas.

Speaking of Austin, from February to October of each year, that city is home to the largest urban bat population in the country. More than 1.5 million bats live under the Congress Street bridge, and every night at dusk they take flight, in a mass migration that has become a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. The mass exodus is a sight to behold, with a seemingly never ending stream of Mexican free-tail bats flowing out into the night air in search of dinner in the form of insects.

The Gulf Coast region of Texas has plenty to offer the wildlife lover as well, with amazing sea creatures regularly on display. The most common of these is the Bottlenose Dolphin, which often travel in pods of eight near the shores of Corpus Christi and Galveston. Atlantic spotted dolphins have been known to make appearances as well, as have a variety of types of whales and sea turtles too. There are a number of tour operators that offer day cruises out onto the Gulf of Mexico, allowing visitors to get an up close, and personal, look at the aquatic wildlife.

There are plenty of other interesting creatures throughout the state as well. The Panhandle is home to a large prairie dog colony for instance, while the eastern portion of the state offers the American Alligator and the always popular River Otter. There is a substantial Coyote population in Texas as well, and Bald Eagles can be seen throughout the state at all times of the year.

As you can see, the Lone Star State has plenty to offer anyone looking to catch a variety of wildlife in their natural habitats. From bears, to dolphins, to big cats, there is something for everyone. Just be sure to keep an eye out for the rattlesnakes, as they are in abundance too!

Explorers discover ‘lost world’ in Papua New Guinea

A team of explorers from the U.S. and Britain, along with locals from Papua New Guinea, recently descended into the volcanic crater of Mount Bosavi, where they discovered a “lost world” with a host of new species that have been evolving in isolation for thousands of years. The crater is more than a kilometer deep and three kilometers across, and lacks the major predators that are often common in rainforests around the globe. The result, is that many creatures were able to adapt to living side by side in an environment that remains nearly completely cut off from the outside world.

In the five weeks that the explorers and scientists were in the crater they found a wealth of interesting creatures, including kangaroos that live in trees, a new type of bat, and a fish that makes grunting noises. They also discovered 16 new species of frogs, including one with a set of fangs, as well as a new breed of rat that my now hold the record as the largest in the world.

The scientists on the expedition were surprised and amazed at these discoveries, and are now making renewed calls for the preservation of rainforests across the planet. The amount of new species they found in just five weeks makes you wonder what else is out there, still hidden in the jungles, that we don’t know anything about. There is still a lot of this world left to explore and plenty of new things to discover, despite what we might think.

Catching bats in Costa Rica

The photo on the right is of my hand–and more interestingly, of a bona-fide vampire bat. I’m sure our resident health-blogger Erik’s head just exploded right about now.

Handling bats, let alone vampire bats, are a huge no-no since they are one of the animals most likely to carry rabies. By no means was I even close to being a badass here; before going to Costa Rica to catch bats, I put down $500 for a series of rabies vaccines and oh, wore two pairs of leather gloves to handle this particular bat.

Catching bats was an unbelievable experience–honestly, how many people in the world have had the chance to do that? It also really made me appreciate an animal that’s gotten a really bad rap. Anyways, below is a gallery of my two-week bat-catching trip to Costa Rica.

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Mail A Postcard from Underground: Carlsbad Caverns

Willy ‘s post on underwater mailboxes reminded me of my own experience mailing postcards at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. At the end of the tour, before you head up the elevator to the surface, you can buy a postcard, write a “Wish you were here missive,” affix a postage stamp and drop it in a U.S. mailbox. There’s an ink pad and message stamp so you can add, “Mailed at 750 feet underground.”

Since Carlsbad is a wet cave, I seem to remember a certain dampness about this endeavor. Mailing a postcard isn’t the only thing you can do underground at Carlsbad. There’s a restaurant/snack bar as well.

Mailing a postcard and eating lunch underground aren’t really the reasons to head here; the caverns are enough. In the summer, if you stick around until dusk, you can watch the hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats swarm out of the cave’s entrance. These bats are what tipped off, cowboy Jim White in 1901 that there was something unusual in the distance. He thought he was seeing smoke.

For someone else’s account of mailing postcards, check out Carlsbad Caverns National Park on Tour of America Airstream Life’s Web site.