Traveling to Pemba Island to see the island’s impressive namesake bat can be challenging.

Pemba flying foxes. Photo courtesy of Outdoortrips.com.

Transportation to the island, located 31 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is generally by small aircraft or by ferries that operate only a few times a week on timetables that are likely to change. There, on the small island, there are dala dalas (shared rides in minibusses and converted trucks) or rental bicycles to get you to the Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary where a guide/guardian may or may not meet you to collect your entrance fee. If he’s not around, says guidebook Lonely Planet, his phone number is scrawled on the wall of an unused building at the edge of the sanctuary.

Witnessing Pemba flying fox (Pteropus voeltzkowi) is worth the travel challenges. The Pemba flying fox is found only on this small island. It is one of the largest species of fruit bats with a wingspan of approximately five feet. During the day, the bats visibly hang in a forest of large trees. As the sky begins to darken, the bats lift into the night to forage for figs, mangos, and breadfruit. 

MORE INFO

  • Pemba Island is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, a series of several islands often called the Spice Islands. The archipelago is located off the coast of East Africa. 
  • Pemba bats have thrived on the island, in part, because of minimal human disturbance. The Kidike Flying Fox Sanctuary is remote and isolated. Nearby burial grounds, which are taboo in native culture to visit, keep humans from the area.
  • Tanzania is well known for its spectacular destinations including Serengeti National Park, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the beaches of Zanzibar. Over 30 percent of Tanzania is set aside for conservation.  
  • Pemba Island, according to the Tanzania Tourism Board, “is fast becoming a unique destination in its own right.” Nevertheless, travel planning information requires online sleuthing. Bat Conservation International recommends beginning your research with the Tourism Board or inquiring with tour providers who offer guided wildlife tours.
  • Pemba Island’s culture is conservative and based on Islamic values and traditions. Travelers are asked to dress modestly and to respectfully honor the island’s culture. 
  • Swahili (kiswahili) is the native language of Pemba Island. Travelers are encouraged to learn some Swahili before arrival and carry a translating phrasebook.