The henipaviruses, Hendra virus and Nipah virus, are pathogens that have emerged from flying foxes in Australia and South-east Asia to infect both livestock and humans, often fatally. Since the emergence of Hendra virus in Australia in 1994 and the identification of Australian flying foxes as hosts to this virus, our appreciation of bats as reservoir hosts of henipaviruses has expanded globally to include much of Asia and areas of Africa. Despite this, little is currently known of the mechanisms by which bats harbour viruses capable of causing such severe disease in other terrestrial mammals. Pteropid bat ecology, henipavirus virology, therapeutic developments and features of henipavirus infection, pathology and disease in humans and other mammals are reviewed elsewhere in detail. This review focuses on bats as reservoir hosts to henipaviruses and features of transmission of Hendra virus and Nipah virus following spillover from these reservoir hosts.