Galapagos Red Bat
One of only two bat species on the islands
What you need to know about the Galapagos Red Bat
The Galápagos Red Bat is a subspecies of the Southern Red Bat, which is found throughout North and South America. Elsewhere in the world, the red bats migrate for winter in a similar way to some birds, but the Galápagos Red Bat is thought to stay resident all year round. There has been very little scientific study of these creatures here on the Galápagos, so much of their habits remain unknown.
The Galápagos red bat differs from the other resident species, the Hoary Bat, in that it is considerably smaller. Visually, it has a short, blunt head head and ears and thickly-furred tail membrane with bright orange fur on the lower back. Galápagos Red Bats prefer to fly close to the ground using very fast wing beats.
Red bats are most often to be found roosting under leaves in the forests where they hang upside down, wrapping themselves with their wings and trying to stay inconspicuous. Like almost all bats, Galápagos red bats are nocturnal, using echolocation to locate their favourite prey - mainly flying insects like cicadas, moths and flies.
Because they haven’t been widely studied, the population reach of the Galápagos Red Bat isn’t fully understood. At the moment, we think they are only living on the islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. However because they are on the inhabited islands, this gives you the best chance to spot them - they will often be seen flying close to the streetlights, picking off the flying insects attracted by the artificial light!
If you are enjoying an overnight stay before or after your Galapatours cruise on either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz you may well have the chance to observe these creatures as you walk in the evenings.
Galapagos Red Bat: Interesting facts
Red Bats like to hang upside down by one foot in trees to fool predators into thinking they are leaves!
Female Red Bats can give birth to up to 4 pups at a time
Baby Red bats can't fly for themselves until 6 weeks old, meaning the mother must carry them
If you see a Red Bat on the ground, don't touch it. They will bite and this can lead to infection.
Galapagos Red Bat: Pictures from our travelers
Spots where the Galapagos Red Bat can be observed
El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve
The inland areas of Santa Cruz provide fantastic opportunities to get close to wild Galápagos giant tortoises. These wonderful creatures can be seen roaming around in the agricultural fields, and also in the famous El Chato Tortoise Reserve, where the native vegetation is preserved.
The trail to the Reserve begins at Santa Rosa, about an hour's drive from Puerto Ayora, and during the dry season this is a haven for Giant Tortoises as they migrate from coastal to highland areas, and you can observe the natural behaviours of these truly wild animals.
There is a pond at El Chato that is often surrounded by tortoises, and sometimes even filled with them as they enjoy wallowing in the cool water. Surrounding the ponds are hundreds of acres of natural highland pasture and native Scalesia forest where you may encounter owls, Darwin’s finches, Vermilion Flycatchers, and Galápagos Rails.
For many Galapatours guests the highlight of their trip is following our expert guide into the ancient forest and then hearing heavy footsteps and crunching noises ahead, finally rounding a corner to see a truly wild Galápagos Giant tortoise doing what they have done for millennia before humans came to Galápagos.
La Galapaguera "Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center"
Also known as Cerro Colorado, this is one of the newer visitor sites in Galápagos and was opened in 2003. Previously accessible only from the coast via a long hike, it's now possible to travel by road from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, where the trip takes about an hour.
This breeding station has an informative visitor center that allows you to learn about the origins and evolution of the Galápagos Giant Tortoises, and about the steps being taken to preserve the species from threats such as habitat destruction and introduced species.
In the center you will see baby hatchlings and young tortoises. After they reach 4 months old they are taken out to be released into the natural habitat in the area. There is a short hiking trail where you may be able to spot giant tortoises in the wild.
The vast majority of Isabela's human population live in Puerto Villamil, which still holds onto its traditional fishing port charm. Indeed many of Galapatours visitors tell us they think it's the prettiest village in the whole archipelago.
The main reason for this is that Villamil had little impact from tourism until the 1990s, the residents quietly making their living from fishing and farming. Then in 1996 a small runway was opened for flights for light aircraft operating inter-island flights. There are now 13 hotels and 18 bars and restaurants in town, compared to only 1 and 2 respectively in 1980! Despite this, the town still enjoys a relaxed and authentic atmosphere.
Villamil enjoys a beautiful long beach, which is picture-book tropics - palm trees line it's bright white coral sand. Behind the beach are several saltwater lagoons which are home to pink flamingos, pintail ducks and several other species. There are several visitor sites that can be the subject of excursions from town on foot, by minibus or panga.
Santa Cruz Highlands
Santa Cruz is the only island on the Galápagos that allows you to travel through every habitat type that exists in the archipelago. This makes the journey north from the coast up into the highlands a fantastic opportunity to experience the breadth of life that exists on these islands.
Your bus journey starts from Puerto Ayora on the coast and you slowly start to climb through the agricultural zone where open fields begin to give way to lush, green, mist-covered forests. This is a marked contrast to many of the islands which are at much lower elevation and much more arid. This rich verdant landscape is predominantly made up of dense Scalesia forest.
Your expert Galapatours guide will stop several times along the route to allow you to explore various different sites. Among the stops will be a Giant Tortoise reserve, and also a visit to the famous lava tubes. Over half a mile long, a walk through these natural volcanic features is eerie and unforgettable.
Also along the way you will stop for refreshments, and you'll be able to try locally-grown Galápagos coffee - we think it's among the best we've ever tasted!
Sierra Negra Volcano
Sierra Negra is renowned as the most impressive volcano in the Galápagos. The crater is over 6 miles across and is the second largest in the world.
However, to visit the volcano is quite a logistical effort. The only way to get there is to start with a 45 minute drive from Villamil to a trailhead from where you can follow another 2 hours of trails up to and along part of the rim.
There's also the option to walk on quite recent lava flows, as the so-called parasitic cone of Volcan Chico last erupted in 1979 leaving large flows to cool to rock.
The journey is well worth the effort, as the views from the rim of Sierra Negra are simply stunning. You can see across the other volcanoes on Isabela and across to Fernandina.
Your expert Galapatours guide will explain in detail about the geological processes that shaped not only this part of Isabela, but of the whole Galápagos.