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Summary: During our free weekend on San Cristobal Island, after volunteering at Jatun Sacha, my friend and I kept pretty busy.  On Saturday, we went on an insanely strenuous, 19 km one-way, uphill bike ride to Junco Lake.  Sunday, the topic of this blog post, was snorkeling at Kicker Rock to see Galapagos sharks.  It was far more relaxing than the previous day's bike ride, but first, I got irritated with how disorganized planning it had been...

ENTIRE TRIP OVERVIEW
Destination(s): Mainly the Galapagos Islands, 2.5 days in Quito, Ecuador
Total Length of Stay: 3 weeks
Getting There: International flight to Quito, domestic flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands

THIS PORTION
This Blog Post: Week 2 in the Lead Adventures 3-Week Galapagos Experience, San Cristobal Island, free Sunday after volunteering at Jatun Sacha
Accommodation: La Casa de Nelly, in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Disclaimer:  Before I continue this post, I would just like to say that I really enjoyed volunteering at Jatun Sacha.  Our volunteer coordinator was great, and this was one irritating incident.


The story starts during the week I volunteered at Jatun Sacha, the week leading up to this Sunday's Kicker Rock tour.  The volunteer coordinator organized a group of volunteers to go to Kicker Rock on Saturday.  It was $80 and we all paid him cash.  

On Friday evening, he asked if two people could do the tour on Sunday instead of Saturday, due to an overbooking (i.e. not counting correctly).  My friend and I agreed, since we weren't leaving until Monday.  He then instructed us to wait at our hostel, La Casa de Nelly, at 8am.  He didn't tell us the name of the tour agency or anything else, just to wait at 8am.

Sunday morning 8am, we waited at our hostel.  No one showed up and it was soon 8:20am.  I decided to ask our hostel owners, Nelly and her husband, but obviously they didn't know anything because it was our volunteer coordinator who'd organized it.  However, they  are super, super awesome and did everything they could to help.  

First, Nelly asked if we had any paper with information about the tour on it.  We didn't because our volunteer coordinator hadn't given us anything, or told us anything.  Therefore, she tried to call Jatun Sacha, where she didn't actually know anyone.  She only knew the taxi driver who'd taken us there last Sunday, who she called and got Jatun Sacha's number from.  At least this is what I think happened, given my lack of Spanish skills.  Anyways, the outcome was that the volunteer coordinator was unreachable.  

So next, Nelly suggested calling Lead Adventures.  Obviously they wouldn't know anything about the tour, since they didn't book it, but we thought they might have our volunteer coordinator's mobile.  Apparently, it was on the trip itinerary they had given us the whole time...oops.  Anyways, we tried it and our volunteer coordinator was once again unreachable.  

So then, Nelly's husband decided to simply drive us to Hotel Northia, because that was where most Jatun Sacha volunteers stay when they go into town.  He ran into some random people outside of Hotel Northia, who suggested a tour agency.  We went and it just happened to be the right one.  Nelly and her husband are the nicest, and most helpful, hostel owners ever.  Of course, our volunteer coordinator was unreachable through the whole process.  

Note: As I said in the disclaimer above, I had a great time at Jatun Sacha.  My goal in writing this is to tell future volunteers to always get more information about the tour and tour agency when booking, to prevent mishaps like this one.  

And now, I write about the actual Kicker Rock tour.

Okay, now that that rant's over (sort of, read on for when I called and yelled), I should write about how Kicker Rock was.  It's pretty straight forward, the tour lasted from 9am to 3:30pm, with lunch included. The $80 price included snorkeling masks, flipper, and wetsuit rentals.  The staff of Chalo Tours was amazing.  First we sailed around the coast, where we saw some animals, the iconic Charles Darwin statue, and beautiful coastline.  Then, there were three stops total: 1.) Snorkeling near Isla Lobos, calm waters where first-time snorkelers can practice,  2.) Snorkeling in Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido in Spanish), and 3.) Exploring Puerto Grande, a gorgeous beach.

When sailing around the coast, we saw male frigate birds displaying their inflated, red gular pouches.  This was the only time during our entire Galapagos trip that we saw male frigate birds do this, although we saw plenty of frigate birds flying around.  Unfortunately they were rather far away, and I had to zoom in 10x with my camera.
Charles Darwin Statue
Charles Darwin Statue
Frigate Bird
Best photo I could get of a male frigate bird displaying it's inflated, red gular pouch. 10x zoom on camera.
Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock in the distance
Coast of San Cristobal
This beach struck me because the strip of sand seems to begin and end so abruptly.
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I believe this was Isla Lobos.
Snorkeling near Isla Lobos, where the water is calm, was a warm-up to Kicker Rock's insanely rough currents.  For those who've never snorkeled, or anyone who didn't feel comfortable swimming, the tour guide took them around on an inflatable tube and gave snorkeling instructions.  I think this is awesome, because the first time I snorkeled, I jumped into the Pacific Ocean by Australia's Great Barrier Reef.  The staff wasn't particularly helpful, and I choked on seawater a few times before figuring it out.  Chalo Tours is amazing.  
Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock from the first snorkeling site.
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The first snorkeling site was like a bay, where we were shielded from rough currents. Kicker Rock isn't shielded...
Turtle
Turtle! I was so excited to see it that I announced to my tour guide: I saw a turtle!! He asked me where.
Sea Urchin
Sea urchin.
When snorkeling here was over, it was time for Kicker Rock!  I've said that I think Chalo Tours is awesome for having everyone snorkel in calm water first, and providing snorkeling instructions.  The only downside is that snorkeling Kicker Rock meant jumping back into cold water, after the first snorkeling site.  That's okay though, because we saw Galapagos sharks!  Unfortunately we didn't see any hammerhead sharks, which was a slight disappointment.  The currents around Kicker Rock are super rough, so our tour guide told us to stay together.  If we weren't holding on to the inflatable tube, held by the guide, we were supposed to stay within 1-2 meters of the group.  The water was deep and opaque, and while I had no problem seeing the sharks, it was quite difficult to get good photographs.  Also, while I knew that the sharks were not interested in humans, I still freaked out when one swam upwards towards me!
Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock is Leon Dormido in Spanish, which means "sleeping lion." The tour guide explained this, and I can't say I see the resemblance...
Kicker Rock
Approaching Kicker Rock
Galapagos Shark
Unfortunately, this was the best photo I could get of a Galapagos shark.
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Not that great a photo, but there are FOUR Galapagos sharks at once!
Kicker Rock Life
Kicker Rock itself is also very pretty, full of life.
Fish Kicker Rock
Colorful fish
School of Tiny Fish
It's a little hard to tell, but this is a school of hundreds of tiny fish!
Birds near Kicker Rock
Birds near Kicker Rock, when we were swimming back towards the boat. And someone's snorkeling flippers.
After snorkeling Kicker Rock, everyone was really cold.  I really did not respond well to feeling cold, shaking so much that the tour guide wrapped two towels around me.  Still shaking, I kneeled and put my head on the seat, trying to warm up, which only caused the tour guide to get really concerned.  He said some Spanish and I *think* he asked if I could still move my fingers, which I could.  Then some more Spanish and I recognized the words cambia and ropa seca.  Change into dry clothes.  Because I was still shaking uncontrollably, the tour guide pretty much had to get me out of my wetsuit, dry me with a towel, and then help me get my dress back on.  He then handed me his jacket and started asking if I was okay every 10 minutes.  Luckily I don't get embarrassed by this kind of stuff.  

I eventually stopped shaking and felt better after eating lunch.  After lunch, we hung out at Puerto Grande beach for a while, which was just insanely gorgeous!  
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Approaching Puerto Grande
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Bird landed on the boat's engine.
Puerto Grande
This is how we got to the beach: The boat got as close as possible, where the water came to around my knees or lower thighs. I really enjoyed splashing my way to land, as the water wasn't so cold here.
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Kicker Rock in the far distance.
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We found plenty of seashells, which I lined up for a photoshoot.
Cactus Puerto Grande beach
Dried cactus
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Those orange dots are crabs that scuttle into their holes if you get close. This was as far as I could go without them disappearing down holes.
Pelican bones
My friend found the bones of a pelican beak. Our tour guide drew a picture, and placed a crab shell in it.
Rock on coast of San Cristobal
Sailing away from the beach, pretty rock looking back.
After this tour ended, we went back to our hostel and packed, since we had an early speedboat to Isabela Island the next day.  We also made sure to thank Nelly and her husband for their help, with figuring out where the hell the tour was in the morning.  I also made sure to express my irritation before leaving the Galapagos...

Two or three days later, after we'd gone to Isabela Island.

I got Jatun Sacha's phone number from our Lead Adventures program coordinator, and asked to use the phone at Coral Blanco, where we were staying on Isabela Island.  Prior to this, my friend and I had a conversation like this:
Me:  Oh my goodness, I'm going to call Jatun Sacha and yell because I'm irritated.  Not in a bad way, just so he knows he screwed up, and how he shouldn't do this to future volunteers.  
Friend:  Well he made not one but several mistakes.  Like first, he overbooked the thing.  Then, he didn't tell us the name of the tour agency.  Then, he didn't tell us the right place to meet them...
Me: (impressed that my friend is approaching this methodologically, like the engineers we are)
Me: Oh wow, you should write this list down for me, then I'll have the list when I call.
Friend: I am not going to assist you in being a bitch!
Anyways, I called...
Me: You told us to wait at our hostel for the tour agency!  They didn't come and we had to figure out where to go!  Why did you tell us to wait at our hostel!
Response: The tour agency called me and said he couldn't find you guys.  He waited for 30 minutes.  
If this is true, I imagine the tour agency went to Hotel Northia, where most Jatun Sacha volunteers stay when they're in town.  Lead Adventures had us stay at La Casa de Nelly, which is where we were instructed to wait...
Me: Well he went to the wrong place!  You told us to wait at La Casa de Nelly, not anywhere else!
Response:  It all worked out and it's history now.  You're in Ecuador.  Enjoy yourself.
Me:  No, that's not the point and it's not okay!  You have to make sure it never happens to future volunteers!!
I think he said something like "thanks for your feedback."  I'm not really sure because I was too busy yelling.  Yes, my communication skills go out the window when I'm angry, and it's not my best quality.  Plus, I admit that at this point, I was more interested in yelling that resolving any problem, because obviously the problem had already passed.  We had already gone to Kicker Rock and had a good time...

Conclusion:  I've said several times at the beginning of this post that I had a great time at Jatun Sacha, and I hope this post doesn't convince anyone to not go.  I simply recommend always getting information about the tour and tour agency when making a booking. 



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