Snorkeling at Kicker Rock / Leon Dormido on San Cristobal
The iconic semi-submerged volcanic cone known as Kicker Rock or Leon Dormido (translated to sleeping lion) has become an underwater playground for sharks, rays, sea turtles and sea lions. Kicker Rock consists of two pointed lava rocks that rise about 150 meters above sea level. The rocks got their name because they look like a sleeping lion from one direction and like a ship from another. Kicker Rock is the best place for snorkeling on the Galapagos Islands since the channel between the rocks is relatively protected and therefore popular with divers and snorkelers.
How to get there?
We booked our tour with Galapagos Eco Fishing and were very satisfied. The tour costs around 120 USD (in cash), making it one of the more expensive tours on the Galapagos Islands. Nevertheless, we recommend booking the tour as soon as you arrive on San Cristobal because it is very popular and books up quickly.
Our day started around 8 am when we went to the office and picked up our snorkeling gear and wetsuits for this day trip which were included in the price. You definitely need a wetsuit at Kicker Rock. It wasn't very cold during other snorkeling trips on the Galapagos Islands but there the water is chilly and you snorkel for more than an hour. Besides our equipment, we had our camera, an underwater camera, a towel and some water in our bags. Since this trip takes about 6 hours, they offer meals. Therefore, you don't need to bring snacks with you.
After we were equipped with everything, they took us to the main pier, where we waited for our speedboat. We got on our boat and set course for Kicker Rock. It is located off the northeast coast of San Cristobal, about 1.5 hours from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. After a while we saw Kicker Rock appear on the horizon. However, we didn't go there directly, but stopped at a nearby beach first.
Setting course for Kicker Rock
Our captain navigated us to Puerto Grande Beach allowing us some time to relax before heading to Kicker Rock. There we dropped anchor in the bay, jumped into the water and snorkeled or swam to the beach. When we arrived at the beach, we walked around a bit and enjoyed the incredible view of Kicker Rock. However, it is not possible to bring a camera other than a water camera.
While snorkeling we saw a manta ray but not many other fish. After around an hour of exploring and snorkeling we went back to the boat and had our lunch. It was great getting more energy before we went to Kicker Rock and continued our exploration of the underwater world.
Snorkeling through the channel with sharks
After lunch we went to Kicker Rock. Kicker Rock that exists today is all that remains of a semi-submerged volcanic cone that has been eroded by the ocean over thousands of years. Towering above the water at about 150 meters, Kicker Rock is home to a number of animal species both above and below water.
Once we arrived, we jumped from the boat into the water. Our guides told us to always stay in pairs and keep an eye on each other. One look through our masks into the crystal clear water below revealed how deep the water is and how impressive the underwater wildlife is.
Then we started our first snorkel adventure through the narrow channel between the rocks. This channel, which is 40 meters deep, was formed by natural erosion and serves as an ideal habitat for marine life. On our way through the channel we could see a lot of tropical fish and some sharks slowly swimming in the depths far below. For the most part they stayed relatively close to the ocean floor.
Although it is relatively sheltered between the rocks we could really feel the waves when we were pushed up and down a few meters. If you are an inexperienced swimmer I wouldn't recommend this trip. This the most advanced tour, on par with Champion Islet on Floreana.
After we passed the channel, we swam a little further around Kicker Rock, where we saw more and more wildlife, like several rays and a few more sharks. After a little while, we hopped back on the boat and our captain drove us to the other side of Kicker Rock.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in the deep blue sea
On the other side of this huge rock formation we jumped into the water again. For our second snorkel drop we swam around Kicker Rock and saw its large vertical walls. There the sharks were replaced by lots and lots of sea turtles that swam in the deep blue water.
Although the sea turtles were able to maneuver the strong currents around Kicker Rock much faster than we did, they were patient and let us swim very close before they passed us. It is so impressive to see these creatures up close.
After another 30 minutes of snorkeling we got back on the boat and although the underwater world is really impressive I was glad to be back on the boat at this point because I was getting cold. We headed back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and ended a perfect day trip.
The Kicker Rock tour was the best organized tour. The guides instructed us well and made sure we were safe all the time. We experienced this level of care on the cruise as well but it was (sometimes seriously) lacking on other day trips where basically no instructions were giving and we didn't feel the guides were taking care of the group.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno,
Duration & Distance
2,5 hours snorkeling (1,5 hours snorkeling at Kicker Rock)
Underwater camera (optional)
Water and snacks
Get a wetsuit (if it is not included you can rent it) because the water is chilly. It will keep you warm and prevent a sunburn.
Bring enough (biodegradable) sun screen because normal sun screen will damage the reefs and hurt the wildlife.
Bring your underwater camera and your good camera. You can keep it dry and safe on the boat while you are snorkeling.
Don't book the San Cristobal round trip / 360 tour. The Kicker Rock tour was exciting and exhausting because we snorkeled for a long time. I can't image that I would have had enough energy to enjoy a long tour afterwards.