The most memorable part of my Galapagos trip, without question, was the snorkeling. Initially, I was a little scared of this element of the trip because I’m not exactly a fish in the water, but the instruction of the expert guides, safety equipment in the water, and buoyancy of the wetsuits made the experience stress-free.

The underwater world of the Galapagos blew me away, as the diversity and concentration of marine life is almost unparalleled. Schools of beautiful damselfish gracefully swimming as a single unit, penguins darting through the water, sea lions playing, sea turtles feeding, marine iguanas whipping their tails to propel themselves forward, and birds from above diving down into the water to catch their lunch.

We had a surreal moment when we came to one area that had more than 15 giant sea turtles. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being so close to a six-foot sea turtle underwater, as they’re just floating by without a care in the world. It was so different from anything I’d experienced before—it was as if I had been transported to this mystical world of underwater magic.

Sea turtle in the Galapagos

© Cassiano “Zapa” Zaparoli

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, along came a sea lion who wanted to swim with us. When you’re swimming with a sea lion, it becomes clear within a few seconds that you’re a visitor in their natural habitat. They swim with an elegant effortlessness, forwards-backwards-sideways-upside-down, spinning and twirling as if they’re putting on a show for you. They’re very playful animals, so the more you engage, the more they’ll play. They twirl around in the water so quickly, it’s often hard to keep sight of them!

Not to be outdone by the sea lions, the rest of the marine life made sure to have their time on the stage—Galapagos penguins speeding by, schools of fish floating along, and even a stingray nestling into the sand beneath us.

What struck me most is that the majority of our perceived world is above ground—the sky, trees, grasses, birds and land animals. But in the Galapagos, you get to see this whole other world beneath the surface that is as active as (in many ways more active than) the life we perceive every day above ground. It’s almost as if the entire world we perceive every day has a mirror image hidden behind the curtain of the water’s surface. This experience definitely inspired me to go for my diving certification so I can go back to the Galapagos Islands and spend more time in the magical world underneath the surface.

Galapagos Sea Turtle

© Cassiano “Zapa” Zaparoli

This guest post was written by Nat Hab Vice President, Adventure Strategy & Finance Dain Lewis.