In 1984, my grandfather from Lima had one of the best trips of his life in the Galápagos. He had such a great time, he wanted to go back with his extended family. In July 2015, he rented a boat, and 16 of us, including my cousins, siblings, my fiancée, and me, navigated the islands for a week with a crew of eight.

Almost everything in the Galápagos is natural except for a few villages with some B&Bs and bars, the occasional viewing station, and a couple of man-made conservation sites that are used for breeding tortoises.

Being here does feel out of this world—maybe because the animals are prehistoric. Or because the terrain is so empty and wild.

What struck me most is how few people you encounter while you’re on the islands. The boats are timed on really rigid schedules, so you feel totally isolated. I think we crossed paths with one other group during the whole week. Traveling with family felt almost tribal. We had our crew and we kept to ourselves. As a result, I felt closer to them afterwards.

We spent most of our days hiking and laying out on the beach. We went snorkeling twice a day, every day—once in the morning, once after our afternoon naps. We got so close to animals in the water, especially black marine iguanas and sea lions. The sea lions behaved just like good-natured dogs. They stretched their bodies under the sunshine and growled in pleasure knowing they were in exactly the right place: paradise. They didn’t care, or often notice, when we stood just a few feet away.
One day we played with a sea lion pup and he followed our Zodiac for as long as he could as we motored away. When we checked our GoPro footage later, we had funny close-ups of his mouth and nose. That’s how close we were.
Being here does feel out of this world—like you are regressing back in time. Maybe because you lose cell phone service when you arrive. Or because the animals are prehistoric. Or because the terrain is so empty and wild.
The vistas are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, except for Hawaii. I loved the lava fields on Santiago Island. Some parts are black, some red. It all depends on how the lava left the volcano and how it cooled.
No feeling compares to that of freshening up after a full day of snorkeling and hiking. As we navigated the choppy water passing from island to island on two zodiacs, I'll admit I was afraid for my camera, but the early morning light made it all worth it. What a peculiar landscape the Galápagos Islands were. It was as if we had been transported to another era when the earth was much younger.
>>Next: 4 Things You Didn’t Know About the Galápagos Islands