Darwin’s Arch, a majestic piece of land that rises up suddenly in the middle of nowhere, is on a superhighway for hammerheads. Located in the remote north of one of the world’s most remote archipelagos, Darwin Island is a meeting point for hammerheads, whale sharks, tiger sharks, penguins, seals—the heartbeat of the ocean in one incredible place. My friend Enric Sala, National Geographic‘s explorer in residence and the leader of its Pristine Seas marine conservation program, had invited me to join one of his missions to the Galápagos. Earlier in my life, the idea of spending time a hundred feet below the surface of the ocean would have filled me with fear. I am from the mountains in northern Spain, and the infinite darkness of the sea at night always scared me. But I love adventure and dream often about the open ocean.
When I was a teenager in the Spanish navy, I did a trip around the world, sailing on the four-masted tall ship Juan Sebastián de Elcano. And one day I realized I had to just dive in. I started to understand that the world is so much larger than what we see every day, and when I was underwater I saw a new world that is even bigger than the one above.
To me, travel is looking at what’s beyond the horizon, moving away from your comfort zone. I was recently looking up at the International Space Station going overhead and wondering, What if? What if a chef could go on board? I never thought I would be joining these hero conservationists to dive with hammerheads in the Galápagos, accompanying the modern-day Jacques Cousteau in a submarine, exploring further than even Darwin. When you get out of your comfort zone, that’s the moment life really starts. Travel is that first step, the dive below the surface. That’s when you begin to understand the scale of it all, far beyond what was visible to you just a minute earlier.
Chef José Andrés is the founder of the World Central Kitchen, which has provided more than 25 million meals to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This article appeared in the October 2020 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.