As I write this I am looking at one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen. The sky is striped like a tiger. Smoky red-orange glows from behind layers of clouds that slowly turn from pink to dusky purple. The ocean is a still mirror of colour. I know I’m lucky to be here right now; and I better drink it in, because in a few short weeks I’ll be back in England in the middle of winter.
Yesterday I lay on the sand with only the sound of palm trees swaying in the wind to disrupt the silence. I’m grateful for the breeze as my golden skin prickles in the heat of the island sun. Dragging myself off of my sarong, I glide into the aquamarine shallows of the lagoon. Immersed in the glassy warm water I float and admire the view. Shimmering blue-green interspersed with blindingly white sand bars. Not a soul in sight, all mine. I swim right out into the deeper water of the lagoon, 400 metres from the nearest land. Looking out to sea there are two sister islands crowded with green tropical trees above a slither of white beach. Then nothing but blue.
Another day we jump on a small fishing boat to visit a few of the ‘motus’, or small islands, around the edge of the lagoon. At Muritapua we are dropped on a perfect sand bar and wade through the shallows to reach the main island. The water is bright turquoise in the shallows to our left before it drops steeply down into a true, sultry blue where the lagoon suddenly deepens. I’m sure I’ve never seen such a beautiful colour in all my life.
We walk across Moturakau Island in bare feet, hopping on burning sand and chasing chickens from our path. There is no one on the island but us – our own slice of heaven. For a moment I have a Robinson Crusoe fantasy of being stranded on a tropical desert island; I don’t think I would mind being marooned here one bit. We slake our thirst on the water of fresh coconuts and hop back in to the boat for another adventure.
At the break of dawn I run north along the beach to the tip of Aitutaki. A white tropical bird flies across my path and lands on the edge of the shore, unfazed by me puffing past. I see no one except locals at this hour. A fisherman harvests sea cucumbers from the shallows; a naked happy child swimming with his siblings shouts “Hello mum!” at me repeatedly as I pass, bringing a smile to my face. The sun is only just ascending and the shade of the trees is a balm for my sweating limbs. It’s a punishing way to start my day, but worth it.
Later as I emerge from the perfectly still shallows I see a large blue starfish on the ocean floor. It’s other-worldly, weird and wonderful. Tiny black and white fish hang out around the odd outcrop of coral, the young ones as small as my thumbnail. They venture towards me inquisitively but not quite brave enough to leave the safety of the coral. The sea water drips down my face to my lips and I lick it off. The salty sharpness says holiday, sunshine, tranquility to me. It tastes so good.
Heaven smells wonderful, looks stunning, and feels even better. Shipwreck me on Aitutaki; I could get lost here awhile.