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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 5 - An Island in The Sun

tropical island with palm trees


It was time to shift anchorages. Joshua made us breakfast with an old baguette that would’ve better served as a weapon than bread. However, for French toast a dry sponge soaks up all the goodness more.

After breakfast, we lifted anchor and moved a short ways down to some adjacent baumy’s. This new spot had a large shallow bank where we could safely bring the boat in. Rachel drove as Joshua manned the anchor and gave directions and they settled on a spot just inside the shallows.

I was eager for a swim so I hopped in. The water was so clear it felt like air. There were some small patches of reef in the distance and I started swimming that way. I got lost in the aquarium. It didn’t feel real. You could hardly tell there was water in front of your eyes. The only way I know I was under the surface was the distant blue seemingly a mile out of reach in every direction.

woman freediver in clear water
photo @joshmunoz

Growing up in Florida I grew found of diving in the springs. These crystal-clear streams, caves, or oasis each had their own unique character but the thing they have in common is incredibly clear water. I’ve never been in an ocean that could rival the clearness of these fresh water paradise until yesterday.

I’ve done my best to describe it but I think it is impossible to do it justice.

I was lost in my swim. So entranced by the warm, clear water and pristine spats of corals I ended up on a sandbar. The sandy trail extended from the corner of the motu leaving a blue swimming pool along its’ back edge.

Lying flat on my belly I skirted just an inch or two above the sand and rubble. A slow current gently pushed me along while I scoured the sand for shells that manages to keep their full shape.

The boys said they would periodically see just my head pop up for a breath as they watched from the boat. I imagine I looked a little bit like an alligator or hippo. Mostly submerged just below the surface, slinking in the shallows.

Impatient for my return, the rest of the crew caught up to me on my swim back in the dingy. They were kind enough to make a pit stop back at the boat before going to shore so I could grab some sun protection.

Our first trip to the beach was a coconut mission. Joshua would climb to the tops of the palms, machete in hand and retrieved a few green cocos. Josh made his mission to find a few brown ones already fallen from the trees. We recovered our loot and walked a short ways to where we had set our things.

man husking coconuts

Green cocos are large and quite heavy. I carried three across the beach as Joshua joked I had triplets. How any woman carries just one baby around all day is beyond me. Maybe today I will do a green coco workout. I feel I could use some movement.

We made our way back to the boat for lunch and a nap. I had a proper deep slumber. The kind that is hard to wake up from.

Once everyone gained consciousness, I will admit I was the last, we journeyed back to the beach to burn our trash and enjoy the sun.

Unfortunately, burning our garbage is actually the best and most sustainable way to dispose of our waste. We’ve been doing our best to limit our waste first and the small amount we had we brought to the beach. Luckily, there was already a tin barrel near our landing spot. It likely belongs to the copra farmers that seasonally live on the atoll.

Before starting the fire everyone did a walk around the motu to look for any rubbish or plastic that could’ve been blown or carried by the sea. It’s crazy how we can be so much in the middle of nowhere with no human inhabitants and still find microplastics, old bottle caps, fishing rope and net, and other miscellaneous plastic crap.

boobie bird in tree

Josh and I started off towards the backside of the motu. As we looked around for trash I looked for shells and other treasures. We encountered a super friendly juvenile boobie bird. He sat perched on a low, leafless tree wings outstretched feeling the wind rush through his feathers. He was peeking over at us curios of what and who we were. Slowly, we inched closer as he sat unbothered looking back and forth between the two of us. Eventually we got close enough to where he decided it was better to take to the sky.

We continued our walk, chatting, and looking for rubbish. I got very distracted collecting little basket star skeletons. As my hands became overfilled with plastic and little white coins I decided I couldn’t search any longer. Until I found a perfect little glass bottle to act as my bank and the search was back on.

hermit crab in shell

Everyone had long since made it back to base by the time I even began to really walk that direction. I had almost made it back when I had to cut up around a tree blocking my beach path as the high tide caressed its roots. I stumbled over branches and roots with hands full of shells and plastic unable to be useful in steadying my balance. Creeping through leaves and bush a bright orange ball caught my eye. Spiny, bright red legs scrambled across the brush toting a tan spiraled shell. I stopped to enjoy a few large hermit crabs searching for a fallen treat. After taking a few videos I finally made it back to add my trash to the collection burning in the barrel.

We all sat enjoying the evening hoping for the colors of the sunset to light up the clouds. The boys were less enthused about staying for sunset than Rachel and I. They kept bringing up their hunger and stated the sunset would be just as nice from the boat. We eventually conceded once we realized the sky wasn’t going to reveal any part of the rainbow other than grey.

Josh made fish tacos for dinner and I helped as su chef, chopping the veggies. I feel that’s where my talents in the kitchen end. We all enjoyed dinner and played a quick round of Rummikub before heading to bed.


Waking up today, yesterday seems like a blur. I’m finding it hard to recount exactly how the day started but I know it ended with cookies.

We joked yesterday evening about how food has become such an exciting and regular point of conversation. I’m starting to feel a little bit like my little brother. Our family used to tease him because he would be dreaming and asking about our next meal while still finished the current.

That’s sort of how our group has become. It’s possible we might have the nest three days worth of meals planned out. Using our schedule to help us determine how to make room in our limited freezer so we can go and spear another fish.

I think the proposed schedule is as follows:

- Pad Thai

- Tuna Carpaccio

- Breakfast Burritos

- Ceviche/Poisson Cru

- Shrimp Scampi

- Smoothies

- Probably salad with tuna

- Rachel’s sweet potato dish

There’s also been talks of Joshua making quiche, pot pies, and fried fish. I offered to make mac n cheese since that’s probably the one recipe I have memorized. Josh and I will probably also make a handful more loaves of bread before our time on Agape finishes.

It’s safe to say not even one of us starved on this journey.

The wind sort of shifted our plans for yesterday. Originally, we aimed to make it back out to the baumys to fish but it was going to b e a bit unpleasant with the surface chop.

Instead, we decided to enjoy a long day at the beach. The boys and I decided to swim to shore while Rachel took the dingy loaded up with all our beach day supplies. You know, the essentials: hammock and bochi ball.

Initially, I planned to keep up with the boys but I quickly got distracted and was left behind. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t in a rush. I knew I would eventually get there.

The lack of rush is one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this place. There’s no real time crunch or deadline. Yes, maybe the weather or tides can influence when we might choose to dive or nap, but there is no schedule. We can choose to do whatever we want whenever we want or do absolutely nothing.

I feel like this is some of the most present I’ve managed to be in my life. Sure, when I get home I have a to-do list of things that need to get done but that doesn’t exist here. There’s no technology and social media, work and to-do lists, or engagements to be on time for. There is simply: What do you want to do right now?

So, swimming along I let my mind wander. I watched colorful fish pop in and out of bright domes and wrinkles. The white sand between each rainbow island reflected the suns warmth back onto my face. I moved along at snail pace, possible a snail would’ve been faster if it was on more of a mission than I was. My eyes flit from one pile of rubble to the next looking for a gleam or shine amongst the dull and encrusted. My hands started to fill to where I couldn’t pick up the next jewel so I started stuffing my suit full. I felt greedy but for each shell I kept another twenty were left behind.

sea shells on boat deck

I gained a few stalkers along my swim. Two blacktips followed just behind my fin tips until I would turn around to check their distance. Like little kids playing hide and seek they would dart off once they realized they’d been made. Then slowly their curiosity would get the best of them and they would come creeping back in. I lost my tail when they became too nervous to cross over the barrier of shallow sandbar at the beach.

By the time, I made it to shore the rest of the crew was getting hungry. Rachel got dropped off back at the boat while Josh humored me and helped me take a few photos.

Eventually, we made our way back to the boat and stuffed our faces with burritos featuring Rachel’s coconut bacon. A treat made with green coconut meat coated in seasoning, siracha, and maple syrup.

Everyone had a quick nap and a read and we got ready to head back to shore.

This time Rachel wanted to swim and search for shells so we dropped her in the shallows before heading back to shore. I think seeing my collection, including the largest tiger cowry I’ve ever managed to find, inspired her.

When the boys and I reached the sand we settled back into our spot where the palms ended. We took a second to seek refuge in the shade and then Joshua got to work trying to gather green cocos to fill our bottles with water.

man walking on deserted island

I tried my hand at climbing a tree. It wasn’t the tallest but it wasn’t the shortest either. I made my way up the trunk like a very uncoordinated monkey. Just barely able to wrap my fingers around the base of a frond I got stuck. Laid out flat like an iguana taking a sun bath, I lost all momentum toward the cocos. I was stuck. Unable to climb farther up or shimmy down. I had made the fatal mistake a cat makes chasing a bird but there was no firefighter to bring me down. The boys laughed at my peril knowing I wasn’t in any real harm.

They managed to support me on my way back down. My skills climbing rocks just barely outshine my skills on the coconut tree.

hermit crab eating coconut

Joshua swiftly made it to the top and recovered the cocos I had considerately left for him. He showed us his techniques for accessing the sweet nectar inside and Josh and I both took turns attempting to reach his efficiency.

Previously, on our trip we had talked about random things that show evidence of god or that he loves us. Rachel said mangos, Joshua said avocado and fish. I think for me it’s the ocean, more specifically sea shells and sharks. However, in this moment on the beach I knew coconut trees made the list.

shaving coconut

The coconut tree is the ultimate giving tree. It continues to provide through every stage of its’ life. The green cocos yield sweet water and meat perfect for coconut bacon. As they grow brown, they can be husked and the meat shaved to have coconut milk or cream. It can be eaten raw, dipped in salt water as a mid-day snack. And all the while the trees let out coconuts so that new ones will grow in their place.

The coconut tree is selfless, God had to have created it. I think people could strive to be a little more like a coco tree.

We played a few rounds of patonk/bocci using the sanbar, trees, and rising tide as natural obstacles and challenges. Despite a home court advantage Joshua and Rachel lost to our team.

couple at sunset on beach
photo @moore_rachel

There was little sunset to watch and we ended the night with dinner and good conversation.

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