Friday 24 August

“Last night did happen, didn’t it?”

I look at Rachel, remembering our walk along the beach in the silvery moonlight, and nod.

Eat a half-leisurely breakfast, conscious that we should be ready for a half past nine dhow trip out to a sandbank about half an hour offshore. We are sharing with a family of five, who from their accent I assume to be Dutch. They comprise mother and father, three small girls, and the girls’ godfather.

(magnify) Dhow trip to the sandbank (photo: RS)

We wade out through the shallow water to the boat and climb aboard up a small metal ladder hung over the side. There is not much wind so we head off under the outboard. It is an eleven metre traditional wooden dhow (traditional if you don’t count the outboard that is). A crew of three looks after the boat. They are not very communicative but probably don’t speak much English.

We anchor around two hundred metres from the sandbar for swimming. The water is warm but not very clear and I cannot really see anything through the facemask that I’ve hired. There is quite a current though. It takes a considerable effort to swim around to the front of the boat, but going back the other way is very quick and I nearly drift straight past the stern.

The children’s godfather swims over to the island. I can only reach about halfway before the current defeats me and I let myself drift back to the boat.

Left: (magnify) On the sandbank
Right: Colliding waves

Later the boat takes us onto the sandbank itself. With the addition of just a single palm tree in the middle, it would be the archetypal desert island.

I stand and watch waves break and collide over the partially-submerged far end of the bank, sending spray into the air. We eat sandwiches under a canopy that the crew have erected for us.

Constructing flood defences (photo: RS)

After lunch I set to work constructing a flood defence wall in the sand to protect our low-lying picnic spot against the encroaching tide and the children soon join in.

Jokingly I mention to their mother that they must be be experts in dyke construction, and if the barrier should spring a leak we need only for one of them to put their finger in the hole. This is not greeted with the mirth that I had expected. After some hurried explanation, it turns out that they are Swiss, not Dutch. Whoops.

Crab on the sandbank

Finally a wave breaks over our dyke, inundating the entire surface of the sandbank and we take that as our cue to leave.

The crew pull the boat into the shallows so that we can board, but the waves then drive it further onto the bar and it becomes well and truly grounded. It takes a well-timed hefty shove from all of us combined with a large wave to refloat the dhow before we finally get away. I had visions of being marooned with just one bar of chocolate and three bottles of fresh water between us.

Relaxed rest of day. Went on a walk towards mangroves before dinner. Mangroves really are quite bizarre things. A tree that survives (and survives well) in salt water. Each tree is about two metres tall and three to four in diameter, and under each is a puddle of water with upward growing roots.

Left: Evening on the beach
Right: (magnify) Mangroves

A fine dinner – Cajun fish for me and fish masala for R, both with rice, which was a much superior option to the chips or boiled potatoes we had yesterday. After eating we take another walk slowly along the beach, under a moon subdued by thin clouds, reflecting on the last few days.