Destination: Motu Ahuna, Bora Bora French Polynesia
Date: August 2013
Activity: A Near Death Experience….just kidding! Navigating the ocean at night.
Adventure is defined differently by many people and specifically by my daughter Bailey and I . She considers a day out scuba diving, or finding a nice place to picnic an adventure, and while that certainly maybe I seem to define the word more by the probability of death being attached to the activity. Or maybe it is just how I talk down a dangerous situation we may have been in like, “Wow kids we just got a flat tire on the side of a volcano in a foreign country… what an adventure we are having!” These are the kinds of adventures Bailey hates and that’s exactly what we gave her our second night at our new Giligan’s Island accommodations at Motu Ahuna.
This adventure started after the Heiva we had been invited to by the local church congregation. After watching the Heiva for two hours we were ready to get back to our little island for a little rest. Little did we know what adventure wee still had in store.
Finally, after the Heivea, we got our ride back to the dock and we were back in our dinghy ready for our moonlit ride back to Motu Ahuna. The first problem with this scenario is that there was no moon that night. The second problem that added to our “adventure” was our flash light was not very good. It didn’t penetrate like most lights instead throwing a haze through the water and dispelling the light almost like a fog. We couldn’t even see the island we were aiming for let alone any sticks in the reef that would lead us through the reef to safety.
We thought we had planned it all out accordingly. We would drive straight past the first buoy. Look for the Bora Bora Yacht club to our right and then cut to the left for the island. By then we knew we would find the sticks showing the path through the maze of coral that surrounds the outer edge of our motu island.
In theory that all sounded great but we couldn’t find the markers in the reef. Without the markers or sufficient light we quickly rammed right up onto the reef. Our little dingy sputtered to a stop, we tried using the oars to push us off the reef but with every wave we became more and more lodged onto the reef. It was quickly decided we needed to lighten our load. The heaviest objects in the dinghy were Trent, Bailey and I and since Trent was trying to man the motor Bailey and I had to jump out of the boat and onto the reef and push.
It was frightening! We were no where close to land. We couldn’t even see the island in the distance. We could only see the few feet in front of us with the headlamp I was wearing and the flashlight Clay was holding in the boat. Bailey was afraid but very brave. She was on one side and I was on the other and as the waves came in we had to use the lift of the boat to push it in the opposite direction of the waves. We heaved and pushed. We cut our feet as we plowed through the reef in our flip flops and finally we were free. The only problem was we both let go of the boat and the boat was now a good fifteen feet away from where we were standing on the coral.
(I really wish I could have gotten a picture of our night adventure but it was the last thing on my mind!)
Though Trent was reluctant to come back towards the reef Bailey and I did not want to swim to the boat. I wasn’t afraid of swimming in the black water as much as I didn’t know how I’d lift myself into the boat once I got to it! I’ve never had very good upper body strength. Bailey had a few more hidden fears since she had been told time after time during her recent dives with sharks that they were harmless because they only fed at night and not during the day. All she could imagine were the sharks below us waiting for us to make a dash to the boat.
Trent however, pulled the boat in close enough for Bailey to scramble in while I held it steady and off of the reef. Then I made my mad jump and we were off of the reef but still out of luck looking for the markers. We pulled way far out into the open water and went a little further along and decided to try again by moving closer to the island to find those markers. This time we were shoved even further onto the reef. It seemed like it happened so much quicker and the waves were coming so much fiercer so Trent, Bailey, and I all had to get out and heave the boat until we unlodged ourselves.
Of course the four smaller children were practically in tears. They tried being brave but none of them liked the idea of any of us leaving the boat let alone all three of the “grown ups” on board. Three minutes after our second reef wash up we were back up on the reef. This time I jumped out quickly to lodge myself between the reef and the boat. This turned out not to be a very wise decision. I just didn’t want to take another chance having Bailey back in the water and so I used my leg to lodge between the reef and the boat. Just as a wave came in and sent the boat crashing down on my shin did I realize what a bad decision I had made. I thought for sure I was going to feel the compound fracture occur any second. Lucky for me my foot slipped on the coral and I was pulled down to give way for the boat. I only went up to my chest and since the waves were coming in so fast I quickly remedied my footing and pushed us off of the coral. By now Bailey and I were well rehearsed and as I jumped in she threw me the paddle and I used that to continue my efforts to push us off of the coral.
Three times we tried and three times we failed. We motored out away from the coral, soaked, some crying, most of us silent and we said yet another prayer. We had already offered many personal prayers, one hysteric prayer over the reef and now we made the decision we needed help. We didn’t have the light to get us through and we didn’t have the personal knowledge of the area. So we turned around and headed back to my sisters sail boat docked in the marina.
Soon my brother-in-law “M” was out with his piercing lamp and led the way in his dingy. When we got close to the reef we all shuttered a little. We were afraid to try again but knew it was the only way to get to our beds and by now we were exhausted. We felt like the grade school kid who had been beat up by a bully and didn’t want to go to school the next day. Odds are we wouldn’t get beat up again but after the battering we’d already taken we were afraid. Trent and I had to be brave for the kids and soon “M” found the marker in the reef which led to the next marker and so on. We had found the way through the reef maze and back to our island paradise. He made it look so easy by having the right light and a little bit more knowledge of the area since he had been driving the dinghy all week prior to our stay at Motu Ahuna.
Its definitely not the kind of adventure that one seeks but it is one that we can all learn from. I kept telling the kids just like the time we broke down in Guatemala, or like the time we climbed Mount Timpanogos, we can learn from these great adventures. We need the light of Christ in our lives to find the next marker or the direction we should go to continue. Lucky for us our family prayer of safety had been answered and we all survived another great adventure.
Please be Safe and have Happy Travels!!