(Warning: long post with no photos(😓))
On one of the days we stayed in Nungwi we decided to go on a snorkelling trip as it was quite a popular thing to do in the area so we booked it with our hotel and headed down to the beach to where our boat was. As I peered over the high waves to Tumbatu island -our destination- I wondered if they would cancel the trip as they seemed to be messing about with the engine.
As we were half way to the island (that seemed too far away) the waves were towering above us-swallowing us and the view around us. At one point I was almost jerked backwards over the dangerously low ledge and into the thrashing waves. Between the three of us (Jed too busy holding on to his mum) we each shared equally concerned looks. Once we were over half way to our destination all three men suddenly laughed nervously and buried their heads in their hands. They then told us they had forgot the masks and snorkels. We also laughed as we had our own and if we didn’t it would have been a disaster.
Once we reached the island and the three men had guided the boat through the reef we finally stopped in the snorkelling area near the island. The coral wasn’t overly good but there were several types of beautiful fish but -not to sound spoilt- we’ve seen much better places although my brother enjoyed seeing ‘Dory’ and ‘Nemo’ as he floated around in his ring with his goggles on – this was his first snorkel. About half an hour later the man who spoke the best English -who seemed to be in charge- told us we had to go quickly. All I heard in his explanation was ‘sand bank’ so I thought we were going to look or go on one somewhere around the lighthouse. Once they had rushed Ian out of the water the driver started up the engine.
They guided the boat through the waves and that’s when I realised when they said ‘sandbank’ they meant the sandbank was closing in and was going to trap us on the other side of the reef. At this point the waves were so big I could hardly see the lighthouse that wasn’t that far from us. One wave came and knocked my family to the side- since I was on the other side of the boat I managed to stay put. TUT (The ultimate traveller) immediately told us to put our life jackets on. There wasn’t a small one for Jed but fortunately he had his ring. I focused my eyes on the driver once my parents and brother were up again. The drivers eyes were wide and frantic and this made my heart beat faster.
I watched as the engine was coming loose and another guy went to try and hold it on. I think we must have hit the sandbank because the engine came off altogether and at this point we were powerless. I turned my head to look infront of me and saw a wave even bigger than the previous one. I watched in horror as it stretched above me and glared at me. At this point I knew we were surely going to tip but somehow I couldn’t process it and I didn’t believe it would happen so I wasn’t as scared as I think I should have been. Before I could warn anyone else about this force that kept coming, the boat tipped along with everything else.
I fell backwards into the tarpaulin roof (which was underwater) and the first thing I noticed was the pain that jolted up my leg. The thoughts that came afterwards was the fact that it did happen and here I was tumbling around, trapped. I thought I was drowning as I struggled to breathe. The next thing I know I’m out of the water away from the boat -with no recollection of how I managed to get there. The word ‘mum’ came out of my mouth and I got a reply. I saw that everyone was okay- Jed was obviously crying. I don’t know how TUT managed to hold on to him but he did.
We all started swimming towards shore which was about 300 metres away. Thankfully after about a 100 metres we reached the reef in shallow water so we could stand although it was full to the top with sea urchins as large as my head and I was so thankful for the sea shoes everyone wore. By this point Jed had stopped crying and seemed to think this was all planned. I started gagging uncontrollably-probably from the sea water I must have swallowed- and this only stopped once we were settled on shore. As TUT is a retired fireman he was calm in this situation and didn’t look franctic at all, which is quite funny as in day to day situations he can’t handle small stresses.
Once we’d finally walked onto the beach we spotted a man with a fishing spear in the distance so TUT started waving his arms in the air. The man we had followed to shore went over to talk to him as we made our way up to the lighthouse-which was unused- and we collapsed onto the ground and sat among concrete and shrubs. Jed then started saying he enjoyed the snorkelling part but he didn’t really like the tipping part and he didn’t want to do it again(which we would hear many more times). This was when I realised we weren’t actually allowed onto this island as the people who live here don’t allow tourists. So we could very well be some of the first tourists to set foot on this island. This was also the point when our guy decided to tell us a boat had capsized before and two tourists had died. Which certainly helped the situation!
The other two men who were on the boat with us were still with it as they couldn’t afford to lose it. One man however did come back to shore (with no shoes) but later on he disappeared. The man we had spotted earlier had thankfully agreed to lead us to his village. Only wearing our rash vests, sea shoes and life jackets we started trudging behind the man with the spear.