Last week, I managed to do just that.
Along with my family, I left home and drove north for two whole days to the steamy subtropics. A boat took us into the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The reef, a vast underwater world of coral and vibrant fish species two thousand kilometres long, is dotted with tiny coral islands. It was on one of these, Hook Island, that the boat’s skipper left us. “See you Friday afternoon at high tide!” he called out, as we stood on the beach watching the boat sped away. We were completely alone on the island. Six adults, three children, and enough drinking water for a week.
Hook Island is no resort, but a protected national park. Low-impact camping is the only way to enjoy the island’s natural paradise and remoteness. There’s no electricity. No running water. No mobile phone signal. No supplies or shops. It’s pure heaven.
We spent our days swimming, snorkelling, fishing and cooking, living in tents. When we felt brave, we swam out to the ship warning light at the reef’s edge and jumped off into the clear, deep water. An hour later, whales swam past in the spot where we’d jumped, heading south for the summer.
When the tide was too low for swimming, we walked carefully amongst the coral in our rubber-bottomed reef shoes, spotting starfish, stingrays, anemones and giant clams. Tiny brightly-coloured fish darted in and out of the coral as we approached, like rainbow slivers.
And we talked. With our children, with each other, more than we had in months, as we sat drinking campfire coffee in the rose-pink dawn and each night, as we watched the spectacle of a million stars light the sky above our heads.