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A golden patch of land lay above the surface just ahead, a smooth coin carved into the water against the jagged landscape. Miles from the nearest shore, the sandbar rose from the sea like an oasis, an ephemeral haven for the weary traveller. Sunlight limned the shoal in burnished gold, but as we paddled closer the light broke into flashes of shifting crimson. What felt like millions of crabs were scuttling across the surface like an undulating tide, crowning the sandbar in a wave of fire.

We docked our kayaks against the sand, our bare feet sinking into the damp as we clambered out. Our guide traversed fearlessly across the sandbar as the rest of us picked our way around the jagged rocks and abandoned shells. The expanse of red parted as we drew near, the crabs vanishing into the sand and re-emerging moments later behind us, chiselling holes into the land as quickly as the sea reached out to swallow them. In the distance, the archipelago of limestone cliffs cut through the surface of the ocean, propped against the backdrop of blue water and blue sky, their rugged facades cloaked by a dense, sweeping mural of trees. The warren of mangrove swamps we’d looped through earlier had been humming with the low tunes of crickets and birds, a chorus shadowed by the cliffs and skeletal trees. Here, the wind breathed freely across the water, coaxing waves into waves, easing out the muted song of wildlife. I dug my feet deeper into the rippled sand. In that moment, stepping where the sea had once claimed as its own, I felt like both a guest and an intruder.

It was hard to imagine a feeling like this, heart rife with the knowledge that you existed in a moment simply because nature had willed it so. Though the waves here were gentle, a vestige of the giants that disturbed the open sea beyond, the sandbar was a snapshot of the precise juncture in time where the ceaseless water had surrendered to the unyielding land, if only for a moment.

Moments later, our guide waved us back to our kayaks in broken English, gesturing to the shore that had been gradually leaking into the rising tide. The narrow skein of land I stood on felt like nature’s gift, there and then gone. When we reached our kayaks the water was already lapping gently at them, as if urging us, quietly but firmly, to go. The smell of the sea picked up in a sudden gust of wind, tangling my hair. Glancing back, the crabs had disappeared, and parts of the sand were already but faint creases underwater.

It was easy for the spirit to pine over the lost moment, but there was also immeasurable comfort and privilege in knowing that time had aligned itself with nature, that we were simply at the right place at the right time. The ocean continued its endless, rhythmic swells; the land rose and fell with it.

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