You know those little islands that are so classically displayed when it come to “island” themed parties? They usually have an oversized palm tree, on a tiny bit of land- always coconuts at the top. Then the really extravagant pictures may even have some kind of shack or hut with a straw roof and a big sign that says bar- and maybe even a hammock slung up on the oversized palm trees.
Well, that doodle perfect island that always tends to take residence on top of my class notes, while I am day dreaming, is a real place. I’ve seen it. It’s called Maranatha Beach Camp, and although it’s not really an Island- you definitely feel isolated enough. One side of the beach strip, there is a river where the water is calm and warm, and many people jet ski, swim, and relax. On the other side of the beach strip there is the most powerful ocean I have ever come across.
We were knee deep in the sea when we turned our head and a wave, not higher than a couple feet, hit us with such a force that we were knocked to the ground, and then it tried to bring us back to the sea with it. Honestly, the beach is borderline scary- and I have been a swimmer/lifeguard for as long as I can remember. At the same time though, it was stunning. Gorgeous. Powerful. And incredibly salty. In fact, you could put your hand under the water, then bring it up and see big grains of salt sitting on your hand.
The strip of land had to be my favorite. To get there, we had to be boated in by a local guy that doubles as a boat operator, drummer, DJ, and bar tender. Honestly, and I’m not sure I should admit this, all I could think of on the boat ride there was how much it reminded me a little bit of Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. Loved it. When the boat pulled up, the first thing we saw were big palm trees with hammocks, lots of lounge chairs under wooden canopies, and lots of huts with flags of different countries painted on the doors. After putting all of our stuff down, and asking where to change, they opened one of the huts for us. As it turns out- this place, that seems to be straight out of my imagination, is a hotel! There is a bed in every hut, covered with a mosquito net (and I really do think if you were to awake in the middle of the night, you would realize there is more than just mosquitoes they are keeping out). Even better- it costs $10 American dollars a night to stay there. I think we shall be going back for a weekend or two.
The even cooler part about this hotel is that it exists purely to fund an elementary school on the same beach. The kids that are accepted into the school get everything paid for expect food (which ends up costing about twenty cents a day). With the profits and donations generated from the school they are able to fund teaching, books, uniforms, and supplies for all the kids. Their goal is to run a school for kids in grades 1 to 6, and currently they are on track to open a 5th grade class next year. The kids that attend the school are from surrounding fishing villages, and they have no other access to any kind of education.
After a warm lunch, a cold coke, a cultural dance display, and swimming in the two waters, I decided that this day in paradise could easily make one of my top ten best days of my life.