where the waters match the skies

The twinkling lights of Scarborough now hidden behind the hills, we’re guided solely by a thousand stars above and the torch on Brett’s paddleboard ahead. We’ve been paddling the kayaks for about twenty minutes, and now beach up on No Man’s Land. Right now, it’s a sandbank, but it’s so-called because it’s so frequently underwater that construction is forbidden. The sand is thick, and it swallows up your toes. We haul the kayaks over the sandbank and enter Bon Accord Lagoon. If you look closely when your hands touch the water, you can see tiny points of light darting from them, so small they could be the reflections of stars on the waves. Brett shines his torch over the surface, and suddenly it’s alive with a hundred bats flying low, hoping for dinner. The silhouettes of the see-saw paddles rise and fall, there’s the sound of blades entering still water and the occasional hollow thud of fiberglass. Besides that there’s nothing. The lagoon is flanked on three sides by mangroves, forming little sheltered bays that Brett directs us into.
“Now put your hands in the water,” he says, and as we do, there’s gasps as it lights up in tiny sparks. They emanate from fingers outwards, like sparklers, every move accompanied by underwater meteors. The stars above our heads are suddenly outnumbered by those beneath the surface.

“Now climb in,” comes Brett’s voice. “Swim far away from anyone else.”
And suddenly I’m a plasma ball, shooting photons from every part of my body, tiny glow-worms emanating from my skin, again and again and again, every time I move. It’s like I’m on some drug enabling me to see my energy overlap into that of Mother Nature. Superlatives don’t do the trick anymore: it’s magical, fantastical, outrageous – I can’t take my eyes off the starry movement of my own body. I am all-powerful, I am a creator, I am swimming through the depths of the universe, the constellations constantly shifting, dancing, evolving, lighting up, burning out and then being reborn through my movement.

I’m out of breath from exhilaration when I finally re-enter the kayak. I lean back, watching the stars, the slow-burn bioluminescence of the skies, and gently, gently start paddling back to No Man’s Land. Brett picks up sea urchins, a sea cucumber, points out lobster, shrimp and starfish lurking among the turtle grass, then shines his light on footlong fish with needlepoint noses that dart and jump ahead of us. Back at the surf shack, we pull the kayaks up the beach and Brett gives six of us a ride in the back of his pickup. We’re crouched down, clutching onto whatever we can, as he ferries us off the beach and back to civilisation. At the Crown Point junction, we jump ship, our feet still sandy, our minds still spinning, and with soca music from the island’s bar strip reaching our ears.

This piece won The Telegraph’s Just Back travel writing competition in April 2019.