THE muffin-top island looms in the distance. Ringed by coral sand, with a humpback frolicking on the reef just off shore, this is my idea of paradise.
I didn't take my wife, Laura, on a honeymoon when we married a few years ago. She wants Paris or Rome. I think this'll trump the lot. Tonga has 176 islands and I have one 10 kilometres from the Ha'apai Islands in central Tonga just to ourselves for the weekend. How clever am I?
We're dropped on our island by local whale-watching guide Dave Sheen with a survival box, 20 litres of water and an air mattress.
We have a secluded tropical paradise where all we can do until we are picked up is relax like castaways. The sand is white and the sea is postcard-turquoise. There is a lean-to in the trees and the scar of an old fire. I carry the box to the swaying palm trees and implore Laura to relax. I keep quiet about the dark-grey clouds I see billowing towards us.
Thunder cracks out to sea. We squirm on the coral as hundreds of swimmer crabs move their caravans up the beach with the impending storm.
I pull our air mattress out of the wooden box. It's stuck on something and I yank it free, tearing a coin-sized hole in it. I keep it to myself and trudge down to the water with a spear gun to catch dinner. How hard can it be? I try as hard as I can to load the bolt. Five minutes later I decide a vegetable diet might be safer anyway.
Rain lashes the island. It seems like the warm ocean might be the best place to shelter. Our fresh water supply smells suspiciously of diesel and when it helps me spark a raging fire, my fears are confirmed. But I won't give in and keep commenting on the serenity even as coconuts drop like missiles from the trees.
I dig a hole and place a tarpaulin over it to collect water - a nice idea except for the cup I forgot to bring to scoop it up. I get down on all fours and slurp the gritty rainwater. "Easy as!" I say, as I offer a sip to my wife. She doesn't say a single thing.
I set out to gather coconuts. Those on the ground are fine, though I'm no gymnast so it is impossible to lob fresh coconuts down from the trees above.
I split one for us to share. We have no bed, no food, no water and a diesel fire burning damp wood. Still Laura remains silent.
I search through the box to see what other provisions we have. I notice something rectangular and red. It is a satellite phone. She smiles. I see no let-up in the weather. I call Dave.
Forty minutes later, we're rescued from our failed castaway experience. The island recedes and darkness falls as we motor back to the mainland.
I don't say anything as we glide above the water, though I have a feeling Paris is going to be on our next travel itinerary.