Treasure on Mystery Island

Mystery Island, Vanuatu
When we pulled into our first Vanuatu anchorage and the kids heard us talk about Mystery Island, their first question was, “Is it deserted?” A tradition began in the Caribbean, and has stuck. Anytime we’re near a deserted island, Mark will create a treasure hunt for the kids. Like sundowners, or Friday Family Night, this is something the kids make sure we remember. And with all traditions one starts, one should ensure it is one that can be perpetuated!

As parents, some of these traditions are thrust upon us by society. Who in the world thought of the tooth fairy? Seriously, staying up late to retrieve an old, crusty tooth from under my child’s pillow, and then paying him for it? All while risking waking up the little angel I’d finally gotten to sleep after the umpteenth bedtime story and drink of water! Heaven help me.

Some of these traditions are passed down from our own families or heritage, and we expect our kids to be excited to partake. “Ooooh, let’s feast on fruit soup for Christmas!” Bleh. Okay, okay, we’ll just call Dominoes.

And some of them we create in our own crazed minds, initially to insert some “fun” into family, but morph quickly into a chore. Remember your first child’s first birthday? Personalized and handmade party favors (for all the attending 1 year-olds who could read their own name, of course!), a Pinterest-inspired mermaid cake ordered for a small fortune from the boutique bakery in town, and a guest list longer than my Christmas card list. Yes, it was self-induced madness that lasted only that one year for only that one, blessed, obliviously spoiled child.

Tradition! Tradition! It’s one of those things in life that matters. A lot. The kids couldn’t sit still as we dinghied to shore on Mystery Island. Mark and I had concocted a terrifying tale of poison nuts, sequestered sailors, and crazed cannibals. We’d written out clues and entered the waypoints into the handheld GPS. (I know, we should be using a real compass and counting steps, but just roll with it.)

Mark set the stage with a brief summary of the scenario, and the kids set off with the GPS in search of the next clue. I giggled as I realized that we have limited hiding spots on these deserted islands. Inevitably, clues would be hidden in coconut shells or trees, clam shells, and under rocks or logs. The kids noticed this, too, as Elizabeth informed Mark that his clue for clamshell was much more creative last time. She even rattled it off, having done that hunt over a year ago!! It matters. They love it. They remember.

In the end, the main character of our terrifying tale was cooked for dinner in a cannibal pot, but before she met her dreadful fate, she left behind a stash of treasured goodies - American candy that my aunt and uncle had brought to us in New Zealand when they’d visited.  It has been meticulously rationed by the kids ever since! Sour gummy worms, skittles, and Sour Patch Kids chewing gum along with a few Australian coins for good measure.

Parents, this is the stuff kids remember. Take the time. Have some fun. This is where true treasure is hidden.


  1. How true all this is. As we get older, we might forget what happened last week, or even yesterday, but what made an impression on us when we were young remains with us all our lives. In a way, this is our own personal tradition. Other traditions survive because they are memorable, but they are all important as they have helped form the way we live our lives and have made us the people we are and created the societies in which we live.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Raja Ampat (Northern and Central), Indonesia

Gili Banta - Komodo, Indonesia - Macro and Micro

Legendary Luf - The Hermit Islands