Surviving a horror boat accident which claimed the life of a friend has completely changed New Zealand woman Sarra Hunter-Weston's outlook on life.

The Christchurch nurse is back on New Zealand soil and has had an emotional reunion with family after the boating accident off the coast of Africa last month that saw her spend 30 hours in the ocean.

Theatre nurse from Christchurch Sarra Hunter - Weston on Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania. Photo / Supplied
Theatre nurse from Christchurch Sarra Hunter - Weston on Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania. Photo / Supplied

Hunter-Weston called on her nine years' experience in the Navy to survive the ordeal caused when a huge wave smashed the mast through the cabin top of the small sailing boat she was on.

The dream holiday with Kenyan friends Ali Ahmed Ali and Swaleh Yahya Said, known as Chaps, turned into a nightmare when the wave hit the boat, 10km from Mafia Island, a small island down the coast from the popular tourist destination of Zanzibar.

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The trio strapped themselves together with substandard life jackets, sipped water and ate cucumber and tomato saved from the sinking boat.

Sadly, Ali suffered hypothermia and died in the the arms of his distraught and desperate friends. They made the tough decision to leave his body which was weighing them down.

Sarra's friend Ali Ahmed Ali died in the boat accident on the African coast. Photo / Supplied
Sarra's friend Ali Ahmed Ali died in the boat accident on the African coast. Photo / Supplied

Hunter-Weston and Chaps eventually made it to land exhausted, sunburnt and emotionally drained. Ali's body washed up the next morning.

Yesterday, Hunter-Weston reflected on her survival, Ali's death and how the ordeal had changed her.

"It really has made me look at my life here and how important it is to make more time for family," Hunter-Weston said.

"I was always good with balance but now, after seeing how African people live happily with very little, things have changed."

Thoughts of her two sons, Matt and Daniel James, both in their 20s, gave Hunter-Weston focus and hope when she was in the water.

Sarra with her sons Daniel and Matt James. Photo / Supplied
Sarra with her sons Daniel and Matt James. Photo / Supplied

"I had a bag-tag with a photo of them that was saved from the boat, so I focused on that when I was in the water," Hunter-Weston said.

"At night I could see the photo and the Southern Cross in the sky and I knew I had to get home for them."

Hunter-Weston has returned to work as a theatre nurse in Christchurch but says she plans to return to Africa.

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"Being back here has been a culture shock," Hunter-Weston said.

"I have been in contact with Chaps several times and I will go back to see him and Ali's family as well."

She had already looked into finding a spot on another boat to create memories that were not tinged with sadness.

After Ali's death Hunter-Weston had an emotional meeting with the Kenyan man's widow and his children. Hunter-Weston said his family were devastated but also very accepting and believed it was his time to die.

"They are such amazing people and I really want to help them as much as I can.

"They have very little and things will be especially hard for them without Ali."

Hunter-Weston has started a Givealittle page to raise money to help with ongoing costs and his children's education.