A jewel of the Indian Ocean
North Island is the crown jewel of the Seychelles archipelago. It sparked a media frenzy when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge picked it as their honeymoon destination of choice. It also happens to have been the 10th wedding anniversary escape for the Beckhams’. North Island certainly has seen no shortage of blue-bloods or Hollywood glitterati – this even before the Seychelles government introduced laws to protect the privacy of celebrities. Lauded as the most expensive island retreat on the planet, it is the ultimate private paradise of virgin beauty that serves up luxury in epic proportions.
Ile du Nord or North Island basks in private isolation within the inner Island group of Seychelles some 30km from Mahe. The only means of setting a bare foot on the island for the discerning traveller is by a 20-mintute private chartered helicopter. Boats are not allowed in close proximity to the island unless pre-approved to ensure the privacy of its guests.
The island with no more that 11 guest villas is cosseted by palm-fringed sugar-white beaches and filigree reefs teeming with technicolour marine life. Three granite outcrops rise majestically from the kaleidoscope of jewel-toned waters, inviting sunrise hikes for glorious views.
All unforgettable sojourns have one thing in common – an inconceivable first impression. A fleet of smiling staff waved as my husband and I approached the island; ready to receive us with welcome drinks and affection fit for a royal. Disembarking, I buried my feet deep in the warmth of the impossibly soft sand and contemplated the iridescent azure waters of paradise and the sense of calm that has enveloped me.
Indulging my enthusiasm to immediately discover the loving restoration and rehabilitation process that preceded North Island, Nadine, our personal guest experiences manager guided us towards the Piazza. Alien elements that dried up the very bloodline of the island – the marshlands – were eradicated, allowing the critically endangered Seychelles flora and fauna to be reintroduced and thrive in their natural habitat. Wilderness safaris managed to see through this tremendous feat dubbed Noah’s Ark over the past decade.
“Some €1 million was spent to wipe out the tree-dwelling black rat infestation that was brought by visiting boats. The island is also devoid of any harmful creatures such as snakes." said Nadine. The island however, is peppered with free-roaming giant tortoises while endangered birds such as the Seychelles white-eye were slowly increasing in numbers. We met Brutus, a gentle giant who is the oldest inhabitant on the island is said to be at least 160 year old.
The Piazza, with a wide deck, open lounge and bar is a natural focal point of the island. Nadine pointed out the local materials reaped from the rehabilitation process in its construction such as inverted Takamaka trees converted for use as pillars, seashell curtains and log spouts. Adjacent to the deck is the library and a 4000-strong wine cellar. Built of coral blocks, the Library is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular examples of architecture on the Island and existed when construction of the lodge began.
We were then whisked away to our villa. A personal buggy and two bicycles were parked neatly outside, giving us free rein to explore the 2km2 island on a whim.
When I walked into our villa, my jaw dropped with all the surprises that were in store for us. Next to a black board which read “welcome home" sat a bottle of my favourite blanc de blanc champagne steeped in ice. Laid out on the table was a cheese platter with my choice picks. Stocked in the kitchenette were Belgian milk chocolates, Biltong – South African cured meat, whiskey…the list goes on of all our favourite flavours and indulgences. It seems the experience had been carefully curated by Wilderness Safaris.
Our Presidential villa, built and decorated by Seychellois and African craftsmen using wood, local stone and glass was unapologetically luxurious and absolutely enormous. It encompassed several thatched roof buildings that housed 2 bedrooms, a kitchenette, a living space and dining areas while hosting no less than five showers – for the two of us!. The outdoor decking showcased a swirling plunge pool, sala and sunbeds that led to a verdant lawn and beach beyond. The main bedroom embellished with teal blue crushed velvet and aquamarine chenilles connects an open-concept bathroom with a marble bath that took centre stage. Unanimously, we decided to convert the second bedroom into a cosy private cinema complete with projector and popcorn. Truth be told I was torn each time I was faced with the choice of leaving this private sanctuary of regal proportions to discover the breathtaking views the island had to offer.
Fred was our butler extraordinaire and “sine qua non". He packed, unpacked, drew warm baths adorned with flower petals, arranged activities and meals, all the while making sure our personal experiences were tailored to surprise, spoil and delight.
We loved the any-menu-any-venue-any time concept and felt thoroughly spoilt! We had a French toast breakfast on the sun dappled honeymoon beach, sushi lunch by the infinity pool, cocktails on a sheer rock face and a creole dinner skirted by tiki torches on West Beach. Nadine and Fred helped create hopelessly romantic settings that we will cherish forever! At each site a discrete rope closed the entrance announcing privacy, which in North Island is paramount.
North Island’s list of activities is worth a mention lest you think one would bore of sun worshipping in solitude. The wide range of activities is tailored to discover the island and its awe-inspiring surroundings and is mostly included in its hefty price tag. The dive centre equips the guests for water sports such as scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and kayaking, while The North Wind (North Island’s own private yacht) is at their disposal for island hoping and sunset cruising. A few hiking trails are also available with an expert guide. For the less energetic, luxuriating in the spa or lounging on hammocks on West Beach while Martin the talented mixologist concocts a personal cocktail should be on the agenda.
Falling in love with North Island is a relatively speedy process. In the morning we would step out of bed and on to the achingly beautiful beaches that are lapped up by dazzling blue waters. In the evening we would contemplate the shooting stars lying on the privacy of our sunbeds to the sound of the crashing waves. Many times I wanted to pinch myself as I felt that I was dreaming with my eyes wide open. Especially when it was just the two of us on the pristine honeymoon beach where the only promise of life was the hawksbill turtle nests that waited to explode with baby turtles. It was a surreal Robinson Crusoe moment, almost as if a magical spell was cast on us where we were made to believe that the island was entirely ours and it was our home. Privacy was the ultimate luxury in this paradise island!
North Island has successfully dethroned every other fabulous getaway so much so that we optimistically had the breadfruit, which in Seychelles promises a return visit.