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Let’s go NORTH by Michaela Cordes | 31st August, 2018 | Personalities

All it takes is a twenty-minute helicopter ride northwest of the main island and you arrive at one of the world’s most exclusive eco resorts: North Island. An unforgettable visit to this exquisite island paradise in the Seychelles where you are able to enjoy the attractive mix of untouched solitude paired with five-star service.

The helicopter touches down softly on one of the island’s green meadows, still damp from the last tropical shower. Seconds later, at least six maids and butlers – all dressed in beige – dash over to greet me and guide me to one of the electric buggies parked nearby. “Did you have a good trip? Perhaps I should take you to your villa first,” suggests one beige-clad lady in a charming French-English accent, leading the way. I have arrived on North Island! It seems incredible that only nine hours ago I was still sitting in the busy Turkish Airlines airport lounge, waiting for my connecting flight. But now I am in paradise: The barely two-square-kilometer private island is not much bigger in size than Monaco. But this idyllic spot seems very scarcely populated and there are hardly any buildings! Guests get around on foot, on a bicycle or by electric buggy and you will only find one restaurant, a library, a spa and a gym. And, of course, the 11 exclusive guest villas. The most amazing solitude with a five-star service – I was told by a dear friend who came here years ago. The short trip to my villa takes me past majestic palm trees, elegantly swaying in the breeze. It was these trees and the hope of finding meat that brought the first Europeans to this beautiful spot: In 1609, Captain Sharpeigh and the crew of the Ascension, owned by the English East India Company, first set foot here. They discovered the large population of Aldabra giant tortoises, which are still one of the island’s biggest attractions. Over there! I spot one by the side of the path, lumbering lazily through the dry undergrowth of the mangrove forests. I learn that a giant tortoise can weigh as much as 250 kilograms, and that they can live to well over 100 years – longer than any other land animal on our planet. We drive through thick mangrove forests, past takamaka trees and finally snake our way along a track to my home for the next few days: Villa Number 7 is a luxuriously simple outdoor-indoor palace with a roof made of palm fronds and a very charming laid-back vibe. My villa (one night starts at € 6,000) has two gigantic bedrooms with spectacular en-suite bathrooms, connected by a glossy wooden deck with a Jacuzzi. I spot yet another giant tortoise in my garden. Standing right in the middle of the lawn, it chews grass – utterly impervious to my presence. How wonderful! I whisper to myself, as I have just discovered that I have my very own private beach access. It is only a few steps away. Every villa here has direct access to the beach, which is a glorious expanse of soft, white sand.

I also have my own personal butler! “Don’t worry about unpacking. I will do that for you. You just enjoy and relax,” he says, as I inspect my villa. The furnishings are a luxury version of The Flintstones: Tree trunks and roots that shine like they’ve been dipped in varnish have been used as table legs and supports throughout my villa, emphasizing the enchanting harmony and seamless connection between inside and outside. The absolute highlight is my bathroom: Twice the size of the bedroom, it has a bathtub, two showers – and much of it is open to the skies. I set off for dinner. The sun is just setting and I take the long way across the beach. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are said to have booked Villa Number 11, the biggest villa, for a romantic getaway; Prince William and Kate spent their honeymoon in Villa Number 4, which is the same size and has the same layout as mine. One senses immediately why celebrities in particular feel at home here: There are few other places on earth where you feel so far from civilization – and probably so well shielded from the paparazzi. The resort is surrounded by thick jungle. The 120 staff who are always on hand to fulfill your every wish – within reason – live on the other side of the island. Breakfast times, for example, are supremely flexible, as I discover the next morning after having overslept and realizing to my great joy that I can still order scrambled eggs and toast at what otherwise would count as early lunchtime. “For many years, North Island had a real problem with rats,” explains general manager Bruce Simpson at dinner under a takamaka tree. I am sitting at the table, my feet in the sand, enjoying the fresh fish I witnessed being caught that very afternoon. Rats? I find this hard to believe and the freshly grilled snapper almost drops out of my mouth. Here?! “Yes, a couple of decades ago the entire island was completely infested. The rats arrived on the island through supply ships; they ate the eggs of all the rare bird species and within the space of a few years decimated the indigenous flora and fauna.” That was twenty years ago. Since then, North Island has been free of rats and the ecosystem has recovered tremendously. Nevertheless, the fear lives on. Every delivery to the island is subjected to a meticulous inspection; all goods that land on the island are checked in a special quarantine room before being released for use. The efforts have paid off. Now, birds and plants that are only found here are flourishing again. Like the Seychelles white-eye or the Seychelles blue pigeon.

The company that saved this unique island is Wilderness Safaris, an ecotourism operator with a strong commitment to conservation. It bought North Island in 1997 with the vision of turning it into a luxurious eco resort. Husband-and-wife architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens were commissioned to design the resort; they moved to the island for three years to create this paradise with a sublime interior and exterior design. Takamaka tree trunks were used as supports for the roofs of the eleven villas; the 25-meter pool was built on a hilltop close to the restaurant and offers a stunning view of the bay. Right next to it is the most beautiful gym I have ever worked out in: Pounding the treadmill, you gaze out through the large windows over to the granite cliffs as you jog towards the horizon. The North Island spa is located just a few steps above. Here, you relax on a broad, soft bed while the warm breeze caresses your skin. It’s little wonder that the massages are so remarkably good: Most of the spa therapists come from Bali, explains one of the cheerful ladies with a charming giggle. Next day, I grab one of the bicycles that are parked outside each villa and cycle over to the famous Honeymoon Beach. As I step onto the wave-lashed beach, I am rendered literally speechless: There is not a single other soul to be seen. In the shade of a palm tree, picnic baskets await me, packed with chicken skewers, tacos with guacamole, fresh fruit! So many delicious treats! Soon, a number of small geckoes dart over to join the feast. Wonderful days draw to a close and as I leave, I think to myself: I have to come back!

IssueGG Magazine 04/18
City/CountrySeychelles/ Africa
Photography