Wildly beautiful and naturally private, Emma Oxley escapes to Fregate Island Private in the Seychelles….
I find it difficult to imagine Fregate Island Private existing without me; it seemed to exist only for me when I was there. On this diminutive Galapagos of the Seychelles, delightful people are falling over themselves to make you happy. Sometimes you can’t even see them trying to make you happy. You trip down 100 steps to a secluded beach and there’s an ice box with fresh drinks, rolled up towels on a day bed and a stretch of empty white sand.
Irresistibly tempting with a frisson of adventure, you can’t quite believe you’re allowed to enjoy this much natural beauty all alone, with a giant tortoise lodged in the shrubs and an eagle ray floating in the shallows. But if after cavorting in the soft cloud of pale blue waves you get a little peckish, reach for the phone secreted in a tropical bush and soon enough, your Private Assistant will arrive with a beaming smile, white linen and lunch.
Our Private Assistant was called Bonnie and he managed a perfect balance of relaxed charm suited to the island setting, and efficient professionalism in keeping with the price. As we luxuriated with a crushed ice cocktail enjoying our own palm-fringed Indian Ocean cove, Bonnie enquired where we might like dinner – a secluded spot by the sea, a lobster barbecue on our villa deck or Fregate House Restaurant with moonlight mirrored on the beach below? This might be preceded by high tea on a clifftop, on a boat, or in the leafy fronds of a 30 foot banyan tree.
Fregate Dining Private means you can dine anywhere you like on the island, with food and drinks included, making it a pleasure to use your imagination. Though you may have the sand beneath your toes, with hermit crabs enjoying a shell swapping party around you, the service will be perfect, the Chablis chilled and the cuisine ambitiously sophisticated.
Most of the produce, including all water, is collected or cultivated from the island and ocean, seeming to give ingredients a fourth dimension in flavour. One morning, I strolled through the green acres plucking and tasting the many varieties of basil and mint, when Bonnie arrived out of nowhere with a basket. Invited to fill it, I duly tossed in lemon grass, ginger, squash, kale and cos; Bonnie sped off with my harvest and at lunchtime, I found it transformed into a delicious, zesty salad.
Activities were included too. On our first day, we were ushered to the Rock Spa for a treatment to bring us down to earth. There was deep sea fishing that didn’t seem very sporting given the easy haul, and diving over coral gardens amidst yellow clouds of unicorn fish and the odd hawksbill turtles.
You have a buggy to zip about the paths that criss-cross the island. Tanya heads a team of ecologists, and happily accompanies guests to explore the many rainforest trails, revealing such mysteries as cashew nuts being poisonous until roasted twice (and you wonder what tragedies preceded that discovery). A myriad of rare and curious birds are at your fingertips yet quick to flee, including the Seychelles Magpie Robin which they’ve nurtured from just fourteen birds to healthy hundreds. Meanwhile, the 2,000 giant Aldabra tortoises place themselves solidly all over the island, in the middle of the buggy paths, on the helipad, and mating noisily without a by-your-leave.
The island is named for the Fregate bird which flew away when its habitat was destroyed by the 18th century coconut and bamboo planters. Tanya talks with an optimistic glow, explaining the island’s real objective is conservation. To date, they have replanted 100,000 indigenous trees so now she occasionally sights the sea bird circling nearby. ‘‘When the Fregate returns, the island will truly be considered a success.’’
The Villa Residences are utterly sympathetic with the surroundings, yet justify the price tag, competently delivering the luxury that funds the forest restoration project. On an island the size of Monaco, it is a surprise to find there are only 17 villas. Ceilings are made of ylang ylang palms, and soft teak beneath your feet keeps you forever in touch with nature. An outdoor shower has ferns peeping out of the rock walls and giant fruit bats soar above you. Subtle indulgences include crisp linen, muslin-enshrouded four poster beds, Wi-Fi and an infinity pool, though it sounds spoilt to include it under subtleties – it does cascade with natural ease into jungle foliage.
I feel like some part of me was left behind on that idyllic dot in the Seychelles. The wildly beautiful surroundings draw you in, dissolving the world about you. For a few days, your life is a horizon of clear blue sea, a nest of fresh lush rainforest filled with content creatures. I wake up in town quite disorientated, no morning yoga session by the yucca palms, while charming people prepare my papaya that dropped off a tree this morning. I can’t believe someone else is doing that instead of me.
Visiting Fregate Island Private
From 3,100 Euros for a Private Pool Residence with your own buggy to zip about the island and a Private Assistant at your beck and call, including all dining anywhere, drinks, spa and activities. From Mahé, it is a ten minute helicopter ride; alternatively if you have your own Twin Otter or Cessna, the island has its own licensed air strip.