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An autumn escape to Lombardy Cottage

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Fregate Island Private

 

Have you ever been somewhere so unreal and beautiful, that after the trip was over you wondered if it was all a dream? If we didn’t have the photographic evidence of me and Tim being whisked away to a remote private island in a helicopter, or the video of a giant Alabra tortoise chasing me down for my iPhone that he thought was starfruit, or the pictures of floating in the clearest water we’ve ever seen, we just might have thought it truly was all a dream. This is Fregate Island Private.

 

Fregate Island Private

50 shades of blue

Where is Fregate Island?

Seeing as only a measly 2% of the Seychelles foreign visitors are Americans each year, we’d be willing to bet you couldn’t find the Seychelles on a map. Or you might not have even known it’s a country. And that’s okay – I’ll let you in on a secret; we probably hadn’t heard of this island nation either until we visited the Maldives back in 2012.

After all, Seychelles – as this Indian Ocean island nation is now called – is a relatively new country. It was only discovered 300 years ago. Pirates were the first inhabitants in the 17th century and then it changed hands between the French and British up until Seychelles gained its independence and officially became its own independent nation in 1976.

Seychelles sits about 1000 miles off the coast of Kenya and northeast of Madagascar, about 4° south of the Equator. It’s made up of 115 islands, one of which is Fregate Island.

ZilAir Scenic Helicopter Flight Mahé, Seychelles

Me and Tim on a helicopter flight to Fregate Island Private with ZilAir

Located 35 miles and just a 20-minute helicopter flight from the Seychelles’ capital, Fregate Island is the most remote of the Seychelles Granitic Inner Islands. The island was named for the abundance of frigate birds found there on an expedition by French explorer Lazare Picault in 1744.

Fregate Island Private

Fregate House

The Resort

When French explorers landed in Seychelles in the 18th century, they found a positively primitive group of islands inhabited by prehistoric trees, exotic birds and giant tortoises that would shrink back in to their shells. If there was a true eden on Earth, Seychelles was it.

Seychelles are the only mid-ocean granitic islands on Earth. Once part of Gondwanaland, the islands are the scraps that broke off and continued to drift when India broke off the super continent. That’s basically a fancy way of saying that Seychelles are truly unique with a plethora of flora and fauna found no where else on Earth.

Up until the 1970s, the primary economy of Seychelles was plantations and more than a third of the island’s population was employed by plantations. The first colonists, the French and their slaves, grew spices like cinnamon, chili peppers and cloves. Cotton and sugarcane would follow, then eventually coconut plantations even later.

The indigenous flora were either cut down or choked out by invasive species to create the plantations. Three hundred years of human settlement has taken its course on these islands, and some species have gone extinct while others are in perilous danger of doing so.

With the opening of the international airport on Mahé in 1972, Seychelles main economy began to change from plantations to tourism. And in the case of Fregate Private Island, tourism is a very good thing.

Opened as a passion project as a way to fund the conservation and restoration of Fregate’s native habitat, Fregate Island Private is otherwise uninhabited aside from the resort with 16 luxury villas that can accommodate an exclusive 79 guests.

Fregate Island Private

One experience you can have is picking your veggies and herbs with the chef, then dining in the greenhouse

The island is basically self-sustaining. The two restaurants are supplied with the fresh catch, native fruits and spices that grow on Fregate and more than 50 other types of fruits and veggies that are grown in the island’s greenhouses – the excess is even sold to other hotels on the main islands. There’s a water plant and generators for electricity. A medical clinic serves the 150 staff that call the island home, along with any guests that may need it during their stay. A helipad and a dirt runway serve the Fregate Airport, and there’s a harbor where boats are controlled to ensure Fregate remains pest free.

Fregate Island Private

Our home, Villa 9, on Fregate Island Private

The Villas

As the helicopter gently sets down on the helipad, a team of staff including your personal butler is already waving and waiting with refreshing towels and cool drinks. And before you know it, you’re being whisked off in the golf cart that will be your vehicle for getting around Fregate Island to your villa.

There are 16 villas all spaced far enough apart that you feel like you’re on an island all your own. In fact, aside from when we went to the restaurant for breakfast or dinner, we actually never saw the other guests despite all the villas being full.

Once you step foot in your private pool villa, you start to understand why. It’s a place you don’t want, or even need to leave.

Fregate Island Private

Our dining room in our private pool residence and welcome coconuts

A central indoor dining and entry separates the two main areas of the one bedroom private pool residences, which can accommodate two adults and two children. Our villa was tucked in to the lush jungle, with views from the sliding glass walls and terrace of the azure ocean and other islands like Praslin and La Digue dotting the horizon.

Fregate Island Private

Our bedroom in our private pool residence

On one side, the bedroom with king size bed draped in mosquito netting sits in front of a bathroom with separate toilet room, huge double sink vanity, a bath big enough for two, indoor walk-in shower and an outdoor shower that leads right in to the indoor shower. There’s a tv with 150 channels, though we never even turned a tv on while at Fregate Island Private.

Fregate Island Private

Our living room in our private pool residence

The cozy living room sits on the other side of the house, with another small bathroom and outdoor shower. The mini bar is fully stocked with sodas, water, beer and rums made locally at the Takamaka Rum Distilleryon Mahé. Mix up some rum cocktails, or take the bottles of white and coco rum home – they’re your gift. And for the wine lovers, there’s a dual climate controlled wine fridge stocked with wine from France, Italy, Argentina and South Africa. Snacks like cookies, brownies and wasabi nuts are restocked daily. Plus, there’s a Nespresso and tea making supplies.

Fregate Island Private

Each residence has its own huge infinity pool and jacuzzi

The massive terrace has the largest personal infinity pool we’ve ever had, and we’ve stayed at quite a few private pool villas around the world. A separate jacuzzi, which can be enjoyed hot or pool temperature sits at the edge of the infinity pool. An outdoor daybed sits like a perch over the swaying coconut palms on one side, and an outdoor dining gazebo on the other.

Each guest also receives a flashlight, which definitely comes in handy for walking down the steps to the restaurant at night.

On Fregate Island Private, there’s no need for villa keys and you won’t receive one. Though the sliding glass doors all do lock if you feel more comfortable locking yourself in at night. There is a safe in the villa for securing any valuables that you like. But the only intruders you’ll experience are the occasional giant millipede (also an endangered species, but totally harmless) that worms his way in through the thatched Balinese roofs or the geckos.

Fregate Island Private

A magical buggy fairy seemed to always appear and back our buggy in no matter where we parked

Your villa comes with your own buggy to get around the island. We appreciated that a magical buggy fairy seemed to appear everywhere to turn the buggy around so that we never had to back out, plug it in to charge it up and leave cold bottles of water and fresh flowers in the cup holders.

Fregate Island Private

The Seychellois volley ball team ready for a match

Experiences

We’ve stayed on a number of private islands now, and there isn’t honestly a lot to do beyond beach, diving or snorkeling and water sports like kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. That couldn’t be farther from the case on Fregate Island Private.

We stayed four days and left wishing we had more time. Between diving and all the on land activities, we kept ourselves quite busy and still didn’t manage to do it all.

Fregate Island Private

Re-enacting the Nat Geo giant tortoise chase video with one of Fregate’s Giant Aldabra Tortoises

Meet James

Fregate Island is without-a-doubt one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been. But as gorgeous as the beaches are, it was the thousands of Giant Aldabra Tortoises that roam freely about the island that stole our hearts.

They’re everywhere, even having to be chased off the the grass runway when small planes land. They come in every size from ones small enough you could probably pick them up to the 150 year old giants easily standing 3-feet tall.

Most comically pull their heads and limbs in to their shell at even the sight of you that you can’t help but smile. Many show their displeasure at your presence with a hiss like an angry cat. Others just couldn’t care less that you’re there and continue ambling on by, munching on the grass or even getting busy with the lady tortoises.

But there are a few friendly giants. James, one of the oldest and largest, is known to be friendly. And he’s smart, regularly hanging out near the Plantation House where he knows guests are sure to stop by and feed him some starfruit. He even has his own box stocked with starfruit and labeled “Goodies for James.”

He does disappear on walkabouts, sometimes up to a month at a time. James was probably on one of his walkabouts, because we didn’t get to meet him during our four days on Fregate. But he also has some friendly friends that are more than happy to let you give them a pat on the head.

We’re not sure of the name of the old fella we met, but he certainly loved starfruit. After he ate three of four, he was convinced my gold iPhone was a piece of starfruit I was holding out on feeding him. A hilariously slow-motion pursuit ensued, giving me the opportunity to pose for a re-enactment of the National Geographic video of a mad mating Giant Aldabra Tortoise chasing the photographer in the slowest pursuit ever.

Fregate Island Private Seychelles

Me and Tim having a sunset picnic on the top of Mount Signal on Fregate Island Private

One of our favorite on land activities, which I admittedly did a bit of moaning and groaning about, was a sunset hike up to Fregate Island’s high point. Mount Signal sits at 410 feet and is perfectly positioned for watching the sun kiss the sea.

Fregate Island Private

Hiking up Mount Signal

If you drive your buggy to the trail head, it’s only a 20 minute walk gently sloping upward. Though you’ll definitely want proper shoes as the rocks are uneven and not suitable for flip-flops. Our butler schlepped a picnic basket and cooler up there, so we could enjoy icy-cold Seychelles beer and a picnic with sushi, tomato and mozzarella skewers, salmon on cucumbers, prosciutto wrapped melon and hand cut savory banana chips.

From this side, none of the resort is within view. Mahé, on a clear evening, looms on the horizon and the waves crash into the stretch of powdery white sand below. The orange-headed fruit bats flap their massive wings and as the giant tortoises that find their way even all the way up here rustle in the bush, it feels like you’re in a scene in Jurassic Park.

Fregate Island Private

You can have breakfast or lunch in the tree house 

Tree houses aren’t just for kids. At least, not at Fregate Island Private.

A tree house sits among the tangled branches of one of the island’s oldest and largest banyan trees. Here the only sounds are the jungle birds chirping, like the fairy terns, and the occasional plonk of a coconut falling from a palm.

Fregate Island Private

Lunch in a tree house

Your butler brings an entire meal of whatever you’ve ordered and raises it up in to the tree house with a dumbwaiter.

Fairy tern feeding a chick

We watched a mom Fairy Tern feed her chick fish

Oddly, in a tree house surrounded by birds is one of the few places where the birds don’t start to get bold while not-so-patiently waiting for you to share a bit of whatever you have to eat. Instead, we sat peacefully watching as mother fairy terns returned to feed their fuzzy chicks that hadn’t yet learned to fly fish.

The air even feels different in the tree house. Cooler. Supposedly the banyan trees give off so much oxygen that they do create a noticeable temperature change around them.

Fregate Island Private

A surf and turf feast is prepared by our own private chef under the stars

A Private Dinner on the Beach or Yacht Club

You can dine just about anywhere on Fregate Island Private, and a popular experience is a candle and torch lit dinner on the beach. Ours was planned for the one night that we had a bit of storm, so it was set up for us at the Yacht Club just next to the Marina Beach.

Candles in bamboo, an invasive species that has to be chopped, lit the pathway leading to just one candlelit table for us to dine under the stars.

A private chef grilled surf and turf right there, the shellfish and fish all freshly caught earlier that day, as we sipped a rosé from South Africa and dined on hearts of palm salad. Your butler can even arrange a fishing excursion and the chef will prepare your very own catch, if you like.

Diving at Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Me and Tim diving with a Hawksbill sea turtle

Diving

Fregate Island Private is surrounded by a reef and there are at least nine different dive sites all within 15 minutes of Fregate’s marina. The dive center, a world-class PADI center that also offers certifications, only takes divers out in small groups of two at a time.

Like at Deep Water Cay and Two Seasons Coron Island, we headed out on a very comfortable dive boat and as still fairly new divers, continued to get attention from the dive master that help us improve our skill levels. We planned to dive a site at Little Fregate, a small island off the west side of Fregate, though the water was too choppy on that side from a storm that had blown through. Instead, we dove the reef directly in front of Anse Bambous and La Cour Beach.

Diving at Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

A batfish swims above the bleached coral

Diving at Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Bleached coral isn’t dead, but it is in severe jeopardy of dying if sea temperatures continue to rise

Seychelles has some of the top named dive sites in the world, though you should realize that Seychelles experienced severe coral bleaching in 1998 from El Niño leaving 97% of some areas bleached. The reefs had started to make a comeback, though since 2016 the islands and the reefs are in jeopardy again from just as severe bleaching. Despite these bleaching events, the reef and other underwater granite rocks are teeming with sea life.

Diving at Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

A Hawksbill sea turtle swims with us

In fact, the underwater world has more fish of all kinds than we’ve seen diving or snorkeling anywhere yet. Hawksbill sea turtles seemed unbothered by us as they swam alongside us.

Fregate Island Private

A 1-month old baby Giant Aldabra Tortoise

Adopt a Baby Giant Aldabra Tortoise

Fregate was once left nearly stripped of its native trees during the plantation era and the island’s Giant Aldabra Tortoise population dwindled to just 150 from loss of habitat and human intervention. With the re-introduction of native trees and the help of Fregate’s ecologists, the population has grown from 150 to over 2200 in just 25 years.

Mating Giant Aldabra Tortoises

Caught these two making baby tortoises

The tortoises freely roam and mate. Though the tortoises are extremely protected from poachers and have no predators on Fregate, the babies still are very vunerable. As babies, their shells are very soft and birds can be predators since they can break apart the shell with their beaks and eat the tortoise.

Thankfully, Fregate is rodent free unlike the Galapagos, where rats attacking the babies and eating the eggs before they even have a chance to hatch endangers the repopulation of the Galapagos Giant Tortoise. But they face other dangers as young tortoises in the wild, like flipping on their backs and not be able to turn themselves back over.

Ecologists and staff bring babies found on Fregate to the Baby Tortoise Nursery, where they can get all the proper nutrition to grow into big, strong adults and be protected from dangers they face. You can adopt a giant baby tortoise, name it, mark its shell for tracking purposes and come back maybe a year or two later to look for the released tortoise in the forest.

Seychelles giant millipede

It may not seem like it with how many there are, but the Seychelles Giant Millipede is an endangered species

Nature Walks and Stargazing

We just didn’t have time for a nature walk with the ecologists with so many other activities available to do on the island, though our butler ensured we saw as many of Fregate’s species as we could find. The island is a true bird lover’s paradise and you can spot the rare Seychelles Magpie Robin, brought back from the brink of extinction.

Seychelles Magpie Robin

The ecologists tag Seychelles Magpie Robin for tracking

Thirty years ago, only 14 remained making it the second rarest bird in the world. Like the Giant Aldabra Tortoise, the team at Fregate has worked to repopulate the species and today around 150 are thriving on Fregate and four other Seychelles islands.

Pair of Seychelles Fairy Terns

A pair of Seychelles Fairy Terns

Beautiful white Seychelles Fairy Terns fly back and forth from the forest to the water, catching fish for their chicks. They don’t build nests, instead laying just one egg on various branches. The chicks will stay on the branch once they hatch waiting for their mom to bring them fish until they learn to fly.

Seychelles Fruit Bat

Seychelles Fruit Bat

The Seychelles fruit bat is abundant throughout the Seychelles and there are a few trees in particular where large populations take up residence on Fregate.

Being on an island with just a smattering of buildings, there’s essentially no light pollution. Fregate is one of the most beautiful places we’ve been for stargazing and there are programs available for aspiring astronomers or night-sky nerds like us.

Fregate Island Private

The Rock Spa welcomes all guests with a 1-hour massage

Rock Spa

One of the world’s top luxury private island resorts wouldn’t be complete without a spa and all guests receive a 1-hour massage complimentary.

The spa uses all local Seychelles products made with the abundance of local plants known for their healing and rejuvenating powers. You’re also welcomed with a refreshing beverage like an iced tea made with the lemongrass found on the islands.

A full menu of treatments and services are available, though we only took advantage of our 1-hour full body couples massage. And it was divine.

There’s also a yoga instructor in house and yoga sessions are available daily. The spa facility has an air-conditioned gym, and a personal trainer is available for guests who would like one.

Beaches

You simply can’t come to Seychelles and not experience the postcard perfect beaches. Fregate Island Private’s own Anse Victorin was named the world’s most beautiful beach by the Times UK. Though, we’d say that all seven of Fregate’s beaches are serious contenders for the title.

Only one of Fregate’s beaches has a bar and restaurant, though we loved that every beach has a cooler that is stocked daily with ice cold water and soft drinks. There’s also towels available at every beach and your butler can arrange a beach picnic for lunch. Most of the beaches all have a phone to be able to call your butler should you need, and the ones that currently don’t have plans for phones to be installed soon.

Anse Victorin, Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Anse Victorin was named the world’s most beautiful beach by Times UK

Anse Victorin

Once named the world’s most beautiful beach by the Times UK, Anse Victorin sits at the north-western end of the island and is a perfect spot for watching sunset. You reach it from 152 stairs leading down through the forest, so if you do go for sunset you’ll want to bring one of the flashlights for the climb back up.

The white beach and coconut palms turn golden as the sun begins its descent in to the sea. Granite boulders, polished smooth from the sea and wind over millions of years, are fragments tossed ashore from the ancient supercontinent Gondwanaland. It stretches nearly a quarter mile and is almost always deserted.

Anse Macquereau, Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Can you spot us and the daybed?

Anse Macquereau

Just next door to Anse Victorin, Anse Macquereau is a miniature version perfect for two. Just turn the sign at the top of the 140 steps leading down to “beach in use” and it becomes your very own private beach on Fregate Private Island. A sun bed big enough for two sits on a rock platform just above the beach since the tides can make this beach almost entirely disappear.

Anse Bambous, Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Even Anse Bambous is typically deserted

Anse Bambous and La Cour Beach 

Stairs lead down from Fregate House to the two resort pools and the main beach, which has a beach bar and restaurant. Here the surf is the most gentle, lapping at the long stretch of sandy beach and you can snorkel directly from the beach on the massive reef. The Pirate’s Bar has a lovely view and is a great place to enjoy an umbrella drink.

Anse Bambous and La Cour Beach are technically one long beach spanning almost the entire eastern side of the island. A few of the villas do have stairs leading down to the beach.

Grand Anse, Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Sea turtle lay eggs on Grand Anse and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a hatchling making their way to the ocean

Grand Anse

Grand Anse is one of Fregate’s most wild beaches. It’s on the west side of the island and waves crash on the shore. The beach itself is a mixture of course sand, coral and shells that have been tossed ashore. The five varieties of sea turtles that live in the waters around Fregate often come ashore even during the day and the ecologists keep an eye on the nests they lay here. If you’re lucky, you might even see the hatchlings making their way in to the sea.

Grand Anse and the Marina Beach are the only beaches you can drive your buggy all the way to.

Anse Parc, Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Anse Parc is a small beach reached from the walking trail

Anse Parc

Anse Parc is a small beach on the south-eastern part of the island that is the most remote of Fregate’s seven beaches. To reach it, you need to follow the walking trails toward Pirate’s Rock and continue down to the beach.

You can get a beautiful birds-eye view of it from the viewing platform on the way to the Banyan Hill Estate.

Marina Beach, Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

Marina Beach is sheltered from the waves

Marina Beach

The Marina Beach is almost like a natural swimming pool, protected entirely from the waves and current by a rock break. It’s also located right next to the kid’s club, making it the shallow beach a great place for families to play in the ocean.

The Verdict

While a stay at Fregate Island Private comes with a hefty price tag that can easily exceed $20,000 for a few days, it’s an entire experience unlike anything else on Earth. Celebrities (Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Pierce Brosnan have all been guests) and the ultra-wealthy won’t even bat an eye, but if you fall in to the need-to-save-up category then Fregate Island Private is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience worth saving up for.

Much of the price of the stay actually goes to all the conservation efforts happening on Fregate, so you can also feel good that your holiday is helping endangered species and the environment.