North Island is a small granite island nestled in the clear equatorial waters of the Seychelles. The island is encapsulated by shades of translucent blue sea and sky and framed by pristine beaches. From Beau Vallon Beach, Mahé Island, looking due north and just to the right of Silhouette Island, a tiny bump on the horizon indicates ‘Isle du Nord’ – North Island.
North Island was originally home to thousands of birds that used the Island as a nesting ground. Over time, the birds’ droppings built up on the plateau and this formed thick deposits, known as guano. This substance was widely used as fertiliser and so North Island became a hive of activity from which large quantities of guano were obtained. At this time, the majority of the Seychelles islands were set up as the king’s spice gardens, the produce from which was sold in Port Louis, Isle de France (Mauritius). North Island was one of the richest suppliers to this industry.
For many years, the Seychelles was part of the historical spice trade routes between Europe and India. It was only after the 1840’s, during the abolitionist years, that the islands’ plantations began to change shape. Coconut proved to be far more labour-efficient than other plantations and the Seychelles agricultural industry shifted completely towards copra, the dried out kernel of the coconut, which yields coconut oil when pressed.
Astonishingly, the Beaufond family owned the Island from the early 1800s’ right up until 1976. Following the collapse of the Copra Industry in 1970 the island was sold to a German industrialist. The collapse was mainly due to competition from American sunflower oil producers.
After the Island was sold in the seventies, it remained a private farm but, without farm workers attending to it, it became overgrown. The farm buildings went derelict and the domestic animals ran wild. Humans have only inhabited the Seychelles for the past 250 years, during which time they have had a considerably negative impact on its environment. In recent years, the Seychelles government (as well as many independent environmental groups) came to the realisation that the Seychelles’ wealth lies in its natural beauty and with intelligent investment, the country will prosper.
We bought North Island in support of this philosophy and in recognition of its potential as a Noah’s Ark; a sanctuary where natural habitats could be rehabilitated and where critically endangered Seychelles fauna and flora could be re-introduced and given a place to regenerate. North Island is the most interesting conservation project we have ever undertaken. It is very seldom that the opportunity arises to make such a significant and positive impact on a region, a specific area, its wildlife and surrounding environment.
As well as recreating a natural environment for the creatures of the Island, another challenging element in the North Island Programme, has been the recreation of a natural environment for people.
On this extraordinary island we have built something quite unusual, a lodge, which captures the essence of barefoot luxury with, understated elegance and true sincerity. We have, where possible, utilised materials reaped from the rehabilitation process and in doing so we have paid particular attention to the spirit of North Island, a rare experience synchronised with the environment. The development on North Island is unashamedly aimed at providing the very best in privacy, location, accommodation, services, facilities and experience.
The Island has only eleven guest Villas – exquisitely designed to celebrate nature and offer an authentic home-from-home ambience. The result is a special destination that touches the lives of its guests and inspires them long after they have left.
North Island is an example of a sustainable ecologically sensitive utilisation of a precious natural treasure. A strong focus on the regeneration and restoration of indigenous fauna and flora is one of the Island’s core philosophies. We have embarked on a long homeward-bound journey. It may take many years to complete this journey; however we are confident that it will be very worthwhile.