About ten years ago, a well-known travel company ran a tube poster advert which read, ‘Your life is meaningless and you will die having achieved comparatively little. You need a holiday.’ It was accompanied by a photo of a paradise beach.
Leaving aside the questionable marketing tactic of insulting your target audience, it made a solid point. In terms of life-affirming moments, there are few things to beat a really great holiday. And nowhere is this affirmation more apparent than when you’re winging your way to a tropical holiday destination by helicopter.
The pilot, a mustachioed wing commander type who clearly has one of the best jobs in the world, points out a few sights on the 15 minute flight from the main island. In truth, though, it falls on deaf ears as I’m comfortably ensconced in my own private world, the hum and crackle of air traffic control in my headphones combining with the swoop and whoosh of the helicopter to fulfill all my James Bond fantasies.
On touchdown at Fregate Island Private, we’re greeted by Jared, our personal butler for the next few days. Previous places I’ve stayed which claim to have this service usually fall short of the mark. Often the personal butler turns out to be a chap who carries your bags to the room on the first day and turns your bed down at night. Here, though, Jared is with me every step of the way, remembering everything from my cocktail choice at dinner to precisely where I liked to position my sun lounger on one of the island’s seven talcum-soft white sand beaches. They include secluded Marina Beach, protected by cliffs with calm waters, and Anse Victorin, a ‘secret’ beach reachable by a flight of 100 stairs. Better still, two of the beaches can be exclusively yours, simply by turning a sign at the entrance to ‘occupied.’ Even at its peak, though, Fregate can never accommodate more than 40 guests, so you won’t find yourself fighting for beach space.
This idyllic granite island is dotted with 16 villas, all of them commanding incredible views of the Indian Ocean. These mahogany marvels also boast infinity pools, Jacuzzi, and marble floors, plus superbly comfortable four poster beds.
This is no Maldives-style perfectly manicured resort though. You know the sort of place, staffed with sunglass-cleaning technicians and other nannying types, all set in a destination that seems groomed to an inch of its life. Instead, Fregate is an island that has been sensitively developed, with a strong emphasis on the environment, from rainwater collection to the reintroduction of native flora and fauna. Indeed, a morning spent with their full-time ecologist Greg is a true eye-opener, as he takes us on a tour of this 300-acre island.
It’s almost too much to process – total sensory overload – with the dense undergrowth, punctuated by the whoop and whistle of its inhabitants, making me feel like I have a walk-on part in a Jurassic Park remake. A rustle in the bushes reveals itself to be one of the island’s most famous residents, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise. There are an unbelievable 2,000 of these creatures wandering around the island and they’re like a throwback to the days of the dinosaurs. The chap we’ve spotted is one of the oldest – around 110 years old – and is happy to accept a gift of a slightly squashed banana from my pocket. To complete the picture of untouched paradise, Steve points to a tiny Seychelles Magpie Robin perched in a nearby branch. Given the vibrant colours sported by many of the island’s birds, this little fella wouldn’t have grabbed our attention were it not for the fact that Steve reveals that it’s the seventh rarest bird in the world.
“We recently transferred 59 of these birds to the lsland, as part of a worldwide conservation scheme,” he says. “If the population takes off on Frégate as we expect, it will be the first bird species in the world once classified as Critically Endangered to be removed from Birdlife International’s threatened birds of the world list because of conservation action.”
Everything seems to flourish here – the whole place is like an episode of Gardener’s World on steroids – it feels like a seed planted at daybreak would be higher than my head by sunset.
After our expedition, the Rock Spa proves to be the perfect place to unwind. Situated at one of the highest points on the island, and with a suitably tranquil vibe, it’s home to a skillful set of massage therapists who take delight in revealing just how knotted my back muscles are, before proceeding to pound the tension into submission.
Dinner that night is taken alfresco. Jared and the island’s head chef Gabriel prepare a barbecue on the beach, with our table placed on the sand surrounded by flaming torches and the rustle of hundreds of hermit crabs providing the soundtrack. Lobster is served, alongside beautifully moist chicken and fish which, if it was any fresher, would probably leap from the plate to make a bid for the nearby ocean. We also sample the traditional Seychelles Creole salad, spiked with spring onions grown in the island’s vast gardens, as are most of the fruit and vegetables that are served to guests. Indeed, it’s the sort of place that, were you stranded Castaway-style, you could live quite happily on the island’s bountiful produce.
A five day holiday here is way too short. In truth, with 3km of island to explore, and deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, and other active pursuits easily available, a ten day trip would really hit the spot. No more than that though because, frankly, enjoying this level of luxury should only be savoured in small doses. Otherwise, you may never get on that return helicopter.
For more information, visit Scott Dunn (www.scottdunn.com; 020 8682 5400).