#2: How the su­per-rich can save a species

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

It’s like some­thing out of a hor­ror movie: I’m on a tiny is­land near the equa­tor; it’s the dead of night and the coiled in­sects I had ear­lier seen sleep­ing on tree trunks have awo­ken and dropped to the ground. All around me, one mil­lion or so blind, 400-legged Sey­chelles gi­ant mil­li­pedes (the world’s big­gest) search for de­tri­tus to de­vour.

I’m not happy, but Janske, the bi­ol­o­gist ac­com­pa­ny­ing me on my walk through the un­kempt for­est of Fre­gate Is­land Pri­vate re­sort, is de­lighted. “They’re waste-dis­posal ex­perts which con­sume dead veg­e­ta­tion and fer­tilise the is­land by defe­cat­ing ev­ery­where.”

“Won­der­ful,” I re­ply, as I step on one – its shell pops like a burst­ing crisp packet and I re­gret wear­ing flip-flops. Janske pro­vides com­fort: “Oth­ers will eat its re­mains, don’t worry; noth­ing goes to waste here.”

Though hav­ing can­ni­bal­is­tic neigh­bours isn’t or­di­nar­ily a selling point, it’s the kind of thing guests at Fre­gate Is­land Pri­vate like to hear. Part of the Oetker Col­lec­tion, this Monaco-sized pri­vate-is­land re­sort in the Sey­chelles fea­tures just 16 guest vil­las and a beach for ev­ery day of the week. But that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the main draw; with ac­com­mo­da­tion start­ing at €3,250 (£2,890) per night, the clien­tele could af­ford to stay any­where – so why here? It’s the en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives at Fre­gate that of­fer a true point of dis­tinc­tion.

A case in point comes the next day. My but­ler has pre­pared a pic­nic on a de­serted beach. As I am eat­ing, two per­plexed birds hop over for a look. I main­tain a milky Ir­ish pal­lor so as­sume it’s be­cause they’ve never seen some­thing so pale, but my but­ler puts me right. They are in­quis­i­tive mag­pie robins, one of the rarest birds in the world. In the Eight­ies there were just 12, all on Fre­gate. In­ten­sive con­ser­va­tion ef­forts mean there are now about 300. It’s in­cred­i­bly mov­ing to come eye-to-beak with a cu­ri­ous crea­ture that was al­most lost for­ever and still de­pends on us for its sur­vival.

I en­counter wildlife ev­ery­where I go. Some 4,000 gi­ant Aldabra tor­toises roam the is­land, while tur­tle sight­ings are “guar­an­teed” in De­cem­ber, says Janske. Rare plants thrive through­out, and or­ganic gar­dens pro­vide 65 per cent of the re­sort’s fruit and veg­eta­bles.

In its raw state the pro­duce is su­perb, so it’s sur­pris­ing that din­ing at Fre­gate is so dis­ap­point­ing. Dishes feel am­a­teur­ish and in­gre­di­ents are used in­ef­fec­tively. I share my crit­i­cism with Fre­gate’s new Ital­ian man­ager Bar­bara, who says it’s some­thing she’s ad­dress­ing.

Hope­fully she’ll find suc­cess, be­cause Fre­gate is other­wise won­der­ful and its bio­di­ver­sity re­mark­able. By the end of my stay I am happy to pick up a scur­ry­ing mil­li­pede, non­cha­lant when faced with a (harm­less) snake slith­er­ing up a gnarled tree, and thrilled to spot the en­demic Fre­gate beetle.

Some hote­liers make spu­ri­ous sus­tain­abil­ity claims while fly­ing in bot­tled wa­ter from Fiji, but in the Sey­chelles that com­mit­ment seems more sin­cere – ri­val re­sorts North Is­land and Cou­sine Is­land also do com­mend­able con­ser­va­tion work – and I’m more im­pressed by Fre­gate’s

Green liv­ing: one of Fre­gate’s 16 vil­las

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