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