Hubert Burda Media

Sey… What?

The pristine hideaway — the honeymoon locale of choice for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — that is Seychelles' North Island will leave you speechless. By Anisha Shah

Sey… What?

The envy of all the islands in the Seychelles archipelago, North Island is where the world's elite escape to — from the heirs to the British throne to the Beckhams and Jolie-Pitts — yet, it is so far removed from glitz and glamour that more often than not, you actually forget that North Island has the distinction of being the world's most expensive private island.
Encapsulated entirely by iridescent, jewel-toned waters of the Indian Ocean that reveal underwater coral skirts decorated by pretty puffer and parrot fish, the far-flung atoll is predominantly a sanctuary of endangered wildlife, flora and fauna. Home to the Noah's Ark conservation programme, more than 90 giant tortoises roam freely around the island, hawksbill and green turtles nest on the beaches and exotic birdlife rule the skies. Wild whimsy and lush vegetation coexist; North Island really has it all.
The utter sense of ease — free from the trappings of everyday life, and prying eyes and ears — is North Island's greatest appeal. The island was initially purchased solely to be a refuge for local endangered wildlife. As such, very few villas were built to allow visitors to experience its wild splendour, keeping footfall and carbon footprint low, while retaining maximum space for that castaway island vibe.
As privacy and seclusion are paramount, the only way onto the island is by pre-approved helicopter or private yacht. From Mahe, the Seychelles mainland, I chose the former.
Perched on the front passenger seat, I watch as an entire island appears, where moments earlier only a faint etched grey line distinguishing horizon from sea filled the panorama. The island lolls lazily in its luminous jade waters surrounded by filigree reefs. From here on in, nothing is just pretty or lovely — it's mind-blowing.
“We'll fly over the island to orienteer you before landing,” my suave South African pilot says through his headset. With that, he steers us over dazzling, cosmic expanses of pristine blonde beach flooded in golden sunlight, cosseting a tropical interior of coconut palms and Takamaka trees. Three granitic-like outcrops shoot upwards through the dense vegetation, nestling a sensationally carved cliff-top pool, secluded coves and 11 oversized villas.
“Welcome to your home for the next week,” my pilot says.
On landing, I'm whisked to my villa, where unimaginable decadence momentarily takes my breath away. Set on its own sparkling beach, the villa itself spans three enormous separate spaces, linked by gnarled bridges and steps handcrafted from natural materials. The main bedroom alone is three times the size of an equivalent villa elsewhere. The bathroom is even larger than the bedroom, is part-covered yet sensually open and is the epitome of haute reverie. A second bedroom with en suite bathroom converts into a movie theatre with plush throws, dim lighting, sweets, popcorn and ice cream.
North Island's signature villas are a Flintstones-meets-uber-luxury-fantasy carved of locally hewn stone, glass and wood. The villas unashamedly boast the highest specifications of modern accoutrements and service, and are outfitted with iPads, flat-screens, in-built surround sound systems, wireless phones…essentially electronic anything and everything.
I'm introduced to my private butler, who will arrange all unpacking, ironing, hanging and anything else I could possibly think of. Similar overwhelming personal touches punctuate my entire retreat, starting with welcome words handwritten on a leaf, chilled bottles of champagne and platters of indulgent treats.
Stepping out of the sun-drenched villa and onto my private beach, it occurred to me to ask: “Where is everyone?”
“You'll see more tortoises than you'll ever see guests here on your island explorations,” he says, handing me keys to a golf buggy, effectively endowing me with total freedom to discover North Island for myself. Sure enough, over the next few days, I explore golden beaches full of turtle nests and marvel at giant tortoises munching on leaves or cooling off under the shade of indigenous trees.
Even then, I quickly learn that a buggy is not the sole thrilling form of transportation here.
North Island actually has its own private yacht, complete with skipper and deckhands, for guests to hop on board any time. This is part of the all-inclusive concept for which the island is world-famed. It's suggested that the best way to overcome jetlag is an afternoon at sea, so swimsuit on, I head to the jetty to board the North Wind.
Slicing through emerald waters that glisten like molten gems, at what-feels-like-rapid knots, is unadulterated exhilaration. We find a spectacularly calm oasis where I jump into a parallel universe loaded with turtles, rays and rainbow fish as my sole companions. Solitude and serenity, I decide, are the true hallmarks of decadence.
Divers really reap rewards at North Island. With a team of Padi-certified trainers, the getaway is able to offer guests unlimited one-to-one sessions so as to gain their qualifications.
While others do just that, I instead indulge in the credentials of the island's worldly wine cellar, relishing in a lazy hazy beach lunch with fine French champagne.
Dining is a debauched delight on the island. The notorious any-menu-any-venue-anytime concept presides over the gastronomic experience as the final word in luxury. It's surprising how quickly one slips into the regal habit of lunching on one secluded beach, dining on another, followed by sunset cocktails on a cliff-top beauty spot.
My butler sets up meals wherever and whenever takes my fancy. The chefs ask me about my preferences and create a bespoke carte du jour, which I intersperse with afternoon tea and elevenses, taking culinary whimsy to a whole new level. The melange of cultural influences in the Seychelles, combined with the abundance on offer from the Indian Ocean and the island's organic richness, makes each meal a feast to stir the senses.
I opt for evening meals either in-villa, fuelled by romantic candlelight and petals, or on my private beach, flanked by burning Tiki torches in the sand. In the stillness of the night, under a spawning star-spangled sky, I feel but a speck on the planet.
Before I turn in for the night, I find my sunken, oversized bathtub embellished with flowers and candles, bubble bath, scented oils and incense. The butler is a permanent in-house fixture, who very quickly becomes indispensible.
There's no real need to ever leave the villa, but when I do, it's to top off my days of indulgence with a treatment at the palatial majestic cliff-top spa. Set amid lush greenery on the highest part of the island, the spa offers uninterrupted ocean views. Unencumbered and uninhibited, it's the essence of timeless relaxation and prevailing peace.
My masseuse kneads out the knots and kinks with little mercy, proving the spa to be a spot of both substance (or perhaps brawn) and beauty. On my way down, I stumble across the most striking infinity pool, carved atop a granitic boulder, overlooking the entire expanse of the west-facing beach and turquoise ocean. Swimming at this height in this secluded paradise, with not a soul in sight, is an intensely plush setting of serenity.
Unfortunately, the worst aspect of any stay at North Island is knowing that I'll likely never again encounter anything quite like it. For a world-traveller, that's a soul-destroying prospect. But what remains positive is the future of North Island. Individually, luxury and nature excel here. But combined, it's an extra-special one-off. Nowhere has such a hefty price tag been matched in equal parts by the feeling of priceless-ness. The two mutually intertwine in this rare paradox of a paradise that leaves you yearning to return.
north-island.com; sunset.co.uk
PHOTOS / WILDERNESS SAFARIS