Flying into North Island by helicopter from Mahe, a mere 15-minute ride, you can experience breathtaking views of pristine white beaches and clear turquoise waters and, if you’re lucky, spot whales and dolphins. North Island is one of the inner islands of the Seychelles archipelago and only opened to tourists a few years ago. When you land on the fine sand surrounded by swaying palm trees you really feel as if you have arrived!
We were greeted by charming staff, bearing chilled face cloths and homemade lemonade. We were then whisked away in a golf buggy to villa no 5. Apparently Prince Andrew was the last person to have stayed there, so I am now able to say that I have slept in the same bed as Prince Andrew!
There are just 11 self-contained villas on the whole of North Island, which is 460 square meters. Villa no.11 is the most exclusive, the most remote and also the most expensive of the villas, but to be honest I certainly didn’t feel remotely cramped or overlooked as the villas are all spacious, secluded and cleverly built. There is a central dining room, with a wine cellar (albeit with a rather disappointing selection of wines-apparently they were waiting for the ship to come in with new stock), a lounge, library, gym (I have to confess that this was not ventured into) a 45m long elevated swimming pool, a spa, plus a PADI dive centre. There were also mountain bikes for exploring the island, but the thought of cycling uphill through sand in the heat was rather too energetic for my liking.
Apart from a spacious and sumptuous bedroom with ocean views, we had a large bathroom, with a sunken bath big enough to fit two in. My favourite piece of furniture in the bathroom was a large wicker lounger with a squishy cushion covered in white fluffy towelling. After a hot bath or outdoor shower sinking onto this was what I can only imagine would be like sinking into a large marshmallow.
The round private plunge pool on our deck was perfect for wallowing in at the end of the day with a large G & T looking out over scenic ocean views. Alternatively, there was a day bed, which was perfect for an afternoon snooze. For those guests who had children or who wanted an office (heaven forbid on holiday), there was another bedroom, with twin beds which could be set up according to one’s needs. We put it to good use as our in-villa spa, and experienced reflexology and aromatherapy massage treatments which were truly divine.
The villas have a TV that can be wheeled out, a DVD player with an average selection of DVDs, plus CDs. Mobile phones work on parts of the island, plus internet connection is possible from the villas. All this is fairly discreet and if you want to escape from modern technology and the office, this is certainly the place to do it.
In the villa area was also a kitchenette with a fridge packed full of alcohol plus a delicious variety of sorbets and ice creams, which were topped up every day according to your preference. Flavours varied from coconut to guava to passion fruit-all grown on the island. There were also homemade crisps and chocolate chip cookies for when you were feeling a bit peckish.
For me, the best part about North Island was being able to eat what you wanted, when you wanted, and where you wanted. I have an absolute aversion to buffets. For example when you arrive at 09:50, with breakfast finishing at 10:00 and you are expected to eat the only remaining few warm morsels left, it is not amusing. One spends one’s life having to stick to office hours and routines, so on holiday it is great to do what you feel like when you wake up in the morning and not have to rush. The meal set up was aided considerably by the fact that each villa has its own private butler, with ours being called Brighton. He was from Zimbabwe and was incredibly efficient but also very humble and wasn’t remotely intrusive. He was extremely flexible and was put to the test of setting up meals in various parts of the island. Also, the rest of the staff on the island were charming and nothing was too much trouble.
We shared our villa with a giant tortoise, who lived underneath and seemed completely unperturbed by our presence and quite happily pottered around doing its own thing. There are several tortoises who roam freely around the island. Apart from tortoises, North Island has an ongoing wildlife conservation programme and rare indigenous plants are being reintroduced. To get around, we were given our own golf buggy which was great to have the freedom to explore the island, although I have a feeling that the speed limit had been set/reduced as they weren’t able to go quite as fast as the girl racer in me would have liked and went particularly slowly uphill.
On the island are four main beaches, one being in front of the villas and main dining area, one being by where the helicopters land and then on the other side of the island from the accommodation were two other beaches. One was called honeymoon beach which could be booked off for private picnics and when I say picnics, to be honest it was the full works, with the waiters carting hampers over the rocks full of fresh produce and chilled wine in large ice buckets. They set it all up, leaving you in complete privacy until you were ready to leave.
The great thing about North Island is that you can be as sociable or as unsociable as you wish. Every evening before dinner there are drinks around the bar in the main dining area or on the sundowner beach, (which is the fourth beach), where most of the guests tended to congregate in the evenings. One evening whilst enjoying a local cocktail watching the sun go down, when all the other guests had left, a turtle came ashore and started looking for a place to bury her eggs, which was a wonderful and memorable sight.
The dive centre is extremely well equipped with all the latest kit and instructors who filled you with confidence, which from my experience is not always the case. The visibility was fairly good and seeing turtles not to mention sharks (small ones) were the highlights of my dive.
On our last morning we were about to head off to the helipad, when the resident ecologist mentioned that some turtles eggs had hatched in the night and there was one poor turtle who hadn’t made it to the ocean. Did we want to go and help release it? There was obviously no question that we could miss this opportunity. With turtles you can’t just put them in the water, as they need to remember their journey down the beach into the ocean as all female turtles come back to the exact spot where they were born to lay their own eggs. Watching this poor little creature struggle down along the sand was quite painful to watch, but as soon as it hit the water it was off and looked exactly like a wind up toy. Apparently they swim furiously for several days until they reach deep water and hope that they are not taken by a predator along the way. What a lovely sight to end our stay on North Island.
But the fun didn’t end there as rather than returning by helicopter we took the option of going back by boat and managed to catch several barracuda along the way.
Would I return there? I’d be on the plane tomorrow if I won the lottery!