What is it? A granitic island located just 10 minutes by helicopter from Mahe, in the Seychelles, picture perfect North Island (above) has already earned a reputation as a celebrity hideaway. Britain's Prince William and his wife, Catherine, honeymooned here, as did actress Salma Hayek; David and Victoria Beckham celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary sequestered in one of only 11 palatial villas, and Liz Hurley, Jennifer Aniston, Pierce Brosnan and J.K. Rowling have all enjoyed its understated luxury. What sets North Island apart from other glamorous locales is that it is in the middle of an ambitious 40-year restoration that will leave it as a virtual Garden of Eden.
What do you mean? Once a prosperous spice and coconut plantation, North Island was all but abandoned by its German industrialist former owner after the copra (coconut meat) market crashed. Wilderness Safaris bought the island in 1997, removing non-indigenous species, including more than two million rats, a herd of domesticated dairy cows and casuarina trees, which were recycled to build the villas. They also reintroduced 50 giant tortoises, black paradise flycatchers and Seychelles magpie-robins, among many other original residents, and actively protect shark species and fruit bats while encouraging nesting green turtles. In fact, every aspect of the island, apart from the diesel generator power, has a green leaning. Weekly seminars take place in the island library, with conservation staff explaining how the resort is working towards its eventual aim: the restoration of the island to its natural state of 200 years ago.
Does this worthiness mean guests do without the luxury? Not in the slightest; accommodation is in one of 10 450-square-metre beachfront "Presidential villas" (right) that are luxurious yet rustic - think Robinson Crusoe meets Andre Fu. Villas can be configured with two bedrooms or as one master with an enclosed lounge, and each boasts an expansive sun deck, an oversized whirlpool, a four-man bathtub and no less than three outdoor showers. The sprawling Villa North Island, at the end of the main beach, acts as the presidential suite.
So what's there to do? Most activities on North Island are covered by the hefty tariff. A resident dive team offers Padi courses or excursions to the many dive sites nearby, as well as snorkelling, deep-sea fishing and kayaking. Each villa has its own golf buggy for the forest trail across the island to West Beach bar, a secluded watering hole where private barbecues take place under the stars, or to picnics served by butlers on Honeymoon Beach, which is popular with nesting turtles. The pint-sized spa complex, perched on a cliff overlooking the main beach, offers wellness with staggering views.
How about dining? There are no menus on the island; questionnaires sent out to guests before they arrive help the kitchen plan ahead but the culinary team is ready to meet virtually all requirements, with butlers serving meals anywhere on the island at any time. While most guests prefer to dine in their villas or on the beach, the main restaurant (below) features al-fresco seating on a massive swath of white sand, as well as access to one of the best wine cellars in the Seychelles. Languorous champagne breakfasts under the shade of ancient takamaka trees are especially indulgent.
So what's the damage? A night in a Presidential villa starts from €1,942 (HK$19,645) per person per night in low season. Expect to pay more than €3,000 per person per night for the Villa North Island. The tariff does not include spa treatments or transport to the island by private boat charter or with the Seychelles' sole helicopter operator, flights with which start at €750 each way for up to four guests.
For more details, visit www.north-island.com