A real favourite, North Island Lodge is a one off. Located north of Mahe, on the small and granite North Island, on its eastern flank, it has everything one could hope of a premier beach lodge: an interesting history, excellent environmental credentials, well designed accommodation, a wonderful chef, superb management and a world class beach.
Just 30 km from Mahe, and generally accessed by helicopter, North Island was annexed by Alexander Maier of the British East India Company in 1609, and has been owned by the Maier family since 1826. For much of the time, it was a plantation and grew fruit and spices, as well as specialising in the production of guano and fish oil. However, the plantation fell into disuse in the 70s, and foreign (imported) fauna and flora proliferated. In 1981, Mauris Maier embarked on a project to return the island’s habitat back to what it was in the years before its discovery. This involved getting rid of unwanted, harmful species, and reintroducing species – giant turtles, for example – once indigenous to the island. Ongoing, its an ambitious project, and North Island Lodge, which began with the renovation of some old coral block plantation buildings, is an integral part of the scheme.
Designed by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, the lodge is a mixed material build of woods, glass, coral, stone and thatch, and consists of a main piazza and 11 newly refurbished villas. At one end of the beach, is the piazza, which includes a lounge, dining room, swimming pool and wine cellar, whilst the spa is situated upland, to the rear of North Island Lodge. Other shared areas include the boutique, a library and dive centre (all in the old coral blocks) – and, at the opposite end of the beach, Sunset Bar.
The food here – served in the privacy of one’s villa, at the piazza or at Sunset Bar – is truly good, with much of the produce grown locally, the fish fresh, and everything organic. Operating something it calls a unique dining concept (UDC), the lodge consults newly arrived guests as to their favoured foods, and tailors the subsequent cuisine to individual palates.
The villas are extraordinary. Set in its own garden, and approached by way of a wooden walkway, each villa looks out to sea, and includes a separate lounge, a four poster bed, verandah, en-suite bathroom, plunge pool and outdoor showering facilities. The attention to detail is perfect: a member of staff is responsible for the villa, and looks after guests’ needs throughout their stay; the use of floor-to-ceiling glass provides more than enough natural light; the bath is sunken; and the furniture is composed of a mix of slumber seating and design-concious chairs, making for an elegant and comfortable stay.
Activities include scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, biking and fly-fishing.
North Island was purchased with the goal of restoring the unique biodiversity of the Seychelles to the island, by reintroducing endangered endemic species that had become locally extinct or brought to the verge of extinction previously, due to human impact. Recognising the opportunity to contribute and to marry conservation and ecotourism, North Island immediately embraced a comprehensive rehabilitation and conservation plan that was soon dubbed “the Noah’s Ark project.” From the onset, there was, however, no doubt as to the high costs this would involve. The vehicle, chosen by Wilderness Safaris and the initial shareholders, to generate the required
funds was an ecotourism venture to be constructed on the island in an environmentally responsible way.
A. Rat eradication
North Island’s original fauna and flora suffered tremendously after the European black rat came to the island with visiting boats. In September 2005, New Zealand eradication expertise combined with a large-scale poisoning operation, both on the ground as well as by helicopter, finally led to the successful eradication – a huge milestone in our island rehabilitation.
B. Vegetation rehabilitation: changing a plantation back into an indigenous forest
C. (Re)introductions of endangered endemic species
Intrinsic to all work carried out by our Environment Department is the ongoing conservation awareness-raising and environmental education amongst guests and staff, thereby ensuring the implementation of ecotourism in the truest sense.
Contributions to national programmes and databases, by observations and measurements made on North Island by the environment staff themselves, or by assisting conservation partners and by hosting scientific missions, include:
Quantitative recordings of tracks, nest locations, tag resightings (movements), measurements of nesting females and information on nest hatching success of Green and Hawksbill Turtles, gathered during daily monitoring patrols, as partner in the national turtle monitoring programme. Contributions to overseas DNA material studies of turtle populations. Additionally, close cooperation with the resident chelonian expert has ensured successful active conservation interventions such as the transferring of threatened nests and restoration of beach fringe nesting habitat.
After the purchase of the island a range of Environmental Management Plans were developed (i.e. Construction Management Plan, Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Plan, Fire Management Plan, Fishing Management Plan and the Water Conservation Plan) and subsequently implemented up until today to ensure that daily activities are run in an environmentally correct manner.
Guest transport on the island is environmentally friendly: bikes and electricity-powered golf buggies. The introduction of renewable energy on the Island is being explored.