Cast away: five island paradises
Moyenne, a nearly deserted island in the Seychelles, does not allow overnight stays. (Raphael Van Butsele/Getty)
From the gale-blasted cliffs of Scotland to the balmy shores of the Seychelles, travel experts reveal their secret hideaways.
An island for history: St Kilda, Scotland
St Kilda is a windswept archipelago, 40 miles west of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides across the north Atlantic Ocean. The islands have remained uninhabited for the last 82 years, when the last St Kildans were evacuated. Getting there isn’t easy – but it’s certainly worth the effort. Looking up at its vertiginous cliffs from the foaming sea is overwhelming: rolling banks of sea mist tumble down from the slopes of the interior and birds wheel overhead. St Kilda is also home to the ghostly remains of a village on the island of Hirta. It is very strange to walk among the houses where a once-thriving community lived. The most memorable journey I made to St Kilda was in the company of one of the last original inhabitants, Norman Gillies, who was returning for the first time. We visited the small church and the little school in which Norman was taught as a young boy. It was the death of his young mother from pneumonia that prompted the evacuation. It was decided that the islands were too remote to remain. Traditionally, the islanders used St Kildan ‘mailboats’ to communicate with the outside world. These consisted of a piece of wood, hollowed out so that they could hold a small bottle in which a letter was placed, along with instructions for the finder to post it and a penny for a stamp. Before I left St Kilda, I cast a bottle adrift with a note of my own. I hope that someday someone finds the message, telling them all about St Kilda.
Make it happen
St Kilda is run by the National Trust for Scotland. The National Trust operates cruises of the Hebrides, also visiting St Kilda (from £1,600).
--By Ben Fogle, presenter of Lonely Planet’s Year of Adventures on BBC Knowledge.
An island for seclusion: Moyenne, Seychelles
The island of Moyenne looks like the rest of the Seychelles, but turned up to 11. Its only inhabitant is Brendon Grimshaw, an 86-year-old former newspaper editor from Yorkshire, who lives the life of a sophisticated Robinson Crusoe. The difference is that he hasn’t been marooned there – he’s there by choice. I heard about Moyenne when I travelled to the Seychelles when filming my Indian Ocean series for BBC Two. As we approached the island by boat, it looked unreal, like a paradise island – almost like something from a dream. Brendan’s story is a fascinating one. He bought Moyenne for £8,000 in 1962. Since then, he’s set about transforming a rocky island into a little bit of paradise, building a small house, importing thousands of trees and turning the place into the world’s smallest national park. He’s even got a few giant turtles for company. Brendan has been offered staggering sums of money for the island – he even had a Saudi prince offer him an unlimited sum – but he’s having none of it. He wants to preserve the island for future generations. Today, the island is visited by daytrippers from the rest of the Seychelles. There are some beautiful walks around its shores and some great snorkelling in the reefs of its surrounding waters. At the end of the day, no-one except Brendan is allowed to stay on Moyenne – it’s very much his own paradise. I’d do it myself, but I’d be talking to myself by the end of the first day.
Make it happen
Moyenne is located to the east of the island of Mahé in the Seychelles. Day trips can be arranged from Mahé (from £90).
--By Simon Reeve, presenter of the six-part series Indian Ocean.