Kate Humble finds she has Frégate Island to herself - almost.

Just a few short weeks ago there was nothing for me that constituted sheer self-indulgence more than lolling in a hot bath with a bottle of red wine, a good book and the telephone switched off.

Now that simple pleasure has been usurped by the less-attainable luxury of bird-watching from a private infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean. I should never have gone to the Seychelles.

These 115 islands are 1600km east of Kenya, but spiritually close to heaven. I'd always imagined a tropical island paradise, all sand and coconut palms, where real life is shelved for a week or two and replaced by lots of lying down and drinking things with pineapple juice in them. Yet it was clear as we approached Frégate Island from the air that my preconception of the archipelago being a collection of featureless sand-bars was wrong.

Although the smaller, outer isles are low-lying coral, the 43 inner isles are granite and more high-rise.


Below us, however, was a compact rocky outcrop, thickly covered in trees and shrubs. We were supposed to be staying in a resort, but there appeared to be no sign of anything that resembled the sprawling mass of concrete, swimming pools and plastic loungers I was dreading. In fact, there were few signs of human habitation at all.

Frégate is privately owned. It is an extremely exclusive resort - there are only 16 villas in what is called Frégate Island Private.

You might say that privacy is almost an obsession here. As we landed we were met not by a queue at a reception desk, with forms to fill out and plastic keys to lose, but by a smiling Kenyan named Amos.

Our embarrassingly scruffy luggage was whisked away and Amos, in a solar-powered golf cart, drove us along a narrow concrete road which wound through a riot of tangled vegetation, with the scent of frangipani thick in the air.

My husband and I felt more than a little self-conscious on a form of transport we normally associated with large, lazy holiday-makers in Florida.

But it didn't matter because in the 15 minutes it took to reach our villa we didn't see another soul, so our rugged integrity was still intact. Until, that is, we walked into the villa.

This had nothing rugged about it at all, unless showering outside in a private garden is your idea of rugged. "I bet that some people never leave the villa," I said to Amos as he guided us around a bewildering array of bathrooms, fridges and drinks cabinets.

"You are right," he said as we walked on to the deck with its private infinity pool overhanging the infinite blue of the ocean beyond.


"People come here to relax."

"Well, we're not here to relax," I said briskly. "You can relax when you die. We want to do things."

Amos gave me a look of barely disguised scepticism, gave us his mobile number and instructions to phone him at any time whenever we wanted anything, then left.

Fregate has what has been described as the world's most perfect beach. The bed has pillows with 20 different sleeping supports to chose from, including a "vitamin E-treated anti-ageing pillow".

But it is also a place where conservation of the wildlife and habitat is as important as the wellbeing of guests. The products in the bathrooms are biodegradable and made from fruits and herbs grown on the island. An impressive vegetable garden and hydroponics system supplies the French chef with many of the ingredients he needs.

It isn't about jump-on-the-eco-bandwagon marketing. Nick, the manager, told me few guests choose the resort for its green credentials, which are the genuine interest and passion of Frégate's publicity-shy German owner.


He bought the island more than a decade ago, built a house for himself and started to develop the resort, which he hopes one day will be completely carbon-neutral.

There are plans to put in a football pitch-sized area of solar panels to replace the four huge generators needed to run the resort, and alternative fuels for the island's fleet of boats will be considered.

Before the island was bought, most of its native trees and plants had been cleared to make way for cash crops, such as coconuts and cinnamon.

This brought about the decline and, in some cases, extinction of many of the island's animals and birds. Now, with the advice of a resident ecologist and a zoologist, Frégate's owner is working to create the perfect environment for the wildlife as well as his guests.

Thousands of native trees have been planted, nest-boxes have been put up, and large swathes of the island are left wild.

Working alongside international conservation organisations such as Birdlife International, the island has been vital to the recovery of some of the world's rarest species of birds.


Evidence of the success of all this work came the next morning over breakfast on the deck, watched by several pairs of hungry eyes.

The Seychelles' equivalent of the sparrow is called a fody and they are every bit as cheeky as sparrows.

The male Madagascar fody is particularly splendid, with bright orange plumage and a belligerent manner. Yet it was the appearance of a bird that looks very similar to a blackbird, but with large flashes of white on its wings, that almost made me fall off my chair.

In the mid-1960s there were barely more than 10 magpie robins left in the world. Found only in the Seychelles, the bird was heading fast for the extinction list, the result of habitat destruction and introduced predators, such as cats and rats.

Now, thanks to the work on Frégate, more than 100 magpie robins are here and populations have been established on three other islands.

It's not just the birds that are thriving. The tenebrionid beetle, a tiny armoured bug with spikes on its back - which give it the appearance of a medieval club - is found only on Frégate and it, too, is benefiting from lack of predators and the protection of trees.


Then there's the unmissable Seychelles giant millipede, a slow-moving beast about the size of a frankfurter and upholstered in black, shiny segmented armour, that likes to visit the villas and has caused some of the guests to pack their bags and flee, despite it being harmless.

Rather more endearing are the tortoises. Frégate is home to about 600 Aldabra giant tortoises, a species once brought to the brink of extinction by hungry mariners, who would tip them on their backs and take them away to eat later on their boats.

These great prehistoric-looking beasts can live to be more than 100 years old and although they may weigh 250kg, it is surprisingly easy to miss them.

Often we found ourselves walking along, only to hear the rustle of leaves and look back to see that the granite boulder we had just passed was, in fact, walking along the path behind us.

We later found the island is also visited by another mighty reptile. We were determined not to slip into a life of complete idleness, so we walked to Anse Victorin beach, which involved a steep climb down a heavily wooded slope.

We emerged at a place so beautiful it might have been designed for a film set. Big rounded boulders flanked a perfect crescent of pale gold sand, shadowed by huge trees full of long-tailed tropic birds.


We thought we had the beach to ourselves and I was beginning to like this idea of "private".

Then we noticed some curious tracks in the sand and it dawned on us that the beach wasn't completely unoccupied. Hidden beneath a bush, a hawksbill turtle was carefully scooping away the sand with her flippers in preparation for laying her eggs.

If there were turtles on the beaches, what other prizes would we find if we ventured underwater?

The Seychelles have never been touted as one of the great diving destinations and our first dive seemed to explain why. Not far off the eastern shore of the island we jumped into the warm, clear water and descended down to the seabed.

It was covered in a thick layer of coral rubble - bleached, broken and dead. The archipelago is an area that bears the brunt of the El Nino effect, which raises sea temperatures and kills coral. And the 2004 tsunami has taken its toll, too.

We decided to try a site further out to sea at a spot where Steve, the newly appointed dive guide at Frégate, hadn't dived before. The contrast could not have been greater. Beneath the surface, huge ridges, slabs and monoliths of continental granite stood out of the sand. We spotted a rarely seen guitar fish - a big one lying motionless below us.


Nearby, shoals of unicorn fish, snapper and fusiliers were so dense we could not see through them.

Gaudy patterned fish called sweetlips lurked in the crevices and goatfish foraged between the boulders. We saw lobsters and moray eels and on one dive came across three large bull sharks, which set our hearts racing. We returned to the site again and again. On our final dive it was almost as if all the marine life of the Seychelles had come to wave us off.

We slipped quietly away from five or six white-tipped reef sharks, circling, clearly in hunting mode.

I spotted a giant reef ray swimming with four smaller stingrays, something I've never seen before; and while we were doing our decompression stop something made us look down. Right below us a turtle was cruising slowly above the sea floor.

So, despite Amos' scepticism and the almost-impossible-to-resist temptation just to lie around with a glass of freshly squeezed pineapple juice, we did do things, but mostly in splendid isolation.

Frégate takes to extremes the privacy part of the experience it offers.


There are two restaurants. One is in the main building, the other, in an old plantation house, serves delicious Creole food, and the tables are set so far apart and the chairs angled in such way that it is scarcely possible to see fellow diners.

Whenever brief eye-contact was made, we would self-consciously nod to each other and look hurriedly away. Even when there were other people who wanted to dive, arrangements would be carefully made so we wouldn't have to dive together.

But although having a perfect beach to yourself is a joy, sipping a cocktail in an empty bar is not to everyone's taste. This is not a place for the sociable. However, it is a place where simple indulgences are positively encouraged.

When we weren't diving, or walking, or having breakfast in a tree-house surrounded by fairy terns, we would return to the villa.

Binoculars in hand, I would slip into the warm water of our private infinity pool.

There, I would watch the blue pigeons cooing in the trees, the sunbirds flitting among the hibiscus and the long-tailed tropicbirds swooping over the ocean. Life really doesn't get much more luxurious than that.