Last October, I enjoyed a terrific holiday in the Seychelles, the legendary island archipelago of exceptional tropical beauty in the Indian Ocean. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Condor B767-300ER Business Class from Frankfurt to Mahe
- Review: Six Senses Zil Pasyon
- Review: Maia Luxury Resort
- Review: North Island (today)
- Review: Constance Ephelia (to be published later)
- Review: H Resort Beau Vallon Beach (to be published later)
- Review: Qantas A380 First Class from Dubai to London
Today (January 4, 2017): Review of North Island Seychelles.
- Location: Google Maps
- Hotel website: North Island Seychelles
North Island Seychelles is the world’s most exclusive hideaway, unlike anything I have ever seen. The insanely beautiful private island resort has only 11 opulent hand-crafted villas, all of them with private plunge pool, overlooking the pristine, powder-white sands and turquoise waters of the Ile Du Nord eco-reserve. North Island is unashamedly aimed at providing the very best in privacy, location, accommodation, services, facilities and experience. The uber luxurious resort, a favorite among the world’s elite, gained instant world fame in 2011 when it made headlines as Prince William and Kate’s royal honeymoon destination.
North Island Seychelles features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in the Seychelles, the world’s most exclusive private island resorts, the most astonishing beach retreats in Africa, the world’s best luxury hotels, the world’s most expensive hotels, the world’s best honeymoon resorts, and my most phenomenal travel experiences of 2016.
In this review (more info below the slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- North Island is the the holy grail of luxury travel. The uber luxurious resort offers an experience that is light years away from that offered by any other beach resort, not only in the Seychelles, but the entire planet. North Island is almost mythical in its allure, with a whispered, word-of-mouth reputation as the world’s most exclusive hideaway among its wealthy guests.
- The resort occupies it own private island, located about 30km (18 miles) from the main Seychellois island of Mahé. North Island is the northernmost of the 115 islands that make up the idyllic Seychelles archipelago. The large island is around 2,5 km (1,5 mi) long and 0,8 km (0,5 mi) wide, and offers complete privacy and splendid isolation. You won’t see any one else during your stay, except for the hotel staff and some of the other lucky few who are able to afford a stay here.
- Despite its remote island location, it’s very easy to get to the resort by helicopter. The Zil Air helicopter journey to North Island departs from the Seychelles International Airport on Mahé and the exhilarating 20-minute flight is over the Indian Ocean’s turquoise waters, with arrival on the resort’s own jetty helipad. If flying in a helicopter makes you nervous, you can also easily reach the resort by boat (as I did during my trip to the island). The boat trip involves a public ferry to Silhouette Island (40 min), followed by a 20 min ride on North Island’s private speedboat.
- The outrageously exotic and jaw-dropping beauty of the granite island is among the most exquisite tropical scenery that I have ever seen in the world. North Island’s luminous white beaches (cf. below) are surrounded by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean and fringe a tropical interior of coconut palms and takamaka trees that are cradled between three granite outcrops. Don’t miss the guided, one-hour hike to the sunrise viewpoint above the spa, from where you can soak up the island’s majestic beauty from a bird-eye’s perspective.
- One of the island’s major attractions are the phenomenal beaches which are among the most beautiful that I have ever set foot on. The sand feels incredibly soft and fluffy, almost like powdered sugar underfoot. The main beach, Anse d’Est Beach, is a ribbon of gleaming sand that runs almost the entire length of the sunrise side of the island, with all villas and hotel facilities nestled discreetly in the tree-line. The western side of the island features two, even more magnificent beaches: Sunset Beach to the north (where a rustic bar is the perfect setting for drinking a sundowner while the beach is washed in pastel colors in the wake of the descending sun) and Honeymoon Beach to the south. The latter has to be one of the planet’s most romantic beaches, thanks to its private location in a curve of the rocks.
- North Island has a remarkable history. From 1826 until the 1970s, the island was used as a plantation for growing fruit and spices, as well as producing guano, fish oil and copra. After the copra market collapsed, the plantation was sold in the 1970s, and North Island fell into disuse. A new chapter in the history of North Island began in 1997 when the island was purchased by a team – including Africa’s leading safari company, Wilderness Safaris – who turned back the clock by undoing the damage wrought by man, creating a sanctuary for indigenous Seychellois wildlife, and developing the world’s leading private island hideaway.
- Beside the amazing location, North Island is marked out by a stylish design of understated luxury that celebrates nature. The architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens lived on site with their two children while designing and creating the resort, to have a real feel with the island. The essence of the design is to achieve a level of barefoot luxury where guests are in touch with nature, but with all modern conveniences close at hand. All buildings on the island were individually handcrafted by Seychellois and African craftsmen from wood, local stone and glass, with thatched roofs that complete the magnificent design.
- The hotel’s communal facilities conveniently cluster close to one another in “the Piazza” around a magnificent Indian almond tree in the southern corner of Anse d’Est Beach. The layout of the public areas – which include a lounge, bar, dining room, library, boutique shop and dive center – echoes that of a small island village with historical layering. The open-sided, sunken lounge and adjoining dining room feature a minimalist, organic architecture, both of them offering 360˚ views of the bay and adjacent granite outcrop covered with lush vegetation. Close to the lounge are the library and dive center, housed in original coral block buildings that date back to North Island’s days gone by as a copra plantation. Although there is a small front office desk and concierge area, the resort lacks a formal lobby.
The resort’s fabulous swimming pool is located along one of the island’s three granitic outcrops, just a short walk from the public areas. The 45 m (150 feet) infinity-edge, lagoon-style pool is carved into the hill and the steep shady banks create the feeling of a hanging garden. Although the pool itself is tucked away in lush tropical vegetation, it still allows lovely glances onto the blinding white beach and the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
- North Island features eleven palatial guest villas, all of them offering direct access to magnificent Anse d’est Beach. With a surface of 450 square meters (4 890 square feet), the presidential villas rank among the largest accommodations in the world. They are raised more than one meter (3 feet) above the ground to catch the cooling island breezes. Each villa (except for villa 11, cf below) features two air-conditioned bedroom pavilions: an incredibly spacious master bedroom and a second bedroom that can be turned into a study lounge. All villas also have an open-sided lounge (with sofa and dining table), an adjoining kitchenette (including a minibar that has to be the world’s most generous one), an outdoor plunge pool with roofed sala (to relax in the shade at midday when it is too hot for outdoor activities), and expansive outdoor deck which floats above the oversized garden, and an insanely beautiful, semi-outdoor bathroom that has the dimensions and feel of an ultraluxe bath house.
One villa, known as Villa 11 or Villa North Island, differs from the other ten villas. Not only has it been designed differently to accommodate the incline along the extreme northern side of Anse d’est Beach, it’s also more of a resort within the resort with a staggering abundance of space totaling 750 square meters (8072 square feet). A large portion of that space has been added in multiple, tiered levels cascading down the granitic boulders onto the beach, with picturesque palms forming a natural frame. It’s the world’s ultimate beach villa for honeymooners.
- Each villa on North Island has its own private electric golf buggy, which you can use to move around the island. Bicycles are also available for guest use, in both adult and children’s sizes, for getting from one side of the Island to the other with ease.
The superb North Island spa is located on a rocky outcrop above the pool, overlooking turquoise waters and dramatic cliffs. There are only three treatment rooms, each one of them located in a exquisitely designed pavilion. The resort’s professional masseuses use natural herbal ingredients from the island in the treatments. Upon arrival, all guests receive a complimentary, 30 minute foot, leg and neck massage, designed to soothe away the stresses of travel, and allow you to slip seamlessly into island mode. Extra spa treatments are not included.
The gym is situated above the main pool next to the spa, and features state-of-the-art fitness equipment. It is a simple glass structure with an alanga alanga roof and has one of the most spectacular views on the island. It looks down onto the bay in front of Anse d’est Beach and enjoys the spectacular sight of the diverse blue colours of the ocean, so typical of Seychelles.
- As one may expect, food at North Island is of exceptional quality. The resort offers a mouthwatering culinary experience that matches its reputation. Daily menus are designed according to the latest island harvest and special consideration is given to any dietary requirements you may have. Besides in-room dining, there are two dining venues on the Island that lend themselves to a range of food experiences depending on your mood. The main dining room offers gracious candlelit, private dining with the gentle sounds of the ocean setting the scene for a romantic evening. The West Beach bar serves up fresh hot pizza, salads and tapas-style barbecue snacks, all perfect for sharing as you watch the sunset, lingering over a cocktail and relaxed music.
- A short walk over the pond, off the main dining room, lies the phenomenal wine cellar, a building of rough-hewn rock and almost stalagmatic ceiling created by bamboo shuttering, a technique found on the main island of Mahé. The wine cellar houses the most comprehensive selection of fine wines in the Indian Ocean, carefully selected by a sommelier to complement the flavours of North Island’s distinctive cuisine.
- When you stay at North Island, you will follow in the footsteps of many famous people, since the resort is a favorite of the world’s elite and enjoys a devoted following among A-listers. Royal couple Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge spent 10 days on North Island after their wedding in April 2011. The resort was also the decor for the honeymoon of Hollywood star George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin after their Aman Venice wedding in 2014. David and Victoria Beckham celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary on the island in 2009. And also actress Salma Hayek and French husband Francois-Henri Pinault travelled to North Island for their honeymoon.
The Seychelles archipelago forms part of the world’s longest coral reef system and has some of the world’s best scuba diving sites. Numerous dive sites have been identified around North Island and its nearest neighbour, Silhouette Island. North Island has its own diving center and the dive masters are not only experts in scuba practices but also in the underwater world. If you don’t feel comfortable diving, there are also numerous snorkeling sites around North Island and Silhouette Island. All diving and snorkeling activities at North Island are included in the room rate.
The island harbours a healthy population of giant Aldabran tortoises, which are often spotted along the sandy paths that crisscross the island. The current population is estimated to be between 80 and 100 individuals. The island’s most famous tortoise is Brutus. He is believed to be at least 160 years old and weighs approximately 200 kg (450 lbs). His shell length is almost 1.5m (5 feet). This estimate for Brutus’ age is probably a conservative one, as these amazing creatures can live to well over 200. Brutus has been marked by reflective strips on his shell to prevent traffic accidents with golf buggies.
- North Island offers an all inclusive formula. The room rate includes all meals, drinks and cocktails but not the reserve wine list. Also included is scuba-diving, kayaking, mountain bikes, guided walks, half day fishing trips and all laundry and Wi-Fi as well as the use of an island golf-buggy.
- Although the majority of North Island’s guests are couples and honeymooners, the resort is also a wonderful place to explore and enjoy as a family. There is a wide range of activities available, both on land and in the water, that designed to keep young minds and bodies active. All activities are supervised by expert staff to ensure that children are well looked after and entirely safe while their parents can take time out to reconnect with each other in complete peace and quiet.
- In 2014, North Island underwent a décor refurbishment, introducing a refreshed color palette and designer bathroom fittings, all ensuring that North Island continues to set the global standard for luxury private island hideaways.
- There are more than twice as many staff on North Island as guests, and each villa gets its own butler, ensuring outstanding service. I was extremely charmed by the staff’s friendliness, competence and the heartfelt attitude that I experienced during my two night stay on the island.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Designed to make the most of the its pristine natural surrouding, North Island offers the ultimate luxury travel experience, with phenomenal beaches, immaculate service, delicious food, a tasteful design, and palatial accommodations. The truly stupendous experience exceeded my sky-high expectations. North Island is heaven on earth, but you want to know the following nonetheless when considering a stay here:
- With a price tag to match the experience, North Island is one of the world’s most expensive resorts though it’s difficult to argue that it doesn’t offer value for money. It’s the ultimate in exclusive holidays. And the room rate is inclusive of all meals and activities (including scuba diving).
- A natural phenomenon on North Island, the beaches migrate around the island in a ceaseless seasonal pattern dictated by the ocean currents. Depending on the stage of the cycle at the time of your visit, some beaches are wider or narrower than others, and some rocks and coral may be exposed. All however are always inviting, and their location around the island means that whichever way the maritime breezes are blowing, you will easily find a sheltered, shady spot of your own to enjoy.
- The villa’s private plunge pools are rather small for a hotel of this caliber, and not suited for taking a lap. But that should not be too much of a problem, since you can always have a swim in the inviting warm waters of the Indian Ocean in front of each villa or burn some calories in the beautiful communal infinity pool.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Resort grounds: 10/10
- Rooms (villas): 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like North Island Seychelles.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Seychelles is often sold as a year round destination and it is. However there is more chance of bad weather, that is to say rain, from November to March. The transitional months of October and April are excellent for a visit as the oceans are very calm and the weather balmy. During the dry seasons (May to September), it can be windy (causing seaweed on the south or south-easterly side of the islands) with rough seas.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most guests will reach North Island by helicopter, operated by the company Zil Air, which operates from the Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) on the country’s main island of Mahé. The exhilarating 20-minute flight is over verdant islands, with arrival on the resort’s own jetty helipad. The helicopter operates after sunrise and before sunset only.
If you don’t like to fly, you can also easily reach the resort by boat, with a public ferry trip to Silhouette Island (40 minutes), followed by a 20 min ride on North Island’s private speedboat.
Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) is served by many airlines (click here for a direct link to their websites):
- From/via Asia : Air Seychelles (via Hong Kong, Mumbai), Mihin Lanka (via Colombo).
- From/via Middle East: Emirates (via Dubai), Etihad Airways (via Abu Dhabi), Air Seychelles (via Abu Dhabi), Qatar Airways (via Doha).
- From/via Europe: Condor (via Frankfurt), Air Seychelles (via Paris, Dusseldorf), Austrian Airlines (via Vienna), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul).
- From/via Africa: Kenya Airways (via Nairobi), Ethiopian Airlines (via Addis Ababa), Air Austral (via La Reunion), Air Seychelles (via Johannesburg, Durban and Mauritius).