Pirates, ghosts and Robinson Crusoe desolation on Moyenne Island

Beach Essentials

Where: Near Mahé, Seychelles, Indian Ocean
When: May to November
Activities: Go game fishing, snorkelling, or just laze among the pink granite rocks, palms and white sands of the most filmed and photographed beach in the world

Brendan Grimshaw’s Moyenne Island

Moyenne (Middle) island is a tiny deserted island, just half a mile wide, twenty minutes boat ride east from Victoria in Mahé, Seychelles. But your boat has to moor some way off the island as the water’s so shallow, so bring your waders. The island is owned by Brendan Grimshaw, a Yorkshire man and former Nairobi journalist who bought this desert island for £8,000 GDP in 1973 when he was 48 years old. He’s been living here, without respite, ever since.

The island was bare when Brendan first arrived – a waterless land overgrown with scrub. He grew every tree himself – palms, bread, and coconut – until the island was transformed into a tropical paradise. It’s now a haven for 200 endangered Aldabra tortoises. He employs a Man Friday character called René to help him. His house was built in seven days, but for 18 months, he and René would have to row every day to Mahé to collect a barrel of water for sustenance.

Tombs, Ghosts, Pirates and Treasure Hunters

Tombs Moyenne houses ancient tombs of Arab sailors and several graves which are believe to have been those of pirates. This region is famed as a stomping ground for pirates in the eighteenth century. Oliver le Vasseur – La Buse (“the Buzzard”) – terrorised the merchant fleets sailing the Indian Ocean in the 1720s. He was hung in Mauritius in July 1730, but not before dropping a sheaf of documents, as they put a noose around his neck, with clues as to the whereabouts of his booty. This included the Portuguese Fiery Cross of Goa, encrusted with rubies, diamonds and emeralds – a bounty so rich that it took three men to lift it. His dying words were: “Find my treasure, he who can!”

Lots of treasure hunters have descended to the Seychelles and Mauritius as a result but no one has found the treasure to date. While Brendan was hewing the island into shape, he discovered a strangely marked grave site. He dug the ground twenty feet deep but, alas, he found no treasure.

Pirates killed slaves so their spirits could protect their treasure when the pirates left the island. Strange things have been happening ever since. Moyenne is haunted by the ghost of Mary Best,an eccentric Englishwoman who moved to the island in 1910.

Robinson Crusoe Survival Tips

For a real Robinson Crusoe experience when staying on a desert island like Moyenne, make your own tent. Make an “A” frame shelter from a cut down tree with seven poles lashed together with twine and tied to the branch of a sturdy tree. Place two poles horizontally to the upright frame and parallel to each other, three feet off the ground, with a tarpaulin stretched over the poles to make the bed and a blanket or waterproof tarpaulin stretched over the top to make a roof.

For hydration, make yourself a solar still. Dig a foot-deep hole in the ground and places a plastic cup inside. Rip up a rubbish bag and covers the hole in the ground with it, then place a few small stones in a circle on the plastic cover until it sags in the middle, making a funnel shape. Then cut a small circular hole in the middle of the sunken plastic. During the day, when it gets very hot, the heat sucks up all the moisture in the soil and collects it in the buried cup, giving you a few drops of liquid, even on a day without rain.

For sustenance, go fishing – Neanderthal style. Bend a forking sapling or thin branch into a tennis racket shape. Slip a T-Shirt over the branch, tying it up at the nape of the handle. Sharpen the nape of a pole branch into a spear. The best way to catch a fish is in the shadows by a bank or some kind of rock edge where it’s dark, but it’s better at night, when they come to the surface. If you’re really, really thirsty, fish eyes contain a drinkable liquid. You can suck out their eyes and, while you may not exactly feel quenched, you won’t die for another couple of hours.

Visiting Moyenne Island

Tourists can visit the island; entry is free but you need to charter or taxi a boat to get there, which is expensive. TSS tour company organises a day trip there, which is a cheaper option. Tourist can hike, snorkle eat at the island’s restaurant, chat to Brendon, or play with the giant tortoises and Brendon’s dogs.

By Susi O’Neill