Seychelles is a country made up of an archipelago of 115 islands off the west coast of Africa. Known for its gorgeous waters and rich tree-covered islands, it has become a popular tourist destination in recent decades. But one small island called Moyenne remains an oasis within paradise. Bought by an eccentric Englishman named Brendon Grimshaw in the 1960s, the island has been carefully conserved to be as healthy and rich as Seychelles before the tourist boom. Since Grimshaw's death in 2012, the island has become a protected national park, the smallest in the world.
Grimshaw first visited Seychelles in 1962 at a time when many African countries were becoming independent. During this time of great change, Grimshaw was working as a journalist but began looking for a new career. Buying an island seemed an appealing new project, but most were expensive. Almost by chance, he found Moyenne, a .038 square mile island off the north coast of Seychelles' largest island, Mahé. He purchased it for £8,000 and began the next great journey of his life.
The island was abandoned other than a family of local fishermen. The many trees were choked with weedy underbrush. White sand and boulders ringed the tiny island. Grimshaw and Rene Antoine Lafortune, a 19-year-old local, formed a close bond as they cleared the underbrush, cut paths, and planted trees. Today the island boasts 16,000 trees, many planted by them. They include mahogany, palm, and mango trees. “His vision was to leave an unspoiled island for future generations of Seychellois and the world,” said Suketu Patel, a friend of Grimshaw's since 1976, to the BBC. “He wanted a mini-Seychelles. He wanted to try and replicate what Seychelles and its islands were like before tourists came.”
Grimshaw spent his decades on the island working on creating a paradise. He searched for mythical treasure buried by pirates and even discovered two mysterious graves with stones reading “Unhappily Unknown.” As the Seychelles became popular with tourists, he turned down offers of up to $50 million for his tiny island. In 2009, realizing that he had no one to leave the island to, Grimshaw set up a trust with Seychelles' Ministry of Environment. The island of Moyenne became part of St. Anne Marine Park although it is its own petit park, Moyenne Island National Park.
The world's tiniest national park now houses the grave of its benefactor. Grimshaw died in 2012 and is buried alongside his father and the two potential pirates. Today the island boasts a small restaurant with local offerings and a museum about the island. Visitors—of which there are less than 50 at any given time—are dropped off by boat in shallow, clear waters. They wade in to be greeted by rich green trees, winding forest paths, and a flock of giant Aldabra tortoises which roam (and are bred on) the island.
“Personally, I don't think he was crazy,” Isabelle Ravinia from the Seychelles National Parks Authority told the BBC about Grimshaw's isolated island life. “He gave the island back to the country, which was a noble thing to do. Normally people would try to sell off the island before they die so they can obtain money to do something else. Instead, he did something incredible.”
Visitors will find something truly unique in the world's smallest national park, making them thankful it was preserved. “There's something that grabs you when you go there,” said Patel. “If you think you have a big problem, when you're on the island you realize that it's not a problem after all. Moyenne is what life should be like.”
Moyenne, a tiny island in the Seychelles, is the smallest national park in the world.
English conservationist Brendon Grimshaw bought the island in 1962 and spent time creating a paradise.
When he died, he left the island to the Seychelles as a national park.