Luxury travel is a difficult business.
People get on planes and fly thousands of miles to reach luxury resorts conveniently placed in the most stunningly beautiful corners of our planet.
So when they arrive, having paid vast sums of money, they expect perfection. The kind of perfection which they were promised by the stunning imagery and eloquent adverbs in glossy travel magazines. I’ve been very lucky to experience some of the very best hotels and resorts in the world, and along the way I’ve learned that perfection is no more achievable in travel than it is in any other aspect of life. But chasing perfection is like living in one of Zeno’s paradoxes: you’d be missing the point entirely. But that doesn’t mean the experiences weren’t great or even fantastic. They were. The only downside I could possibly think of is that you get spoiled to the point that it becomes ever more difficult to be impressed, never mind amazed.
Enter Fregate Island, Seychelles. This small and rocky island, a 15 minute flight by either helicopter or small airplane from Mahe airport, is home to many things great and small. Two thousand giant tortoises for a start. Many colourful species of birds, some of them endangered. Fruit bats. Millipedes. Palm trees. Coconuts. Sandy beaches with, depending on the season, sea turtles and their precious eggs. More relevant to my dear readers, the island also contains quite possibly the best resort I have ever visited. It belongs to the Oetker Collection, and is simply called Fregate Island Private. The resort consists of only 17 villas, so even when they are at 100 percent occupancy it’s very quiet. It makes you feel very lucky to be among the few lucky people sharing this little piece of land in the middle of a huge ocean.
Each Villa is luxuriously furnished and has a large swimming pool outside. Not one of those things you can barely dip your big toe into without it spilling over. You can have a proper swim in these. If your swimming skills are comparable to mine — lots of splashing and very little forward motion — it actually takes a while to get from side to side in this pool. But, to tell you the truth, I don’t really want to splash about too much in this article about the actual villa. It would be like describing a trip through the African savanna as «the weather is really good around here!». At this price point, and certainly in the Oetker collection, you know it’s going to be good. It just goes without saying.
If you don’t mind me insulting hundreds of architects and builders right about now, I believe making a good villa is easy. It’s certainly one of the easier parts of creating a great resort. At the end of the day these are just structures with a roof to keep your king size bed and television dry. The more money you throw at building a villa, the more luxurious it can be. Simples. As such, you find great villas in many resorts. That doesn’t necessarily make all resorts great. And personally, I don’t measure greatness by the gold content of the bathroom.
Indeed, the reason why this tiny little resort rocked my world cannot be explained in terms of infrastructure or even service. The service was great, as expected. And I do believe that achieving this level of service is more difficult than building a villa in which P. Diddy feels right at home. This is where the experience and class of the Oetker Collection comes into play. Luxury is about details. Endless details which you don’t even consciously perceive most of the time.
And of course the human touch. The people who serve you aren’t robots. They have histories, families, and feelings. The fact that they are happy in their job and happy to interact with you as one human to another makes you feel welcome. More than that, it makes you want to go back the year after to see what your old friends are up to.
I’ve always found that the Oetker Collection is exceptionally good at hiring the right kind of people to make this possible. It’s not something you can formulate scientifically, and you certainly can’t teach it to anyone. It simply takes a good person to recognise another. And by this measure, each and every hotel as well as the collection itself appears to be run by wonderful people. In fact my theory was confirmed not long ago when we had the pleasure to sit down for an interview with the collection’s CEO Mr. Marrenbach. He even liked the same cars as I do. I mean, if that doesn’t prove the case, nothing will.
If you’d list them all on a piece of paper, Fregate Island’s features aren’t necessarily unique. But the combination of them all in one place is exceedingly rare. To give one example, I liked that each villa has its own electric buggy to get around the island. Maybe that’s just because I love driving things, but I really liked the sense of freedom that comes with them. Here’s a buggy, and a map, go and drive wherever you want. And we’ll charge it for you overnight and point it the right way so you don’t waste 10 seconds turning around next time you get in. It encourages you to get around the Island more. You can go see the sunset on the other side of the Island for one thing. Or one of the seven (yes, seven!) stunning beaches. You don’t need to be a mathematician to figure out that 17 villas and 7 beaches means you probably won’t be fighting with your neighbours over sandy real estate.
If you ever need to fight with something for space, it will probably be a giant tortoise. They grow to a fairly enormous size, as their name suggests, and hey have a habit of suddenly deciding to take a nap whilst in the process of crossing the road. They can turn themselves into a pretty impressive road block. Should the tortoise ignore your friendly request to make way, just remember that they like to eat bananas. And don’t call them a turtle, that will just make things worse and delay your arrival at the beach even more.
Speaking of beaches, some of Fregate’s are actually ranked among the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. If anyone from the organisation which ranks beaches according to their beauty is reading this: I’m available in case you have any vacancies. You lucky. Anyway, another lovely feature of this place is that you can be completely alone in paradise if you wish. Every beach has a large cooler containing plenty of water and soft drinks in case you get thirsty. No need to even call anyone, though there is a phone line as well if you want something else. You can also expect a couple of sun beds and dry towels to be nearby. The fact that everything comes without asking is incredibly relaxing.
Here’s another thing that works incredibly well at Fregate Island Private: food and beverage is included. And we’re not talking about a buffet here, just order whatever you like from the menu. If you want 4 starters and then the lobster with a steak, Bon Appetit! Despite the fact that there is no money pressure, I still noticed the kitchen staff put in a lot of effort to make the best possible dishes. Nothing was rushed, rather done right.
Of course it’s technically possible to order extras which aren’t included like a particular wine, but the wine selection which is included in your booking is pretty extensive and of a very good level. Unless you’re really keen on a specific wine there’s no need to be snobbish about it. They’ll serve you great food and great wine all day long, and it won’t show up on your bill. It just takes the edge off things. It doesn’t matter if you have a billion dollars in your bank account, it’s simply relaxing to avoid the money issue altogether. When you book your stay on Fregate, you already have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to spend. Quality isn’t cheap, but in this case it is at least being open and fair. In most resorts what happens is you may pay a little less for your villa but then you go to lunch and you find out the going rate for a Pizza Margarita is 100 dollars. I’d rather just pay everything up front and avoid the feeling that a resort is trying its hardest to squeeze every last dollar they can get out of you.
Should you wish to temporarily leave dry land and go fishing, the resort has its own boats ready to take you out for a trip. I believe a single fishing trip is often included in your booking as well, actually. I personally love fishing, though it usually involves some small trout in a Norwegian river. Catching huge colourful things with teeth the size of my fingers is a bit out of my comfort zone. Even so, waking up at 6 in the morning and watch the sunrise as you head out of the harbour is a rather serene experience. The Island looks beautiful in the early light, giving you something to look at while you enjoy breakfast on board. If you’re lucky — as I was — you can catch quite a lot of different fish in a short amount of time. I believe we caught about 20 fish in less than 3 hours. The kitchen will keep some of your fish in the fridge for you, so you can enjoy eating them whenever you want.
Preserving the Island’s plants and animal species is also a priority of the resort. A particular species of bird was saved from extinction on this island, and there are several biologists employed who keep a keen eye on Fregate’s biggest treasures. If a bird falls out of its nest, they’ll sort it out. When a sea turtle comes to lay its eggs on the beach, it will be marked so nobody accidentally damages the nest. They’re also really good at pointing out a huge spider web right before you walk straight into it, should you go on a nature walk with them. Thanks Erin.
When it comes to Fregate Island Private there are things which brochures cannot show you, but there are also things I can’t explain without sounding like a brochure myself. I loved being there and I would be very happy to go back. Which is something I can only say about very few places I’ve visited. At the same time, it probably takes a certain type of traveler to really appreciate everything Fregate has to offer. If you prefer to see everything around you coated in gold and diamonds as a constant reminder of how much money you have, you might miss the point Fregate Island a bit. If, on the other hand, you value the beauty inherent in nature and our fellow human beings, you will find yourself a very happy traveler there. And with a heck of a story to go with your pictures.
Details by Posta-Magazine: