North Island, Seychelles – Our Resort Inspection

North Island has long been labelled the most exclusive island resort in the world, with a guestbook filled with countless A-listers.

How does this barefoot Seychelles resort define luxury?

EliteVoyage was invited for a personal two-night stay. And we discovered North Island to be quite different to our expectations and perceptions.

Stephen Bailey on North Island with General Manager Mark Sterner

North Island is not a place to be seen.

It’s not a trendy place, nor is it the most opulent resort in the world.

North Island is something else, unlike anywhere we’ve inspected before.

This secretive Seychelles island offers something the world’s richest and most famous can’t find anywhere else. We discovered it defines luxury in a very different way.

Marketing director Stephen Bailey was the lucky one to report back after his two-night stay.

A Rare Island Destination in the Seychelles

Brad Pitt. Salma Hayek. Prince William and Kate. The Clooneys. The Beckhams. And there are many dozens more who can’t be named for confidentiality reasons.

With such a guestbook I arrived expecting the height of luxury. Which is completely not the concept.

Over the last 20 years, this 11-villa resort has hosted a who’s who from the top echelons of world glitterati. Why?

Immense Size and Privacy

My first impression of North Island was its immense size. This is not a spec in the ocean, but a twin-peaked island visible almost from the moment we departed by helicopter.

From a distance it looked like Tracy Island from Thunderbirds. Approaching the island we flew over a long white beach and tract of thick jungle.

For some perspective, Soneva Fushi is located on one of the largest natural islands in the Maldives and has 63 villas.

North Island is over four times bigger and covers only 200 hectares, with only 11 villas. They could easily add another 100 villas and it would still be very private.

All the villas are located along the same beach, which initially surprised me. General manager Mark Sterner explained that the owner wants to keep everywhere else on the island completely wild, truly as nature intended.

All 11 villas are spread along this long main beach

We spent two days exploring different beaches, walking island trails, going out by yacht and kayak, enjoying different dining spots and cabanas. Not once did we encounter another guest.

You don’t come here for an Instagram shoot or to look good. I’m certain that if we had bumped into a celebrity they’d be wearing pyjamas and not makeup.

This is definitely not a place for bringing designer shoes either. It’s barefoot vibes all the way.

This is an island for people who don’t want to be seen. People who want to swim naked in their pool. People who want an entire island to feel as private as their bedroom.

A Distinct Rustic Style

Villa garden and pool

The 11 villas are hidden within nature, where the jungle meets the sand. They have large gardens and ocean views from everywhere.

Somehow the villas are located on the beachfront, yet you can’t actually see them when you’re on the beach. Except for the honeymoon villa, which is even larger and set around granite rock at the far end of the beach.

View of the villa from the beach

I like understated and simple and I loved the rustic North Island style. But I wouldn’t recommend North Island to anybody seeking opulence and shiny luxury.

Each villa sprawls across a large wooden deck and there is no concrete anywhere. Tree trunks are used as pillars, roofs are made from thatch, and it’s all indoor-outdoor living.

One living area within the villa

Only the two bedrooms are fully enclosed and offer air conditioning. The two bathrooms and many living spaces are partially open to nature. Overall, they’re incredibly spacious, almost too big for only two people.

Main villa bedroom

The rustic chic, or shabby chic, style was trending years ago. Contemporary design fans may find North Island a little too rustic.

The villas are now 20 years old, although in general they’ve been kept in very good condition. My villa had two indoor showers, two outdoor showers, a bathtub with an ocean view and a television popping out of a vintage trunk.

One of the villa bathrooms, “indoors” yet still open to nature

Given it costs 8500 EUR per night for the dream package, I expected the villas to be a little more polished. Marble and opulence is almost expected for that price, but it’s not the North Island way.

Luxury here isn’t about a villa that looks best on the photos, rather a villa that completes your connection with wilderness and nature, which is where North Island is truly different.

Remarkable Wilderness & Wildlife

Honeymoon Beach

North Island is a mix of jungle and granite rock, with four white beaches around the island. It’s a classic Seychelles landscape, different to the coral and reef islands of the Maldives.

We drove our buggy along dirt trails in the jungle, to a beach without footprints. When it rained we hid away in a thatched roof cabana, listening to the birds and the waves.

Stephen’s wife Christa at the “hidden” part of Honeymoon Beach, accessible only on foot.

Honeymoon Beach was our favourite, half a kilometre of sand all to ourselves. Villa butlers quietly rope off access, so it stays private for each guest who goes there.

West Beach

Prince William and Kate live in Windsor Castle and are heirs to Buckingham Palace. No hotel suite can be more luxurious than where they live, yet experiencing a wild and natural place must be a luxury to them.

True wilderness is becoming so rare on our planet and this must be one key reason why North Island is loved by celebrities. It’s going back to basics and reconnecting with nature.

Drive slowly! There are tortoises everywhere you go!

Over 200 giant tortoises roam the island. These tortoises are endemic to the Seychelles and a similar size to those found in the Galapagos Islands. On more than one occasion we had to stop and wait for a tortoise to cross the trail!

Brutus is over 150 years old, the largest male tortoise on the island

Last season the island’s conservation team marked over 500 sea turtle nesting sites. 500! We witnessed 50 hatchlings make their break for ocean life, just before sunset on West Beach.

Watching sea turtles hatch on West Beach

The island’s scuba diving sites were equally impressive. We encounter four different shark species, large stingrays and eagle rays, tuna, wrasse, eels, turtles, and a massive diversity of tropical fish.

Wilderness, everywhere. And when you want something, like a cocktail, a snack, a snorkel, you just send a WhatsApp to your butler and it’s delivered.

Freedom to Create Your Own Program, On the Go

Each villa has its own butler, contactable through WhatsApp via the villa’s own mobile phone. I like the efficiency of using WhatsApp and really appreciated being able to turn off my own phone.

Each villa also has an electric golf buggy which guests can drive, so there’s no waiting for somebody to take you somewhere, nor a third person coming along with a couple.

Our only instruction upon arrival was to forget about time. Everything else about our program was made up depending on how we felt.

Breakfast on the beach? Why not?

Like tuna tataki on the beach at 4pm. Or a Champagne picnic setup for sunset.

North Island has its own yachts, conservation guides, activity guides and scuba diving instructors. You could go fishing, kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding.

This north Island yacht is usually used for deep-sea fishing trips

Or go to a spa on the hill overlooking the ocean – the masseuses were excellent, best out of the four resorts I recently visited in the Seychelles.

The hilltop spa

There’s a spectacular infinity pool overlooking the beach, where of course we were the only guests.

The infinity pool

Plus two restaurants. One, the Piazza, which is close to the villas. The other on West Beach feels like the edge of the world.

The Piazza restaurant

Many private dining and drinking spots are dotted around the island. In-villa dining is the norm, rather than a treat. So these “restaurants” are options if you think everything is too quiet.

Menus are available, for food and drinks. However, they are just for “ideas” as the general manager told me. Really, you can order what you want.

We wanted to try local seafood and the chef created a four-course tasting dinner for us. Overall the food quality was extremely high and the meals are not to be rushed.

The downside of an island without time is that nothing happens quickly. You can be relaxing on your own beach and order a cocktail, but it’s a ten-minute buggy journey just for the service to reach you.

There aren’t hundreds of staff either, as it’s an island with only 11 villas. You won’t get the same razor-sharp service as when many people are waiting on you. You don’t see the service. Actually, you don’t see anyone, that’s the vibe North Island wants to create.

Exclusivity, for Couples and Families

Stephen and Christa on their first night

After two days, North Island was firmly established as my favourite resort, ever. It has some minor faults, but what it offers in terms of nature and exclusivity is unparalleled.

Although it’s known as a honeymoon destination, North Island can still be good for active families who want to spend quality time together.

Each villa has two bedrooms and bathrooms. There is a small kids club and dedicated entertainment team. You wouldn’t worry about your children being too loud for other guests, as everything is so private.

However, the ocean will be too rough for young children to swim and the swimming pools are not so child friendly.

A strong swell creates these steep drop offs on the beach and the ocean isn’t so suitable for children swimming

Overall, North Island isn’t for people who want a simple beach, swim and sun holiday. You need to be curious about nature and want to go out exploring each day.

Some people will find the island too quiet. There isn’t a trendy bar or DJ or bustling restaurant. It’s all about private time and exclusivity.

North Island is now part of The Luxury Collection franchise by Marriott, and I think some people could be confused by this.

The Luxury Collection has some amazing properties around the world, very authentic resorts that provide a gateway to great destinations.

But North Island is a destination in itself. It’s operated in a very unique way and nothing like anywhere else I’ve been before. My experience was that there is absolutely nothing corporate about the island and people shouldn’t be put off, thinking that would be the case.

Planning a North Island Holiday

North Island is only accessible by helicopter. The island doesn’t even have a jetty, so no boats can land (important for privacy ,in a country where all beaches are considered public).

The flight takes 20 minutes from Seychelles International Airport, or you fly in from any other Seychelles resort with a helipad.

Ideal length of stay on North Island? Two days is nice to check it out. Two weeks could be paradise for some. It all depends on your travel style.

I personally think North Island works best as part of a multi-island trip to the Seychelles, because it’s such a quiet and private place.

For most clients I’d suggest starting at another resort, where there is more of a vibe and a more typical resort stay. Like Six Senses Zil Pasyon, the new Waldorf Astoria Seychelles Platte Island, or Anantara Maia.

Or consider North Island as the super relaxing end to an African safari, especially given the direct flights to Seychelles from Nairobi, Kenya and Johannesburg, South Africa.

I came to North Island wondering why it’s the resort of choice for so many A-listers. The answer was nothing like I expected.

This isn’t where you come for the red carpet. It’s where you come to feel sand between your toes, nature all around, and a freedom that only an untouched island can provide.

Is North Island for you?

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