Fregate Islands

Fregate Islands

I'd opened the doors and windows of my villa the night before. As if carried by the fi rst fi ngers of daybreak, the soft breeze of morning stirs through the room and causes the sheer curtains of my canopy bed to billow quietly around me. It's like awakening in a cloud. The breeze is alive with the fresh tang of salt air and the subtle aromas of ylang-ylang and other fl ora covering this island. The calls of pure-white fairy terns, which look like angels as they head out to sea for a day of fi shing, announce the dawn. I've been here for three days, and each time I wake up, I get the sensation I'm seeing the world for the fi rst time. As I've done each day, I step out of my villa, rinse off in the outdoor shower and wander down to my daybed overlooking Anse Bambous, one of several sensual beaches that sweep around this private-island resort. There I breakfast on fresh papaya, star fruit and mango grown on the island and sip coffee as I watch the elegant and effortless movements of lesser frigate birds riding the thermals.

Among the many Eden-like islands in the Seychelles, a sprinkle of gems in the Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles off the east coast of Africa, Fregate perfectly blends nature with indulgence.

I'd come not only to experience the rare Aldabra giant tortoises roaming the banyan- tree-covered hillsides, the unique lizards, vivid blue waters and thousands of nesting seabirds, but also the pillow-soft private beaches, casual pampering and absolute escape that a private island offers. Only 40 guests in 16 lavish villas are allowed on this sybaritic haven at one time. And while I'm here, I rarely see another person.

After breakfast I meet up with Steve Hill, the island's ecology guru, and we hike through a trail lined with banyan, cinnamon and cashew trees. Along the way he points out rare birds, including blue pigeons, Seychelles white eyes and magpie robins, all of which have returned to the island because of his dedication to Fregate's natural habitat. Giant tortoises cross our paths. At the end of our hike, Steve drops me off at Anse Macquereau. I get lucky: I'm the fi rst to arrive. I turn the sign to read "Beach Occupied" and then wander down the path to my own private beach for the day. The sand and scene are both heavenly. I spend the day as I want to, taking no one else into consideration. I nap on the day bed, eat my delivered lunch, swim in water that feels like warm silk caressing my skin, snorkel, leave footprints along the shoreline and soak up a day as a complete castaway (with room service). It's a day rife with the joys of apathy. When I see the fairy terns -- heralds sent to stir me from my reverie -- I call from the beach phone, and I'm swept back to my private-island hideaway just in time to see the sunset light the entire Indian Ocean a fire. Rates from about $1,780 per night, minimum three nights. fregate.com -- Ty Sawyer