SOME 20 YEARS AGO, VLADI SOLD FR&EACUTE;GATE AND ITS 19TH-CENTURY coconut plantation to the current owner, a German businessman who is so private--and rich--that he refuses to reveal his name. The previous owner was forced to leave the island because of failing health.
After the sale was completed, he invited Vladi to accompany him back to the island to collect some personal belongings. When they left, the owner asked the helicopter pilot to circle around, then opened the window and threw one rose to the ground. "He had tears in his eyes," says Vladi. "That's how emotionally attached you can get."
The current owner is attached emotionally and financially. So much so that he decided to turn his longtime family getaway into Frégate Island Private, pouring well over $45 million into building the resort, which opened in late 1998. Despite the lofty room rate, Frégate still runs at a deficit and will do so for many years, claims founding general manager Rolf Berthold, who left in December to open his own resort in Tobago. "Frégate is the owner's passion, and he wanted to share it with the world," says Berthold. "It's not a moneymaking operation."
So what do you get for $1,400 a night,besides glorious beaches and miles of tropical scenery?Well, it's easier to say what you don't get: transportation from the international airport on Mahé (you have to arrange your own flight by helicopter or small plane). Nor do you get drinks (extra) or diving (also extra) or even trips to nearby islands on the $2 million fishing boat. A guest staying for the five-night minimum can count on spending upwards of $10,000, not including international flights.
But the kind of people who vacation here aren't complaining. These are island aficionados like Gerd Waldkircher, a handsome young Swiss banker who, according to his wife, devours travel magazines, newsletters, and guidebooks every night before going to bed. "We've been to all the top resorts, the Amans and so on,"says Gerd."And Frégate really is the best. Everything's new, the villas are pristine, and the beaches are so beautiful."
When you land on the grass airstrip at the edge of a long stretch of beach, a cluster of staff members greets you with a chilled washcloth, a glass of fruit punch, and a golf cart that will be yours for the week. You're then shuttled along palm-shaded paths to one of 16 villas, each secluded in a thicket of bamboo, banyans, andwild fig trees. Many guests never leave their expansive one-bedroom retreat, with its private Jacuzzi and outdoor daybed. Villa 16--where 007 rested his head--is a favorite; its Jacuzzi is cradled by a cliff. From villas 13 to 16, you can see dolphins dancing in the surf. Villa 3 has particularly exquisite views from its outdoor shower.
Because of their polyglot culture--French, African, British--the Seychelles don't have a real native architecture, so the Dallas-based design firm of Wilson & Associates (of Mansion at MGM Grand fame) went for a Bali-meets-Texas style statement. Every space is decorated with items like ancient Javanese sculptures, hand-painted South African pottery, Thai silk pillows, and carved furniture from Africa and Asia. A team of four artisans flew in from Bali to construct the roofs on the villas, the main pavilion, and the bar (the semi-porous Balinese alang-alang thatching is not for the squeamish, however, since
the occasional giant millipede falls through). The glass-walled villas have French doors that can be opened to the constant breezes, allowing neon-green geckos to skitter past the mosquito nettingdraped bed. Botticino marble floors are edged in African Chamfuta teak that's polished so frequently and diligently that anyone barefoot must beware of slipping. And the bathrooms--oh, the bathrooms!--are made up of outdoor and indoor showers, mammoth vanities, and neck-deep soaking tubs with bar upon bar of heavenly coconut soap. The living area has wide Balinese daybeds that can sleep two children (kids under 12 stay at no extra cost, one of the few freebies on Frégate).