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Private Island Resorts

During the day, the resort lives up to its name, since it's deliciously easy to disappear. Make your way down the 60-plus steps to Anse Bambous, a deserted white-sand beach. Hike up 410-foot granite Mont Signal to the highest point on the island--again, you'll find no one. It appears that most visitors prefer to do nothing: James Millet, the resort's resident ornithologist, says that guests rarely sign up for his forest bird-watching tours, missing the opportunity to spot huge beetles and the rare magpie robin. Likewise, Anse Parc, home of giant tortoises, gets few visitors, although kids sometimes stop by for a little "tortoise surfing."

Where you might happen upon other people is by the infinity pool or on Anse Victorin, a perfect specimen of a beach that requires a journey down 80 rocky steps, or Anse Macquereau, where a daily barbecue lunch is served. And most guests go diving and snorkeling off Îlot Frégate, where a coral reef teems with stingrays, moray eels, and sharks.

One curious part of the experience at Frégate--and at many private islands--is the food. Perhaps the insanely rich tire of the monotony of five-star cuisine, since the menu at Frégate is homespun, at best. But then,guests aren't turning up their noses at freshly caught langoustines, grilled and served with a simple butter-and-lime sauce. Three nights a week, dinner goes buffet-style at the old plantation house down by the marina. Coke-bottle torches light the path to a grassy spot where carved Balinese tables and elegant chairs are set up. It's all very casual, like Banana Republic's version of Out of Africa.

At Turtle Island on Fiji and many other private-island resorts, guests are encouraged to dine together and share their experiences. Frégate, mercifully, recognizes that not everyone wants to chat about that early-morning dive over coffee. There are no communal tables, no manager's cocktail party, no guest book. While families with children often befriend one another, most guests are only vaguely aware of anyone else's presence.

"there are certain kinds of people who are looking for privacy, either because they're famous or because their lives are so rushed that they want to pull up the drawbridge," says Virgin Atlantic Airlines' Richard Branson. His own Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands, belongs to a different class of resort--the entire property is rented only to single groups. Today it's one of the world's premier private-island destinations, but Necker was just a deserted isle when Branson fell in love with it. In the late 1970's, whilehe was courting his wife, he brought her to the BVI. "I didn't have muchmoney, and I thought that if I pretended I was going to buy an island, I'd get the royal treatment," says the crafty mega-mogul. "Although I wasn't serious about doing it, the red carpet was laid on." When Branson was shown Necker, "a little jewel" miles from civilization, he swore that one day he'd come back to buy it.

"Private islands are psychic refuges from everyday life," says Andrew Harper, the pseudonymous editor of Hideaway Report, a luxury travel newsletter. Harper believes that because it's becoming increasingly difficult to find places that provide escapism with style and comfort, private-island resorts have grown in popularity. And no place does it better than Frégate. "It's such a private spot that guests can walk around their villas with no clothes on and never worry," says Henderson, the resort's general manager. "Well, I can't say that I've actually seen any guests do it, but I certainly do it myself--and I haven't been caught yet."

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