Most people who buy a tropical island are doing so to live in luxury. Brendon Grimshaw was a unique individual. The same thing isn’t happened with Moyenne Island, the Seychelles Grimshaw bought.
Grimshaw visited the Seychelles archipelago, which is made up of 115 Indian Ocean island archipelagos, for the first time in 1962. Only eight of these islands are permanently inhabited.
He was an editor at some of the largest newspapers in East Africa at the time. It was a thrilling time in Africa and he was able to meet Tanzania’s charismatic leader, Julius Nyerere.
Grimshaw wanted more than a vacation.
The previous year, Tanzania declared independence. Kenya followed a year later. Grimshaw, an Englishman knew that locals would soon take over jobs similar to his. Grimshaw was looking for a new way of life that would allow him to be closer to nature and avoid being unemployed. Grimshaw dreamed of owning property in Seychelles, ideally his own island.
Grimshaw started to question his plans after spending a few weeks in the Seychelles. There weren’t many islands available for sale and they were expensive. The second-to-last day Grimshaw was on vacation, a young man approached Grimshaw at Victoria, the Seychelles’ seat of government, and asked him if he would like to purchase an island.
It was exactly as it sounds. They traveled together to Moyenne (a 0.099sqkm dot 4.5km offshore the north coast de Mahe), the largest island of the Seychelles. Grimshaw fell in love immediately with the silence and wild tangles of vegetation. Although it was not far from the main island in the Seychelles but close enough, Grimshaw would later describe how it felt like a world away.
It was totally different. He told a documentary film crew that it was an “unique sensation” in 2009. “This was the place I was searching for.”
Grimshaw paid PS8,000 for Moyenne on the last day in Seychelles. He owned the island. Moyenne would be easier to buy than care for.
Moyenne was abandoned for many decades. The island had only been inhabited by a few fishermen. It was only a matter time before the land was developed into a five-star resort.
Moyenne, a tiny island in the Seychelles, measures only 0.4 km long and 0.3km across with a coastline of less that 2km. The highest point is only 61m above the water’s edge.
Moyenne is surrounded by the same white sand and granite rocks that make up many Seychelles beaches. However, it has a thick wall of trees that covers the island. They are trying to create a pyramid-like structure above the water’s edge. It is a lush riot of green set against the cobalt sky and sapphire sea.
Moyenne is a small island, but it was an enormous undertaking to restore its natural beauty. Moyenne was ill-equipped and struggling for breath due to neglect and human intervention. The island’s understory was choked by weeds, and fallen coconuts were never seen on the ground. The undergrowth was a trap for rats and birds, which made it difficult to see the presence of birds.
Grimshaw was accompanied at all times by Rene Antoine Lafortune (the 19-year-old brother of a local fisherman). They were soon inseparable and began to transform the island together. They cleared the scrub, planted trees and forge paths through the undergrowth. Grimshaw’s obsession was with the tedious, hard work involved in this labor.
Grimshaw had initially set out to prevent Moyenne becoming too developed. This meant that he had to first discover the island’s natural beauty, and then build a simple island home where he could live his entire life. However, his long-term goal was to create a natural paradise that would last him and be preserved long into the future.
Moyenne Island is one of the most fascinating Seychelles islands, a perfect Robinson Crusoe day trip complete with snorkelling, pirates and Grimshaw and Lafortune have planted 16,000 trees over the years by hand, including 700 mahogany tree trees that reached 60-70 feet tall. They also constructed 4.8 km of nature trails before Lafortune’s passing in 2007.
He has attracted around 2,000 birds to the island as a nature lover, and he also helps to care for them. He also cares for 120 giant tortoises. Grimshaw’s island is home to more than two-thirds all endemic Seychelles plants.
Suketu Patel, a long-time friend of Grimshaw, said that “His vision was for a untouched island for the coming generations of Seychelloises and the world.” He wished for a mini Seychelles. He wanted to recreate the Seychelles experience and its islands, before tourists arrived.
Grimshaw refused to sell the island after being offered $50 million a few years back. He claimed that he didn’t want it to be a millionaire’s playground but rather a national park to all.
After years of fighting for his island’s protection, Grimshaw’s Moyenne Island became a Seychelles National Park in June 2008.
Brendon’s story of Moyenne’s connection was published in 1996 as “A Grain of Sand”. It has been the subject of many documentaries since then, including one by Simon Reeves right before his death.
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Brendon always had a story to tell the many people who came to his door. These stories included tales about hidden treasures, meticulous development of his island home and tireless conservation efforts. He was the ideal islander, a dedicated nature lover and the man who gave his life to Moyenne for almost 50 years.
It wasn’t easy work. Grimshaw found two graves while trying to clear the northwestern corner of Moyenne. Their tombstones said “Unhappily unknown”. Grimshaw was convinced that pirates were buried here in the past. One of the beaches on the island’s northern side is called Pirate’s Cove.
Legend has it that the graves belonged a pair of lowly buccaneers who were killed by two pirate leaders to allow the spirits of the deceased to haunt the island to protect the treasure.
British author Mr Grimshaw claims that Seychelles has transformed in the 35 years since his arrival. The island was covered with waterless bush and very few trees when he arrived. But now it is lush.
Mr. Grimshaw started a project to plant 16,000 trees on the island. This included 45 endemic plants, which are now found all over the island.
The government described the event as a turning point in Seychelles conservation history, and said that it is looking forward to supporting other private island owners in their conservation efforts.
Grimshaw’s true belief in the legends is not known. “It was a lot of fun for him to get up every morning and wonder, ‘What’s my plan?’ Patel said, “Let’s look for treasure.” Two Moyenne maps today have a skull-and crossbones symbol. These are the two locations where Grimshaw & Lafortune tried to find pirates’ hidden treasure.
In the 1980s, the Seychelles were a paradise on earth. Investors began to envy Moyenne’s beauty and became aware of its tropical island charm. Grimshaw was offered up to $50 million to sell the island. Every offer he received was rejected.
Grimshaw realized as he grew older, that he had limited time to ensure the island’s continued success. Grimshaw realized that he did not have any children to delegate responsibility for the island’s future and decided to act when Lafortune died in 2007.
To protect the island, he formed a trust with Patel and other people. In 2009, Grimshaw signed an agreement with Seychelles’ Ministry of Environment, which included Moyenne in Ste Anne Marine Park, but gave it its own status. As a result, Moyenne Island National Park was established, which is the world’s most small national park.
Grimshaw is a quirky figure. He moved to another side of the globe alone, bought an island, believed that pirates existed, and spent his entire life restoring what seemed like a small piece of land. However, many Seychellois are thankful for the things he left behind to help their adopted country.
Isabelle Ravinia, Seychelles National Parks Authority, stated that “In my opinion he wasn’t insane.” He returned the island to the country which was a noble act. Normal people would sell the island to make enough money for something else. He did something remarkable instead.
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Grimshaw, who was 87 years old, died in 2012 and is buried next to his father, who later moved in with Grimshaw, and two unknown pirates. Grimshaw’s gravestone reads, “Moyenne taught them to keep his eyes open for the beauty around him while thanking God.”
He stated that Moyenne Island was to be kept as a place for prayer, peace and tranquility, relaxation, knowledge, and information for Seychellois, and visitors from all nationalities, colors and creeds in his last will.
Patel is the Moyenne Island Foundation’s director. They are now responsible for fulfilling Grimshaw’s wishes. Moyenne is still largely undeveloped.
The only exception to the Jolly Roger restaurant, which serves local dishes such as grilled fish and seafood curries with red Creole sauce. There’s also a small museum about Grimshaw’s life and two nurseries that hatch giant tortoise eggs.
Moyenne has a unique sense of abandoned-island exploration that you experience as you swim back to shore, naked, through the shallows. There is no jetty at the island. As you reach dry ground, the trees are close behind you. Then you take your first steps on the gentle ascending forest trail and enter another world.
The heat is cooler as the sun’s rays filter through the canopy to reach the forest floor. You are surrounded with 16,000 trees, including mahogany palm, mango, pawpaw and palm, which were planted by Grimshaw & Lafortune. One estimate states that Moyenne National Park is home to more species of plants per square meter than any other park worldwide.
Sometimes, one of Moyenne’s almost 50 giant Aldabra tortoises (free-roaming) will block your path. You shouldn’t rush to get there, they’re not in hurry and neither should you. Keep an eye out for hawksbills turtles as they frequent the beaches of Pirate’s Cove and the shallow waters.
The island is rarely visited by more than 50 people at a time during peak tourist season and not more than 300 on a single day. Six islands make up the Ste Anne Marine Park, but Moyenne, the only one with no private land or hotel development, is the only one. Grimshaw and his close friends are likely to keep Moyenne this way.
Patel stated, “When you go to there, there is something that grabs your attention.” “If you think that you have a problem, once you reach the island, it becomes apparent that it isn’t so big.” “Moyenne should be your way of life.”
What was the Cause of Brendon’s Death?
Moyenne Island was owned by Brendon Grimshaw, and is located off the north coast of Mahe (Seychelles). According to reports, he died in Maha, Victoria where he was staying. After 40 years of hard labor, they had planted over 16,000 trees manually. Grimshaw cared for 120 tortoises and 2,000 birds that were attracted to the treen in return. One year after his death, the archipelago became a national park.
Brendon Grimshaw was married?
Brendon Grimshaw doesn’t have a partner, as he has led a lonely life. After the death of his partner, he felt more alone.
While he was among the fauna and flora, he wore a book called “A Grain Of Sand”. This has been the subject for many documentaries.
He was not in it for the money. This is evident by his refusal to take a 50 million-dollar offer to sell the trip to millionaires who had used it as a party hideout.
According to Wikipedia, Brendon Grimshaw has reached 55 years of age.
Brendon Grimshaw, 87, used to be a news editor at a Nairobi-based African company. He decided to sell all his possessions and travel around the globe as his contract was ending.
He was drawn to India by his expeditions, but was captivated by the tiny country.
After purchasing the land for an incredible 8,000 dollars, Rene Lafortune and he took on the task of restoring the area to its former glory.
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Brendon Grimshaw’s summary on Moyenne Island
Brendon Grimshaw is one the greatest men in the world. The world’s smallest park is just 22 acres (9 ha) in size. In 1962, he bought the island for PS 8,000. It was already completely covered with bushes.
Rene Lafortune, Brendon, and Rene Lafortune, his friend, spent two years building the main path, and planting approximately 16,000 trees (mahogany and casuarina), His efforts resulted in the introduction of the Giant Aldabra Tortoises, which now roam freely on the island. There are small beaches and almost 5 km of paths on the island.
“Brendon Grimshaw (86 years old) is a Yorkshire man who has lived alone on the small island paradise of Moyenne, Seychelles, in the middle of Indian Ocean. He bought it in 1962 for PS8000. But he is seldom lonely.”
“For Brendon, who spent many years reintroducing the giant tortoise to Moyenne in the native giant tortoise habitat, the island now has 120 of these magnificent creatures on one the world’s most small national parks.”
Moyenne Island or the Ile Moyenne was once a haven of pirates. But it is now an area for accidental conservation. It took Brendon Grimshaw, his friend and hired hand Seychellois Rene Lafortune over 50 years to make it safe again.
“They collaborated to plant palm trees and mango trees as well as paw-paw trees.”
“They collected rainwater, and either manually pumped it up the hillside or rowed back to the main island to get a barrel of water.
“It was exhausting, grueling work.” Brendon said that his hands were covered with blisters.
“Eventually, the trees grew and produced fruit, and water, electricity and a telephone cable were piped from Mahe.”
Brendon encouraged the return to the island of around 2,000 native birds by feeding them. 50 years of hard work.