The Smallest National Park in the World – Moyenne Island, Seychelles

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Sometimes ambitious dreams come true, that’s exactly what happened to Brendon Grimshaw, formerly a British newspaper editor, who purchased a desolate Seychellois island in the 1960’s for measly £8,000 and turned it into a natural haven teeming with more species per square kilometer than anywhere else on Earth. Grimshaw has died in 1992, yet his legacy is still very much alive, with his 0.099 km2 island recognized as the world’s smallest national park.

There are two main ways of getting to Moyenne Island (about 4.5 kilometers from Mahe), either by renting a boat yourself or booking a half day trip in one of the travel agencies in Victoria, such as the oceanfront office of Marine Charter that offers a 4 hour trip, including snorkeling in the nearby waters.

 

As you get close to the Island you’ll notice a twin isle a short distance away, it’s Round Island, famous for its lavish 5 starts resort. Interestingly, all the beaches in Seychelles are public, therefore if you wish to visit Round Island’s beach without being a guest, it’s theoretically possible.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Due to the shallow waters around the island, boats cannot dock at the beach itself, and thus visitors are forced to disembark the vessel roughly 150 meters away from the island and walk the entire distance through the ocean water.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Upon arrival, any visitor to the island must register at the office. Organized trips usually include the island’s entrance fee, while independent travelers must pay that themselves.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Nestled on the island’s main beach is Moyenne’s sole restaurant, Jolly Roger Bar and Restaurant, founded by Grimshaw and his longtime partner, Rene Antoine Lafortune.

photography by: Omri Westmark



Moyenne Island was purchased by Brendon Grimshaw in 1962 for only eight thousand GBP with the goal of making it a refuge for the archipelago’s endemic flora and fauna. Following two decades of immense efforts and lobbying, the island was finally recognized as a national park, the smallest one in the world with merely 9.9 hectares in size.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The entrance pavilion to the national park includes the list of the island’s known owners and a modest exhibition of natural artifacts.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Deemed as Moyenne’s true masters, roughly 120 giant tortoises roam freely across the island, making it the only place in the country where tortoises live outside of confined pens.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Originally brought by Grimshaw after being rescued from other islands, these adorable tortoises can reach a lifespan of whopping 150 years. In fact, visitors to the park are greeted by a hilarious sign stating “Please respect the Tortoises. They are probably older than you”.

photography by: Omri Westmark


When Grimshaw bought the island in the 1960’s, it was a grungy wasteland, dominated by thick shrubs and home to only a handful of tree species. Step by step, he toiled to make it one of the world’s most biodiverse places relative to its size.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Grimshaw planted more than 16,000 trees and created almost 5 kilometers of pathways that traverse the man-made rainforest. Among the trees that were introduced to Moyenne were mango, cashew, kalis-dipap and pawpaw, the latter of which attracted myriad of birds from neighboring islands, ultimately making the island a prominent bird refuge.

photography by: Omri Westmark



The pathways across the island are accompanied by explanatory boards, providing intriguing info about the island’s current flora species.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Despite being mostly covered by a dense jungle, the island has few open treeless spots, bestowed with expansive ocean views like this small granite plateau.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Tucked away on Moyenne’s northern side, the Pirate Cove is one of two hidden beaches along the island’s 1.7-kilometer coastline. Its name refers to the dozens of pirates who use to prowl the nearby waters, as a matter of a fact, the island’s modest cemetery has a pair of unmarked graves that believed to be the last resting place of two buccaneers. Allegedly, those pirates buried a hefty treasure somewhere around, however, no one has ever found any evidence to support that claim.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Grimshaw who passed away in the summer of 2012 is buried in Moyenne cemetery, after being the sole resident of the island since its purchase.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Alongside the two pirates and Grimshaw, Brendon’s father is also buried here.

photography by: Omri Westmark


In front of the cemetery is the island’s only religious building, the Church of Saints George, Charles and Brendan, albeit it’s more of a small chapel rather than a fully functioning church.

photography by: Omri Westmark


As you walk across the island, you’ll find yourself occasionally in high elevation lookouts offering a spectacular vista of the Indian Ocean and the Seychellois archipelago.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The twin hidden beach of Pirate Cove, the Coral Cove is a virgin strip of golden sand, shaded by bending coconut trees and dotted with granite rocks. This getaway beach is ideal for quick dipping before heading back to Moyenne circular trail.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Lacking any of the hustle and bustle of Seychelle’s most popular beaches, the Coral Cove can be enjoyed as a resting spot too, even if you have no intentions of bathing in its waters.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Prior to Brendon Grimshaw, Moyenne had 9 different owners, one of whom was Miss Emma Best, who established a shelter for Mahe’s stray dogs on the island. Built in 1899, the shelter served as home for more than 40 dogs during its heyday, some allegedly were stolen by local fishermen who then sold them to Miss Best without her knowing about their origin.

photography by: Omri Westmark


The island’s tortoises are generally harmless, nevertheless, if you get too close, they might bite you out of sheer curiosity, so always beware when present around those critters.

photography by: Omri Westmark


With no natural enemies, the only premature deaths among the island’s tortoises are caused as a result of falling coconuts.

photography by: Omri Westmark


Before leaving its premises, Moyenne Island’s main beach and its only point of entry/departure is a nice place to hang around and gaze into the surrounding islands.

photography by: Omri Westmark


During low tide, a brand-new beach forms in the middle of the ocean in front of Moyenne Island, providing an unusual attraction to enjoy just before returning to Mahe.

photography by: Omri Westmark