Moyenne Island – Moyenne Island, Republic of Seychelles - Atlas Obscura
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Moyenne Island, Republic of Seychelles

Moyenne Island

English newspaper editor buys abandoned island for £8,000, and transforms it into a tortoise nature preserve worth 34 million Euros that is now the smallest national park in the world. 

Many of us fantasize about what we would do with our own island. Brendon Grimshaw turned his fantasy into a wondrous reality - a flora and fauna preserve, primarily housing over 100 land tortoises, the only human inhabitant watching over a paradise of endangered beauty.

Grimshaw, who died in 2012, bought the island for a meager £8,000 in 1962. An adventurer with a love of nature and travel, he had always wanted an island to call his own, and was very attracted to the beautiful spots in Seychelles, window shopping for years throughout the smattering of Indian Ocean islands.

Then, he met Moyenne, with it’s measly four types of trees so overgrown one couldn’t even walk past the beach, brush so dense coconuts never managed to hit the ground. It was a hard, long road to paradise, but with help from a partner, Rene Antoine Lafortune, and a bevy of misadventures (Tropical storms! Sharks!) Grimshaw developed the wild island into a gorgeous preserve, where he now lives with his Testudine friends.

Moyenne Island, once an unkept brush pile, is now home to 16000 plants and trees, mahogany, palm, mango and paw paw that he painstakingly transferred to attract the host of native birds that flocked from neighboring islands. Nature paths wind in and out of the plant life, leaving room for visitors to explore, and explore they may, as long as they remember that the tortoises have the right of way.

A reptilian version of a crazy cat lady, Grimshaw has transported and bred roughly 120 tortoises onto the island, and they roam freely, many of them likely to have been destroyed on the other islands by development and careless humans. Here under Grimshaw’s care, they have flourished, and visitors are reminded of whose home they are actually guests in by a sign that reads, “Please Respect the Tortoises. They are probably older than you”

Bringing the island to life is Grimshaw’s greatest accomplishment, and he and the island were recently rewarded by being declared a national park. Grimshaw has been offered as much as $54 million for the property, but has stubbornly refused, convinced that any buyer would destroy his tortoise paradise and turn it into another big hotel resort. It is now safely regulated as the smallest national park in the world, and also holds the distinction of having more species per square foot than any other national park in existence.

Grimshaw chronicled both his life as an adventuring editor and his transformation of Moyenne in the book “Grain of Sand.”