History

One Man’s Island in 1950’s : Brendon Grimshaw is Real Life Robinson Crusoe

In 1962, Brendon Grimshaw achieved a dream many can only imagine: the purchase of a tropical island. Situated 4.5 kilometers off the northern coast of Mahé, the largest of the Seychelles’ 115-island archipelago, Moyenne Island, untouched, overgrown, and steeped in pirate treasure legends, captivated Grimshaw upon his initial visit. Despite being merely 400 meters long and 300 meters wide, this tiny paradise held a special allure.

Originally from the UK and working as a newspaper editor in Kenya, Grimshaw found himself reassessing his life’s course as Kenya was on the brink of political change. At the age of 37, he sought a more nature-centric existence and fantasized about owning land in the Seychelles. A fortuitous opportunity emerged during a visit under the guise of a holiday. After weeks of exploration, he was disheartened by the hefty price tags on the few available islands for sale.

Just before his return home, fate intervened when a young man approached him about buying an island. That day led them to Moyenne Island, where Grimshaw felt an indescribable connection. For around $10,000, Grimshaw became the proud owner of Moyenne Island. Yet, the challenges were only beginning.

The island’s dense rainforest, so impenetrable that coconuts never reached the ground, posed an obstacle. Neglect had overrun Moyenne, with weeds choking native plants and only rats traversing the terrain. Grimshaw partnered with local man Rene Antoine Lafortune, embarking on a lifelong endeavor to restore the island’s original Seychellois environment.

They cleared paths, eradicated scrub, and diligently planted native flora. This obsession with planting led to an impressive count of over 16,000 trees on the island today.

A scarcity of native fauna prompted Grimshaw to introduce birds to the island. Although initial attempts faltered, persistence paid off as more birds eventually settled and multiplied with the growth of new trees. Approximately 2,000 birds now grace this island haven.

Grimshaw’s conservation efforts extended to giant Aldabra tortoises, a native species nearly extinct on many islands. After transporting tortoises to Moyenne, he nurtured them with meticulous care and established a breeding program. This earned him the moniker of “the reptilian version of a cat lady.” The island now boasts around 50 tortoises.

In 1972, Grimshaw permanently relocated to Moyenne Island, setting up essential amenities like water, electricity, and even a phone line. While some anticipated the island’s transformation into a tourist resort, Grimshaw held firm to his vision of a nature preserve. Despite offers of up to $50 million to purchase the island, he resisted.

Grimshaw shared the island with his father after his mother’s passing, solidifying a unique and cherished bond. Following his father’s passing, he was not alone, as Lafortune and a few stray dogs remained companions. The island’s white sands welcomed day-trippers, allowing them to experience its magic.

As Grimshaw’s years advanced, he established a perpetual trust and an agreement with Seychelles’ Ministry of Environment. Moyenne Island evolved into the world’s smallest national park, and upon his passing in 2012, he was laid to rest beside his father. His tombstone inscription eloquently captured his profound journey: “Moyenne taught him to open his eyes to the beauty around him and say thank you to God.”

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