A Modern Day Robinson Crusoe
(May 09, 2012) During the 18th century, the 115 Islands that made up the Seychelles were a hideaway for pirates, including the infamous Oliver Levasseur, known as The Buzzard, who was hanged in Mauritius in July 1730. He plagued the shipping lanes in the western Indian Ocean, plundering their valuable cargoes.
His missing hoards of treasure, including the fabled Portuguese Fiery Cross of Goa encrusted with diamonds and rubies, were buried on islands in the Seychelles, including the small island of Moyenne.
200 years later…
The beaches of the Seychelles are among the most spectacular on the planet. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from the capital, Victoria, and surrounded by turquoise waters, the 22½ acres of Moyenne stand out from the neighboring islands, which are owned by the who’s who of wealth.
In the early 1960s, Yorkshire native, Brendon Grimshaw was enjoying the tail-end of his month-long vacation to the Seychelles Islands, when a boy passing in the street asked whether he wanted to buy an island.
Grimsham recalls that he indeed did want to buy and island although previous efforts to do so had failed, and after a quick visit to the property he was sold. The Island was even rumored to have undiscovered buried treasure. Quickly thereafter a late night meeting with the owners was set up and bingo, the deal was done.
“I said to myself ‘My God, what have you done?’ ” Grisham told Radio New Zealand.
A decade later Grimsham moved to Moyenne Island full time, becoming one of the few people to ever live on the island.
In interviews he has described the island as impenetrable bush with few signs of wildlife. To get from one side to the other required swimming around or boating.
The first challenge, then, was to cut a path through the undergrowth so he could see exactly what the island had to offer and what needed to be done.
Since then, and with the help of a local man he hired to help him, they planted 16,000 trees, attracted thousands of birds and fostered a thriving community of giant tortoises, none of which were around when he first bought the island.
He greets visiting tourists, the fees from whom pay for the island’s upkeep, barefoot on the beach. They are welcome, though developers who would cater to the area’s tourist boom are not.
“I’m sure there are people who would like to see this island taken over by one of the multi-millionaires,” Mr. Grimshaw told the UK based Financial Times.
His stance has made him a darling of conservationists and he is the subject of a documentary A Grain of Sand, that pushed to have the island declared a national park of the Seychelles. That goal was achieved in 2008 as Grimshaw continues to tend to his island and his giant tortoises.
“The babies (tortoises) are kept in my bedroom,” he told the Financial Times in 2008. “If you let them go, you’ll never see them again.”
Fifty years later, Grimshaw, 86, still owns Moyenne Island still, having transformed it from a $20,000(US) life-less chunk of bush into a haven for birds and tortoises that reportedly drew offers of $50-million before it was declared a national park in 2008.
Grimshaw has yet to find the buried treasure.