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Staring down the barrel of unemployment, Brendon Grimshaw decided to go on holiday to the Seychelles – a cluster of islands in the Indian Ocean.
Born in Dewsbury, Brendon had spent much of his working life as a newspaper editor for some of the biggest publications in East Africa. But, after visiting the Seychelles in 1962, he decided to leave it all behind.
The Yorkshireman bought Moyenne – a small island just half a mile wide – for the princely sum of £8,000 and spent the rest of his days working to restore the island’s appearance and wildlife. Brendon is said to have fallen instantly in love with Moyenne’s silence and wild tangle of vegetation and, while it may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, lived almost completely alone on the island.
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Moyenne had been left abandoned for decades before Brendon’s arrival. It was so overgrown that it is said falling coconuts never reached the ground. It has previously been likened to “a tiny rainforest erupting from the ocean”.
With the help of 19-year-old Rene Antoine Lafortune, the son of a local fisherman, Brendon set about forging paths through the undergrowth as well as planting trees in an attempt to transform the island. He also built a humble wooden home for himself.
Brendon knew that in order to transform the island he would have to nurture the area’s wildlife back to full health. He gradually introduced giant tortoises to his corner of the Indian Ocean and eventually shared Moyenne with 120 of the indigenous creatures.
Brendon’s relentless hard work inevitably attracted the attention of wealthy investors, who viewed the Seychelles as a tropical paradise and an ideal spot for a luxury holiday destination.
The ‘real life Robinson Crusoe’ is said to have been offered up to $50m for his small island in the Seychelles. But the Dewsbury lad turned the eye-watering offer down and instead moved to secure its future in a different way.
As he had no children to pass the island to at the time of his death, Brendon signed a perpetual trust with the Seychelles’ Ministry of Environment in 2009. The agreement marked the island’s transformation into a National Park. To this day, it remains the smallest island in the world to hold that title.
Brendon Grimshaw passed away in 2012 and his grave sits alongside that of his father, who came to live with him in later life. His tombstone reads: “Moyenne taught him to open his eyes to the beauty around him and say thank you to God.”
The island is now overseen by the Moyenne Island Foundation and remains largely undeveloped. A restaurant serving local dishes, a small museum dedicated to Brendon’s life, and two nurseries for giant tortoise hatchlings form the only additions to the area, reports the BBC.
No more than 50 visitors are allowed on the island at any one time, even during peak tourist season.
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