I spent six months filming in the Indian Ocean for my new BBC series, trying to capture how the life of the ocean affects the people who live there. I met many extraordinary people, none more than Brendon Grimshaw (left), an elderly and somewhat eccentric Yorkshireman who has turned an island in the Seychelles into the smallest national park in the world.
Brendon bought Moyenne for £8,000 in the 1960s. He was a journalist by profession and had edited newspapers in Africa. But by 1973 he had grown tired of that life and so moved onto the island — and he’s lived there ever since. He’s now in his 80s, but has no intention of leaving his home.
I’m sure that’s where he will die and be buried. Brendon has completely transformed Moyenne. He brought in 16,000 trees and planted them by hand. He laid paths around the island and built a wooden house that he still lives in to this day. He has also introduced birds to the island and breeds giant tortoises — I think there are more than 100 of them roaming the island now.
You’ve got to be eccentric to breed giant tortoises on a remote island like this. And you’ve got to have a stubborn streak to be willing and able to survive in a place like Moyenne. But I think what marks him out as a true British eccentric, or perhaps as a typical Yorkshireman abroad, is his grit and determination to make the island his own private paradise.
Brendon has been offered phenomenal sums of money to sell it, but all he has ever wanted to do is to preserve it as it is. He got his wish in 2008 when Seychelles officials agreed to classify Moyenne as a national park, which means there can be no commercial development on it. He is a real-life Robinson Crusoe — the difference is that he marooned himself and has no wish to leave.
Saved by seaweed