Hidden Treasure

Along with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and an inspired menu of services, The Rock Spa at Frégate Island Private, an exotic retreat located on a one-time pirate island in the Seychelles, boasts another jewel in its abundance of riches—its Madame Dibwa. Derived from the French phrase, "the fairy woman of the forest," a Madame Dibwa is a Seychellois medicine woman and apothecary who is known for making healing potions infused with natural ingredients to soothe ails ranging from skin infections and sunburns to more serious issues like colds, coughs, fevers, and high-blood pressure. At The Rock Spa, Bernadette Chang Ty Seng, a Madame Dibwa who was trained by her grandmother, is the spa director and uses her knowledge to create an ever-changing spa menu filled with treatments that incorporate concoctions made from the island's plentiful natural bounty. "We are the only spa in the Seychelles that does not use a product line," says Marc Aeberhard, the CEO and owner's representative on the island. "All of our spa ingredients are grown on the island, and Bernadette has inherited generations-old knowledge of traditional healing and natural medicine and created services intended to improve our clients' well-being."

Because Frégate Island is flourishing with life, Chang Ty Seng has plenty of natural elements with which to practice her craft. Bananas, bilimbi (a relative of the star fruit), coconuts, guavas, mangos, melons, and papayas grow naturally on Frégate, and a team of gardeners also cultivates apples, cashews, coffee plants, mint, vanilla, and more in the resort's large organic garden and in a hydroponic greenhouse. In fact, all of the treatment ingredients are entirely edible. "The skin is the body's most important organ," says Aeberhard. "Why should it be exposed to ingredients that are chemical or not suitable for eating?" Though most spa-goers prefer to keep the blends on their bodies rather than in them, Aeberhard says the resort's spa-savvy clientele appreciate this wealth of healthiness. In fact, everything about the spa inspires guests to relax and celebrate the earth's natural elements. The four-treatment-room spa boasts incomparable scenery—it is located on a plateau on the island's highest peak and is surrounded by waterfalls and freshwater pools. Plus, its locally inspired design, complete with timber-clad walls rising up from stone bases, natural copper, and windows that open wide to let in fresh air, bring guests back to nature.

Spa services can be performed anywhere on Frégate Island, including the private villas, each of which features an infinity-edge pool (pictured). Still, many choose to climb the stone steps (above) to the hilltop Rock Spa to enjoy meaningful, all-natural treatments.
Spa services can be performed anywhere on Frégate Island, including the private villas, each of which features an infinity-edge pool (pictured). Still, many choose to climb the stone steps (above) to the hilltop Rock Spa to enjoy meaningful, all-natural treatments.

The treatment options are as plentiful as the island's fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Upon arrival at Frégate, all guests are treated to a Welcome Ritual, a complimentary customized massage that helps ease jetlag and introduces them to the spa. "It's like an amuse bouche—it gets guests to the spa, and if they like it, they will come back," says Aeberhard.


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Thus far, this approach has worked like a dream. Once they get a taste of The Rock Spa, most guests enjoy at least one service per day throughout their stay. Among the more popular treatments are Madame Dibwa's Secret Treasure Chest offerings, which are designed to ease island-specific ails. Insect Sting ($205, 75 minutes), for example, treats itchy insect bites with a massage and body wrap that incorporate Indian borage, brown sugar, and coconut oil, while clients who want to prepare their skin for the strong Seychelles sun (Frégate is only four degrees south of the equator) can partake in Before Sunbath ($280, 90 minutes), a body scrub, massage, mini-facial, and body wrap that help protect skin from damaging rays with a blend of fatak seeks, watercress, and virgin coconut oil. Another guest favorite is the Papaya Face & Body Therapy ($258, 90 minutes), a head-to-toe skincare treatment that uses a blend of honey, olive oil, papaya, and more.

The Rock Spa  is surrounded by lush foliage and paths set amid waterfalls and freshwater pools, which are an ideal backdrop for yoga and other fitness activities.
The Rock Spa is surrounded by lush foliage and paths set amid waterfalls and freshwater pools, which are an ideal backdrop for yoga and other fitness activities.

For couples looking to connect, two of the treatment rooms are large couples' suites featuring private outdoor showers and stone tubs that are ideal for such services as the Lanmour Honeymoon ($770 per couple, 3 hours). This romantic experience includes a footbath; a massage; a passionfruit, ginger, and lime sugar scrub; a coconut and ylang-ylang oil-infused wrap; a scalp massage and a conditioning yogurt and vanilla hair mask; a facial cleansing with aloe vera and honey; and a bath in the outdoor stone tub filled with hibiscus, passionflowers, and ylang-ylang. Champagne, fresh fruit, and chocolate are also on hand throughout the experience.

All spa services, including those performed on the beach
All spa services, including those performed on the beach

Still, The Rock Spa itself is just part of Frégate's blissful—and relaxing—spa booty. In addition to services in the physical spa building, treatments can be enjoyed on one of seven white-sand beaches, above the jungle canopy in a treehouse, or in one of the island's 16 luxury villas, each with its own infinity-edge pool. No matter where they choose to relax, total seclusion is completely guaranteed, as the number of guests visiting the tiny island is restricted to 40 at a time.

In guests' private villas
In guests' private villas

Green-minded travelers can add to their relaxation experience with the peace of mind that comes from vacationing in a truly eco-focused retreat. Along with the organic garden and its contribution to the spa services, most of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs consumed on the island are homegrown. In fact, the garden is so plentiful that Frégate donates a weekly supply of fruits and vegetables to the President's Village orphanage in Mahé, which amounts to about 3.2 tons of donations year. The island also boasts more than 700,000 trees, and two additional new trees are planted with each guest's arrival, allowing the island to absorb around 4.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and offsetting the carbon output guests use to journey to the Seychelles. Beyond the flora, equally-well-cared-for is the fauna. More than 400 endangered Giant Aldabra Tortoises reside on Frégate as part of a preservation program, and a nursery where baby tortoises are hatched and cared for during the first few years of their lives has led to this thriving population. Critically endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles also nest and lay eggs on the island. Additionally, 14 bird species live and breed on Frégate, including the magpie robin. More than 180 of these black-and-white birds live here, up from just 22 in the world in 1995, thanks to Frégate's successful breeding program. Plus, guests shuttle themselves around the island in solar-powered golf carts, and plans are in the works to incorporate more carbon-free and renewable fuel sources into the property's operations. Says Aeberhard, "We nurture nature, and nature nurtures us."

Involve the use of hand-blended natural ingredients
Involve the use of hand-blended natural ingredients


(Frégate Island Private, Seychelles)

OWNER: Frégate Island Private

SPA DIRECTOR: Bernadette Chang Ty Seng

OPENED: 2004


70% female, 30% male


Europe, U.K., U.S.


4 treatment rooms; 48,000 square feet



-body treatments

-couples' treatments

-energy work



-hair and scalp treatments

-hand and foot treatments




-nutrition consultation

-outdoor treatments






Changes monthly, depending on which plants, fruits, and herbs are in season


Lanmour Honeymoon ($770 per couple, 3 hours)


All treatments are performed using natural island ingredients


Alex Ellenberger, Locus Architecture (Mahé, Seychelles)