This week we wanted to share with you the rich history of our beloved La Digue beachfront hotel site and the infamous local family figures that came before it.
Let us start with our much loved father and grandfather, Karl St Ange who, together with his darling wife Germaine, occupied the site of our luxury waterfront hotel in La Digue for the majority their golden years (their house sat where the little beach shack once stood).
“Ton Karl” as he was affectionately known was born on La Digue on the 31st December 1919. The only son of coconut farmers, Kersley and Josephine St. Ange, Karl worked the family’s La Digue plantation alongside his parents, producing coconut oil via “Kalorifer” (drying kiln) and an ox-drawn extraction mill.
Wanting to expand their business, 1936 saw the St Ange family introduce the first patchouli distillery to La Digue, processing patchouli leaves from local farmers all over La Digue and Praslin.
The family later introduced vanilla to their expanding plantation and started intense cultivation of the orchid to become one of the biggest producers and exporters of Seychelles vanilla pods. Thanks to Karl’s entrepreneurial spirit the family traded over one and a half tons of vanilla each year with the Kimpton Brothers of London, earning the St. Ange La Digue Vanilla great recognition in 1960s.
Already firmly established as a leading local visionary, Karl continued to shape La Digue’s destiny for several decades to come.
It was in the early 70s when plantation life was on the wane, that Karl decided to convert the traditional ox-driven cargo carrying flat bed carts into an attractive, hooded people carrier, beautifully decorated with coconut leaves and flowers, that would become synonymous with the island’s unhurried, laid back vibe.
Seizing on the opportunities that the newly built Seychelles International Airport ushered in, Karl ventured into the hospitality trade opening “Cabanes des Anges”, a small beachfront hotel offering a unique, authentic style of tourism unlike any other in the Seychelles. Karl made sure his guests experienced a memorable, truly local, holiday experience – which is still the most sought after escape for the modern day traveller today.
A real peoples person and lover of his beautiful islands, Karl St. Ange decided to dabble into politics, adamant to help change the course of our country’s destiny – which he did in many ways.
As you can see Ton Karl lived life to the fullest and his influence on both on his native island and his country is immense. His imprint on La Digue, despite the fading of the plantations and his cherished ‘Cabanes’ is still evident, and we hope to continue his legacy with Le Nautique Seychelles.