Stories Behind the World’s most Luxurious Private Islands
Taking you behind the scenes of some of how the world's most luxurious private islands came about.
Exceptionally beautiful, Fregate Island Private is located 4° south of the equator in the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 paradise islands discovered over 300 years ago. In the 17th century, pirates were among the first inhabitants, using islands like Fregate as a base for attacks against Britain’s East India Company. The Seychelles was declared a French colony in the 18th century, gaining independence in 1976.
Fregate itself is a ‘jewel of conservation’, and home to hundreds of thousands of birds, several of which have been brought back from extinction. In fact, Fregate Island was the only remaining habitat of the “Seychelles Magpie Robin” with a headcount of only fourteen remaining. Thanks to this island’s dedicated conservation programme, they now number more than 100.
There are also a number of free-roaming Giant Aldabra Tortoises on the island. Bred from a population of 150 tortoises some 25 years ago, they now number 2,200 and are one of the island’s main attractions, along with the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle and endangered Green Turtle which can been seen nesting on shore from October to January.
After 200 years of intensive agricultural practices during the plantation era, great efforts have also been made in restoring the island’s native flora with many indigenous species having been planted across the island, including the mighty Takamaka tree – a national icon.
With luxury pool residences, white-sand beaches and endless activities to partake in, staying on Fregate Island Private is truly a magical experience.
Set in the Berry Islands in the heart of the Bahamas, Little Whale Cay is a private tropical retreat steeped in local Bahamian history. The island was developed in the the art-deco era of the 1930’s as a private residence by Wallace Groves, a U.S businessman and controversial character with a strong interest in the Bahamas. Residents and employees during Grove’s ownership report that he ran the island in police-state fashion. This couldn’t be further from the truth today, with the island now a haven of tranquility and relaxation.
Sold in 1985 to current owners, remnants of the past still remain with the origin of many birds present on the island traceable to Grove’s bird collection. These include flamingos, Bahamian duck, Bahama woodstar hummingbirds and domestic peacocks.
Well-known as Sir Richard Branson’s private island paradise, Necker Island is an exclusive destination in the beautiful British Virgin Islands. At the age of 27, Branson expressed an interest in buying the island mainly to impress a girl he had fallen for, but also because the British Virgin Islands held the same name as his company ‘Virgin Records’.
In the early days of Virgin Records he did not have the funds to buy the island, but the realtor did not know this and offered Branson an all expenses paid trip to see the islands with the object of his affection. Dreams of buying the island however were swiftly spoiled when the realtor quoted the ‘discounted’ asking price of $6 million. Branson’s offer of $100,000 was rejected and the pair were left to find their own way home.
A year later, nobody else had made a better offer on Necker and the owner being desperate to sell accepted a purchase price of $180,000 – the only condition being that Branson would need to build a resort on the island within four years. Thus Necker Island was born. As for the girl…Branson married her on the island 11 years later in front of family and friends.
Necker Island was a blank canvas when Branson arrived, the only inhabitants having been the Carib Indians hundreds of years before. The buildings have been kept to a minimum in order to keep the environment as unspoilt as possible and it is now home to two main houses and several Bali beach houses.
Necker Island hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2011 when a hurricane struck the island, with lightning striking the Great House and setting fire to it. Staying there at the time was Kate Winslet who carried Branson’s 88 year old mother to safety. The house was rebuilt into the luxurious hideaway seen today.
The island is almost carbon neutral with windmills and solar energy and has reintroduced several species, including Caribbean flamingos, onto Necker which used to exist in the British Virgin Islands.
From sandy white beaches to crystal clear water, there is no shortage of things to do on the island, and when the sun goes down…the party starts.
Pioneering conservation-based luxury tourism in Cambodia’s Koh Rong Archipelago, Song Saa is an award-winning private island which seeks to improve local livelihoods and preserve the region’s marine life and rainforests. Opening in 2012, the island was Song Saa Collective’s first venture and with increased knowledge and experience, the Collective are currently developing a 200 plus hectare bio-reserve outside Siem Reap which will include a Song Saa resort, ecological and cultural conservation initiatives and a solar project that will supply power to rural communities.
Founded by successful entrepreneur Rory Hunter and Melita Koulmandas Hunter, Song Saa came about as a result of a sailing trip around Koh Rong Archipelago in early 2006. On the last day of their trip the couple stopped at a little fishing village on a tiny island and got chatting to the family who lived there who asked if they wanted to buy the island. With an asking price of $15,000 the couple took a chance and purchased the island – thus the Song Saa adventure begun.
Many challenges lay ahead, particularly as the island and surrounding reefs were in a state of disrepair. Through cleaning up the islands, the couple saw the opportunity to bring something to the community and protect the Koh Rong Archipelago.
Created with sustainability in mind, Song Saa Private Island has been built from local materials, by local hands, and is infused with local art and soul. There are 24 spacious villas with linen-draped canopy beds, up-cycled decor and repurposed furniture. The resort also includes two bars and restaurants, a large infinity pool and heavenly spa sanctuaries – a place where you can truly detach from the world and appreciate simple luxuries.