Private Islands

If money is no object, a private island has to be the ultimate in luxury real estate. A recent Coldwell Banker International Luxury Survey (2008) stated that the most-desirable property for wealthy respondents was a private island. There are only so many of these, and a major industry has sprung up around the sale and management of private islands. The pleasure of being the only person on an island and knowing you own it is something many can only dream about.

There are islands available for private purchase all over the world, although some are in potentially hazardous positions; either politically or environmentally, and the most expensive ones tend to be situated in stable regions where the weather is good. Unless you just wish to avoid attention, no one in their right mind would consider a private island in the Antarctic to be luxurious.

Prices of islands depend largely on accessibility, infrastructure in place and the political stability of the sovereign nation. Most islands on the planet have already been claimed by one government or another, and it is important to check local regulations when buying an island. Many a buyer has purchased only to discover that the seller was not entitled to sell. Caveat emptor.

Ronde Island

Forbes ran a piece back in 2007 detailing the most expensive private islands, and top of the list was Ronde Island, Grenada at $100 million. This one is still for sale a year later, so the price may be negotiable now?

Caye Chapel resort in Belize came in second at $65 million. According to their brochure:

Welcome to a Caribbean destination unlike any other. Ten miles from the coast of Belize and nowhere close to ordinary rests a private island boasting championship golf, unparallel privacy, luxury beachfront Villa accommodations, and exemplary service. Set on 250 acres of lush grounds & pristine beaches Caye Chapel Island has been developed for those seeking an exclusive vacation experience offering privacy & seclusion. Absent are crowds of guests found at many Caribbean resorts. In its place is a feeling that you have found your own “private island” paradise created solely for your enjoyment.

Caye Chapel Resort

This one certainly gets my vote as being one of the most desirable pieces of luxury real estate on the planet.

It is hard to think of any better way of avoiding the unwanted attention that comes with being a rich and famous celebrity than buying a private island, and many celebrities have chosen to do so – Marlon Brando, David Copperfield, Gene Hackman, Richard Branson to name a few. These are the more spectacular Islands owned by celebrities:

Hollywood actor Mel Gibson purchased Mago Island in Fiji in 2005, amidst protests from descendants of the natives who were displaced back in the 1800s. Mr Gibson values his privacy at $15 million, which is what he paid for the island. The Colliers listing stated:

Mago (pronounced Mungo) Island is one of the largest freehold islands in the southwest Pacific consisting of over 5400 acres (8 square miles) of pristine ecology and varied terrain. Located in the northwest sector of the Northern Lau Group of islands in Fiji, Mago rises majestically to 670 feet on its eastern cliffs and is fringed entirely by protective reefs, powder white beaches and turquoise lagoons. The rich volcanic soil is evident in the lush, expansive interior plain and is considered by locals to be among the most fertile land in the region. A wide variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and other flora flourish profusely. Mango, coconut, grapefruit, mandarin, guava and papaya to name just a few proliferate in natural abundance.

Mel Gibson's Private Island

Another famous island is Musha Cay, the world’s most expensive Private Island resort, and available for between $25,000 – $45,000 a night. Owned by the illusionist David Copperfield, who claims to have discovered the fountain of youth on the Island. Mr. Copperfield is also famous for not being able to make himself disappear when a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her on the island and the FBI raided a warehouse belonging to him. The investigation is ongoing, but the island is still available.

Musha Cay

it would seem that owning a private island goes hand in hand with a few scandals and Mr. Copperfield is not the only wealthy island owner to have fallen foul of a few laws. The Bacardi family, who own an island in Grenada has run into issues with the office of fair trading in the UK; Richard Branson, who owns several islands in the Caribbean, hits the headlines pretty often, not all of it positive; and we all know about Mel Gibson’s drink driving habits.

This next one is probably my favorite island though. We usually think of islands as being in the sea, but this one, Isola Bella (beautiful island) is on Lake Maggiore, northern Italy.

Isola Bella Lago Maggiore Italy

Isola Bella

If I had unlimited funds and could make them an offer they couldn’t refuse, this would be my choice. The island has belonged to the Borromei family for generations, and is a popular tourist destination today with beautifully-kept Italianate gardens.

Credit for last image in series

Not all private Islands are in remote tropical locations, and there are some unusual ego-trips attached to some of them. This one, for instance, Sanda Island in Scotland:

Sanda Island in Scotland

According to the agents, Vladi Private Islands,

The owner is entitled to use the title “Laird of Sanda” and has the right to issue own postage stamps and to mint their own gold coins. Ownership of Sanda Island includes the neighboring Sheep Island and Glunimore Island.

Who wouldn’t want to be called “Laird”? Not only that, but I look great in a kilt (who doesn’t?). Put me down for a 400 acre sheep farm in the middle of the Mull of Kintyre – A snip at $6,500,000 🙂 These are a few photographs of the island. More available on the agent’s website.

Artificial Islands

Due to the scarcity of naturally occurring islands and the massive cost of installing the necessary infrastructure to live anything other than a Robinson Crusoe type existence, a simple solution seems to be – build some more. Perhaps not quite as luxurious as owning your own tropical island, they are certainly more convenient, being as most of them are close to a large urban conurbation. A number of artificial island projects have been created over the last few years, some of them quite staggering in scope and size.

The World Dubai

The-World-islands-Dubai.jpgPerhaps the most well-promoted of the man-made private islands projects is “The World.” Nakheel properties, the state owned property development company have built a 300-island artificial archipelago surrounded by an oval breakwater off the coast of Dubai. Islands sell for between $6 million and $250 million. The final stone was laid in the breakwater in January 2008.

60% of the islands have been reported as sold and a number of celebrities have been rumored to have bought personal Islands. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were reported to have purchased an island in 2007, but have since denied this. Most confirmed sales seem to have been to developers planning hotels or amusement parks and thus far, it seems there will not be many private purchases. With only 100 meters between each island (paddling distance) and a cost in the millions I don’t quite see these as a quiet getaway. Hundreds of speed boats dashing between islands and thousands of people coming and going on a daily basis don’t quite fit with my idea of luxury.

Dredger working the World Islands Development


One confirmed sale is “Ireland,” to an Irish business consortium Larionovo who intend to create an Irish-themed resort complete with miniature Giant’s Causeway. Investment Dar have purchased Australasia and are planning a “lifestyle destination,” with approximately 2,000 apartments, 200 villas and a number of luxury hotels.

Cinnovation Group recently announced the acquisition of the Nova Island and revealed plans to build a luxurious hospitality haven on the 400,000 sqft island – the project is valued at $200 million. Jean Van Gysel de Meise purchased “Greece,” earlier this year and is planning a “Boutique hotel,” on the Island.

The World pales in comparison to the latest idea, “The Universe,” another man made islands project. This one is still on the drawing board, thank goodness.

The Universe man made Island project.

The Universe Islands - Proposed

Al Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah

Al Marjan Island

Another artificial Island project in the UAE is Al Marjan Island, situated 16.6 miles southwest of Ras Al Khaimah’s city center. When completed, the Island complex will be over 2.7 million square meters and the development is should be finished in June 2009. Ras Al Khaiman is competing directly with Dubai’s World Island Project and the developer, Rakeen, is keen to point out their preference for ecologically-friendly methods of construction:

Rakeen does not favour ‘hostile dredging’ to create man-made islands. Rather, we have used surface fill with coarse earth material for the Al Marjan Island. Over two million pieces of natural rock were cautiously and carefully laid one at a time for building essential breakwaters, instead of utilizing concrete ripraps that are visually unacceptable and naturally unwelcoming to marine life. This has generated home to marine life over more than 400,000m2 of rock. The rocks will also, in the long term, attract coral life and help a reef formation, giving birth to a new ‘natural’ wonder in RAK and a breathtaking underwater paradise unique to the Arabian Gulf.

Federation Island, Sochi, Russia

federation-island-sochi-russia-1.jpg Another planned private Island development is on the Black Sea in Russia. The plan for Federation Island is to make the development in the shape of the Russian Federation, copying geographical features. The Russian
river network is used as a reference for the island’s waterways.

Federation Island will comprise seven main, more than twelve private islands and three breakwater islands. Sandy beaches, dunes, grasslands, bushes, small forests and riverside will offer much variety for accommodation ranging from beach residences, luxury villas and apartments to dune, river and cliff houses. If all goes to plan, the Islands will be complete before the winter Olympics in 2014. In September 2007, world-renowned architect, Erick van Egeraat made breaking news with the presentation of his plans for Federation Island. In the meantime, the project has been approved by the Krasnodar regional government (The Krasnodar regional government is this year’s main sponsor of the MIPM real estate fair).

It is fair to say there has been a reasonable amount of opposition to this plan, mostly based on the fact that the idea was first touted by the then-mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, who’s wife, Elena Baturina (ranked number 279 on Forbes Richest List in 2007) just happens to own a group of construction companies. No prizes for guessing who won the contract.

No Mans Land Fort Portsmouth UK

nomansfor-private-osland.jpgOf course, the idea of a man-made island is not exactly new, and I understand that No Mans Land Fort is still available. Now this is what I call a quiet getaway.

No Mans Land Fort was built between 1867 and 1880 off the coast of Portsmouth as a defense against a sea borne invasion by Napoleon III. Then Prime Minister Lord Palmerston ordered the fort’s construction and I would hazard a guess that the engineering involved in placing the armor-plated granite and steel walls was considerably trickier than using a dredger to suck and blow sand into a pile. The fort is almost 200 feet across and juts 60 feet up from the sea. The water supply comes from a borehole sunk into the seabed and the property generates it’s own electricity. Oddly enough, not wave powered.

The fort was decommissioned in 1957, was briefly a private residence and then a luxury hotel, then a private residence again. Specifications include 21 luxurious rooms, a heated swimming pool and two helipads. Interested parties can contact KMPG and I understand the price is negotiable, but around $ 8 million. Not bad for this level of security. Although I understand that the cannons have been removed and in keeping with the tradition of private island owners falling foul of the law, the most recent owner is currently serving prison time for fraud, so perhaps not quite total security from the Inland Revenue man.