Private lives

Private lives, by Christine McCabe, Susan Kurosawa
(Credit: The Australian)

You know you've made it when you own an island. It's the ultimate status symbol. Privacy guaranteed. A paparazzi-free zone. Hot-to-trot locales for cashed-up celebs include the Caribbean and the Bahamas, with Belize fast on their heels (Leonardo DiCaprio is rumoured to have purchased an island there recently).

But private islands are becoming scarcer and pricier. A recent Forbes Magazine round-up of the world's most expensive island hideaways has, at No.1, the 6ha Isla de sa Ferradura near Ibiza in Spain. Asking price? A cool $53million. This buys a luxe hacienda and sundry accessories including boats, Jeeps and golf buggies.

Broker for the sale is Hamburg-based Farhad Vladi, the high-flying L.J. Hooker of islands. For more than 30 years he has scoured the world for island real estate and his company, Vladi Private Islands, sells and rents islands and operates a travel agency specialising in island holidays.

But it's Port Douglas-based broker Cheyenne Morrison, of Coldwell Banker Morrisons Private Islands, who claims the largest portfolio: more than 170 islands valued at $US550 million ($723 million). Last year Fortune voted the go-getting Morrison one of the world's top three private island brokers.

If buying an island is more than a little out of your league, you may consider renting one instead. They come in all shapes and sizes and vary in price from a few hundred dollars a week to several thousand dollars a night. New properties for hire on Vladi's books include the aptly named Castaway Island in the Maldives sleeping only four people in luxury tents (from $US3500 a day).

Or there's Galloo, the second largest private island in the US, located on the eastern side of Lake Ontario in New York state. Boasting high cliffs, sandy beaches, a natural harbour and a handsome guest lodge with animal-themed rooms, Galloo is a huntin', fishin' kind of place with good stocks of whitetail deer, pheasants and ducks, while the island's waters promise excellent catches of salmon, pike and bass. Boats, kayaks, an island Jeep and quad bikes are at guests' disposal. Rates begin at $US19,500 a week for up to 12 guests on a self-catering basis.


Richard Branson is squire of a famous hideaway in rental circles: the beautiful Necker Island, which is sequestered, rather appropriately, in the British Virgin Islands. The canny Branson purchased his island almost 30 years ago when such flights of fancy were more affordable.

Today Necker is thought to be worth $US100 million and is more private resort than private island, sleeping up to 28 people in a Great House and scattering of Balinese-style bungalows, with the full Four Seasons inventory of holiday attractions: swimming pools, jacuzzis, tennis courts, gymnasium, speedboats and every conceivable water-based activity from kite surfing to deep-sea fishing.

Rates on Necker vary according to the number of guests and time of year but figure on a minimum $US30,000 a day (for up to 14 guests) plus service charges. Hardly small change, but this includes all meals, beverages and activities, and you'll be in good company. Former guests include Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Diana, princess of Wales. Necker also hosts Celebration Weeks when rooms can be booked by couples or individuals and the island's facilities shared. All inclusive rates start at $US21,500 a week for couples.


TAPROBANE – an island of postage-stamp proportions situated in Weligama Bay, 30 minutes' south of Sri Lanka's World Heritage-listed Galle Fort – is too tiny to share. In fact, Taprobane is so small it has been wrapped in fabric for a magazine photo shoot. Transfers are DIY; just hitch that skirt or sarong and wade through the surf while the houseboy balances your luggage on his head. (The truly indolent may consider an elephant-back or sedan-chair crossing.)

Topped with a neo-Palladian villa open to the sea breezes, this jewel of a garden-clad islet enjoys a wonderfully eccentric history, first settled by a somewhat dubious count and at one time home to author Paul Bowles, who wrote The Spider's House while in residence. With five ensuite bedrooms, the house comfortably sleeps 10 and comes with the services of a cook, houseboys, gardener and security staff.

Rates begin at $1000 a night and meals are made to order following a daily meeting with the cook. Off he wades to market while you lie by the pool or venture forth to explore Sri Lanka's surf-lapped west coast.


IF your idea of an island holiday is more Robinson Crusoe than Richard Branson and your budget more in keeping with a castaway than a millionaire, fear not, Australia offers several down-home solutions. Among them is 36.4sqkm Flinders Island, set 35km off South Australia's Eyre Peninsula and boasting 50km of rugged coastline and 14 white-sand beaches.

One hour from Elliston by boat or 40 minutes by air from Port Lincoln, Flinders is perfect castaway territory, where blond grasses meet sapphire waters and days are given over to fishing (for whiting, snapper and salmon), fossicking on deserted beaches, snorkelling, surfing or simply daydreaming. Self-catering digs are available in a down-to-earth Aussie beach house sleeping up to nine (with four-wheel-drive and aluminium dinghies on hand). Rates begin at $80 a night for each person (minimum eight people).


TROUBRIDGE Island, 8km from Edithburgh on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula, is more accessible. Set on a bush-clad sandy shoal, this charming hideaway (1ha at high tide and 5ha at low, with fairy penguins in residence) features self-contained accommodation for eight in an 1860s lighthouse keeper's cottage (also $80 a night for each person).


STILL too far? Billabong Island bed-and-breakfast, perched on a 1ha island in the middle of a lily-strewn ornamental lake, is within easy strolling distance of the alfresco restaurants of tropical north Queensland's Holloways Beach. Downtown Cairns may be a mere 10 minutes' drive away and mainland neighbours within easy reach, but this charming B&B feels as if it could be way off shore, the outside world muffled by a collar of paperbark trees. Accommodating a maximum two couples, nightly rates are set at $145, including gourmet breakfast.


ACROSS the ditch in Marlborough Sound, 15 minutes from Wellington by helicopter, New Zealand's Forsyth Island affords dramatic vistas best appreciated by traipsing its 48km of walking trails. Accommodating up to eight in a luxury three-bedroom lodge, Forsyth can be rented on a self-catering or full-board basis. Resident caretakers will provision the house or prepare meals as required, plucking vegetables from the island garden and fish from the sea, not forgetting those marvellous local wines. Expect the full gamut of water-based activities, including whale watching in season. The island is accessible by boat from Havelock if you're a tad chopper-shy; rates begin at $835 a day for up to eight guests. Add $67 a day full board for each person.


FOR those hankering after warmer climes, Wadigi Island in Fiji fits the bill nicely. Just over one private hectare, it has three luxury guest suites and two personal chefs at your disposal for $US2100 a day (two people, for a minimum of three nights).

Set among the Mamanuca Islands 10 minutes from Nadi airport by helicopter (or two hours by boat from Denarau Wharf), Wadigi offers the ultimate tropical island getaway with two private beaches, infinity swimming pool, heavenly lagoon and your own boat captain on call for a spot of islandhopping.


JUST as charming is laid-back Dolphin Island, a private enclave set 10 minutes off the north of Viti Levu and operated by New Zealand's famous Huka Lodge. Twin tropical villas provide luxury digs and great sunset views for a maximum of two couples (one booking) with kindly hosts Dawn and Stanley on hand to cater to every whim. There are water sports aplenty; and the island can be circumnavigated on foot at low tide. Fully inclusive tariff with transfers from Nadi is set at $NZ2900 a day for each couple (minimum three nights) or $NZ3700 for two couples.


WITH more than 1100 islands floating off its picturesque and rocky coastline, Croatia is lighthouse central, offering alluring and idiosyncratic converted accommodation for die-hard romantics. There's a great selection of Famous Five-style holiday boltholes, from the minuscule Porer Island, dominated by an 1833 lighthouse provisioned by the obliging Captain Giotta, to a lighthouse apartment on the remote Palagruza Island, reputedly home of the legendary Greek hero Diomedes. St Ivan Na Pucini, part of a small archipelago lying off Rovinj, offers two four-bed apartments in a 23m lighthouse. More rock than island, St Ivan nevertheless boasts two small beaches and promises excellent fishing and diving with rates beginning at a very affordable E134 ($224) a week. BYO egg and cress sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer.


Christine McCabe
MYOLA Plantation Villa is a Fijian hideaway on the Coral Coast of the main isle of Viti Levu that operates in the same way as Dolphin Island: there are two double suites but guests are taken on only one booking. So round up a like-minded couple or reserve sole use for a stay at what amounts to a dream holiday home.

The accommodation is self-contained, with all the expected indoor luxuries, plus outdoor shower, plunge pool and clifftop ocean views. A personal chef and retinue of staff are on hand; meals are created using organic produce grown on the estate and in the nearby Sigatoka Valley, Fiji's rich-soiled food bowl.

Spa treatments with luscious Pure Fiji oils and lotions can be arranged as part of the pampering package. Myola Plantation Villa is about 45 minutes by road from Nadi airport or do the full James Bond thing and reduce the transfer time to 12 minutes by flying in by chopper. And if you are really doing it in style, there's a garden cottage available for your retinue of staff or black-suited bodyguards.




Cheyenne Morrison

Eco Tourism