When Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire who started Virgin Air, Virgin Records and hundreds of other Virgin brand products, decides to do something, he does it right.
When he was 28, with just six years of Virgin entrepreneurship under his belt, he bought a deserted island in the Virgin Islands (where else?) and turned it into private retreat for him and his family. Using local stone, Brazilian hardwoods, antiques, fabrics and bamboo furniture from Bali, his design staff and a $10 million budget built a 10-bedroom Balinese villa (every room has a 360-degree view) and five Bali guesthouses which were built in Bali, shipped to Tortola and reassembled on Branson’s private resort.
Branson’s kids are grown now and while he still uses his beloved Necker Island (In March 2008, for example, he hosted former British Prime Minster Tony Blair, Google’s Larry Page and Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales for a summit on global warming), he also rents it out to private groups and individuals who don’t balk at the $53,000 nightly rate. As you can imagine, that tends to keep out riffraff.
Necker Island (named after the 17th century Dutch squadron commander Johannes de Neckere who discovered it) sleeps 28, has 14 private beaches, a staff of 60, its own spa (where guests like Mariah Carey, Elizabeth Hurley Pamela Anderson and Oprah Winfrey get caviar facials) and fleets of Hobie cats, windsurfers and boogie boards. If you rent the Bali Cliff guesthouse, one of five spread around the 74-acre island, you can even zipline from your front porch to the beach.
A Balinese drum gongs three times, calling guests to meals which can either be held in the Crocodile Pavilion where you’ll around a giant table carved in the shape of a crocodile or in the bar where James Bond movies play in the background.
There’s a floating sushi bar during Happy Hour, plenty of tree houses (Branson calls them love shacks) and pickup games of beach volleyball played with a coconut.
Steven Spielberg, Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Robert DeNiro and Kate Moss are just a few who have stayed at this exclusive island. Whether or not they donned the island’s signature pirate costumes, we can’t say.