No character in British fiction has the ability to conjure such imaginative appeal as Robinson Crusoe. As we live out our daily lives in the city or suburbia, growing weary of the drab weather and the neighbouring dog’s incessant need to bark, our minds move towards the wanderlust of that solitary figure, strolling freely on golden sands fringed with palm trees and clear blue sea.
The recent availability of private island getaways has now made that dream a possibility.
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What is a Private Island?
Private islands are no new concept. Holiday escapism can be traced back to the 1950s when ex-pats began settling in ramshackle beach huts of Maldivian islets and a newly emerging celebrity class were buying up timeshares in the Caribbean. However, it’s safe to say they are no longer the domain of the ultra-rich — these shallow blankets of our- white sands and unspoilt greenery are becoming popular with a new wave of sun-chasing travellers seeking isolated adventure. Private islands have gained popularity for their exclusivity and alluring mystery.
Small, remote, and idyllic, a private island can lift you out of the realm of the mundane into the world of fantasy like no other holiday resort. Private islands are escapes from everyday life. In a world where it becomes increasingly difficult to find solitude and serenity, or to avoid swathes of Brits-abroad, private islands are the indulgent way forward.
Understandably, the tropics are in possession of a whole host of private islands for hire, and provide the sort of location that’s likely to top your list. With water as blue as Listerine, climates warm enough to sleep under the stars, and accommodation in the form of bijou tiki huts (a refreshing notion, not to have a lick of tarmac or a house brick in sight), they can often be the very embodiment of paradise.
Here are just a few of the very best private islands around the world.
Turks and Caicos
COMO Hotels and Resorts is a driving force behind private island retreat popularity. Owner Christina Ong partnered with husband, Ong Beng Seng, establishing COMO in 1991. In 1998, Parrot Cay was the first of their idyllic private island resorts. Covering 1,000 acres in the Turks and Caicos, Parrot Cay is a paradise of unspoilt Antillean beauty. The original name for the island was Pirate Cay and is synonymous with the story of Anne Bonny, the femme fatale pirate who took residence there in the early 18th century. Renamed and rebranded, Pirate Cay became Parrot Cay and the island grew a reputation for exclusivity, attracting celebrity clientele such as Keith Richards, Donna Karan and Bruce Willis who took up residence in the private villas on Rocky Point. Most are driven to Parrot Cay for the privacy. With sapphire waters, inky indigo reefs and soft white breakers lapping gently on perfect white sands, it’s clear that Parrot Cay’s best activity is inactivity.
Little Whale Cay
Referred to as America’s ‘playground of the rich and famous’, the Bahamas offers a smorgasbord of attractive islands that are as colourful and unique as the archipelago’s heritage. These isles are blessed with a tropical climate making it a year-round destination for guests searching for a relaxed, bohemian scene.
Once such isle is the tiny Little Whale Cay; a former pirate hunting ground in the days of Captain Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. Thankfully they’re both long gone, but rumour has it Captain Kidd’s treasure remains somewhere on the nearby island San Salvador. This little-known island is of good repute in the literary sphere as well as the luxury one – Robinson Crusoe’s author Daniel Defoe describing the location as the ‘most pleasant place in the world’.
Set in the Berry Islands archipelago and developed in the art-deco style of the 1930s, the private island paradise was founded by financier and trend-setter, Wallace Groves. It offers adventure as well as tranquillity.
Off the north coast of Mozambique lies unspoilt Vamizi Island. Offering private, exclusive access to unspoilt beach-fronts, Vamizi is the definitive experience in barefoot beach luxury. A hidden gem in the Indian Ocean, Vamizi is perfect for intimately romantic escapes, or even private family gatherings. This luxury private island lodge lies amidst the shade of overarching foliage, with Arabic décor outfitting private kitalas constructed from sustainable local materials.
It boasts seven kilometres of white-sand beaches and a plethora of 15th-century relics both well conserved by the lodge. On top of that, the island hosts an agenda of things to do, including seeing humpback whales up close, snorkelling amongst pristine reefs, and luxury ‘castaway’ picnics prepared by your personal chef.
Maalifushi is the latest addition to the growing portfolio of luxurious islands by COMO. Situated in the Thaa Atoll, the lush green island forms part the central-southern edge of the Maldives. For years, the Maldives has been associated with luxury living, with their popularity soaring over the last two decades. Of the 1,200 islands, scattered across 26 atolls, only 200 are inhabited.
The glittering waters of the Thaa Atoll promise abundant marine life. See a variety of sea creatures while snorkelling, diving, kayaking or swimming the picturesque waters. Palms, hibiscus and spongy mangroves populate the island’s core.
Tom’s travel writings are a testament to his insatiable curiosity and love for the road less traveled. Eschewing the typical tourist spots, Tom has built a reputation for uncovering hidden gems known only to locals.
From secluded mountain villages in the Himalayas to untouched beaches in the South Pacific, his adventures have taken him to the world’s most undiscovered corners.