Written by Chantal Borciani
The tonic of solitude is what makes time on a private island so alluring; the comfort of knowing one can’t be disturbed and the freedom to roam unhindered and enjoy time with those held dearest away from the stresses and demands of everyday life. With exquisite accommodation, exceptional service, Michelin-star chefs and some of the best beaches in the world, plus a bounty of flora, fauna and experiences to savour, stealing away for a couple of nights on your own slice of paradise is the ultimate addition to a luxury superyacht experience.
The rise of private islands and exclusive island resorts has been swift in the southern hemisphere. “Owning a private island is like a modern day equivalent of being king of your own castle,” explains Edward de Mallet Morgan, partner in Knight Frank’s Global Super Prime Residential team. “Clients today are looking for a cultivated experience, in a beautiful, unique and importantly safe and unpolluted setting. More and more clients want to contribute towards the ownership costs by renting them out.”
Often accessible only by water, exclusivity is guaranteed whether you’re treading on teak or powder-soft sand. So drop anchor for a few far-flung blissful nights ashore and enjoy the five-star treatment before on heading on to new horizons.
Here are six of the world’s most enticing private island experiences.
With three lagoons, 13 beaches and six private islands, this barefoot nirvana trades on its remote exclusivity with good reason. Located in the paradise waters of Indonesia’s remote Anambas archipelago, Bawah Reserve offers Robinson Crusoe vibes in technicolour luxury.
Of the island’s 35 sustainable villas, 11 are stilted above the ocean while the rest rise like undulating grass-roofed hillocks amid the lush foliage. CEO Tim Hartnoll and architect Sim Boon Yang painstakingly built the resort around the island’s environment; the majority of buildings are on footings to limit the clearance of the island’s mature habitats while the stunning villas were built by hand using materials such as driftwood, recycled teak and bamboo.
While days can easily be spent simply ogling the kaleidoscopic waters from the rings of dazzling white sand, there’s a bevy of water toys on hand for tropical exploration. Glide over vibrant corals in glass-bottomed kayaks, snorkel with triggerfish, parrotfish and green turtles, paddleboard or windsurf in the sapphire waters, scuba dive with marine guides and then head inland where lizards roam over an ancient landscape.
Bawah lies 160 nautical miles from Singapore and has its own seaplane (journey time around 80 minutes by air).
Soneva Jani has single-handedly upped the stakes and reimagined the ultimate Maldives private island experience. The über lux eco-resort features just 24 over-water residences and two island villas in a tranquil lagoon large enough to fit 7,000 Olympic swimming pools.
Slip down your private waterslide into gin-clear water, spot pods of dolphins from your sprawling sun deck, dine under the stars or enjoy a sunrise breakfast on a secluded atoll – Soneva Jani is where bucket lists are ticked off by the bucket load.
The majority of this exceptional resort is sprinkled over the water, unfurling like a shimmering necklace across the psychedelic blue Noonu Atoll. All villas have direct lagoon access and guests are assigned a personal butler upon arrival who ensures every whim is taken care of.
Sense of space is the calling card, with Jani’s one-bedroom villas starting at a whopping 4,400 square feet. Palatial amenities include – but are far from limited to – private dining, an overwater observatory and resident astronomer, overwater cinema, waterfront restaurants, water sports and dive centre, a 24-hour gelato room and a sky’s the limit approach to private atoll picnics, sunrises and sunsets.
The styling and design is unthinkably good, with voluminous interiors, indoor/outdoor bathrooms, glass-bottomed floors so guests can see the ocean spray beneath their feet, capacious sun decks and intimate roof terraces. Every villa boasts a retractable ceiling, which glides open at the press of a button for jaw dropping stargazing from bed.
Soneva Jani’s sister resort, Soneva Fushi, is located in the Baa Atoll (around an hour away by speedboat) and boasts the same level of luxurious fit, finish and service but with beachfront villas and a tree house barefoot attraction.
The resorts’ 23-metre yacht, Soneva in Aqua, is the ultimate way to explore the Maldives. Available for multi-day charters and cruises between the resorts, guests can explore the Baa Atoll and beyond in splendid isolation. Accommodating a maximum of four adults and two children, the on-board crew includes a captain, sous chef, personal butler, dive master, massage therapist and an astronomer (on request).
Wild, rugged and ensconced in nature, Satellite Island lies between mainland Tasmania and Bruny Island in the picturesque waterway of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
Owned and run by Kate and Will Alstergren, Satellite Island was originally purchased in the 1960s by Will’s uncle; reclusive writer, poet and artist Ian Alstergren.
Satellite Island’s back-to-nature vibes are bewitching – accommodation encompasses a restful cabin on a private jetty – and the sole hire policy ensures complete privacy.
The wild terrain is peppered with hiking trails or guests can hit the water and explore by kayaks or fish for fresh mussels, then dine under the stars or barbecue on the beach by the flickering light of a campfire. There is no restaurant and only breakfast is provided so guests should provision and buy up some of Hobart’s famed local produce before arrival.
Visiting yachts can anchor off the island and then continue to explore the Tasmanian coast. Alternatively, moor in Hobart and take a private helicopter transfer to Satellite Island.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can scuba and snorkel around your own private marine reserve but Thanda Island, off the Tanzanian coast, is an ecological paradise full of surprises. Only accessible by boat or private helicopter, the eight-hectare island features one sumptuous five-suite villa and is available on a sole-use basis only.
Inside, the elegant villa has a library of Hemingway books, a fully stocked humidor and a Steinway piano, while outdoors nature beckons. Guests can swim with whale sharks from October to February, watch turtles nesting and hatching on the island, picnic on neighbouring cays and make use of the plethora of toys, kayaks, paddleboards and sailboats kept in the island’s boat house. Marine guides and activity hosts are on hand, of course, and equipped with GoPro cameras to record all the fun.
The pièce de résistance for water lovers, however, is the island’s classic 35-metre wooden motor yacht, Over the Rainbow of London. Available for guest charters, the graceful four-berth motor yacht offers refined cruising from a bygone era. Built in 1930 and impeccably refitted, the classic teak-over-oak yacht has a fascinating maritime history, and previous guests include Winston Churchill, whose Chinese chair can be found in the former officers’ saloon today. Explore the atolls and islands off Tanzania in style, cruise to the spice island of Zanzibar or discover the famed scuba diving sites around Chloe Island.
After being devastated by hurricane Irma in 2017, celebrity enclave Necker Island reopened in October 2018 and is once again offering guests the pinnacle of luxury in the dazzling British Virgin Islands. Necker’s iconic Great House now features 11 guest rooms, including two new rooms and an additional Balinese-style house which sleeps two adults. The top-floor master suite has panoramic ocean views, a private sun deck and hot tub and this year, the accommodation will expand again, capping the guest list at 30.
Famously owned by Sir Richard Branson, Necker is known for its white sand beaches, wacky water sports and hedonism-meets-haven ambience.
Aside from a select number of weeks a year where rooms can be booked individually, the island is offered for sole rental only. Visiting yachts can anchor offshore or head to marinas on neighbouring Virgin Gorda.
An adult-only paradise built on eco foundations. The natural sanctuary of Cempedek lies just 91 kilometres from Singapore but its dazzling white beaches and dramatic terrain feel a world away from any metropolis.
Shrouded within virgin jungle and fringed by pristine sands, Cempedek’s 20 villas have been handcrafted in bamboo and feature alang alang natural grass roofs, private teardrop pools, two-storey accommodation, ginormous sundecks and direct access to the beach and spectacular sea views from the island ridge.
Scuba divers will revel in the vivid reefs that ring the neighbouring islands while on land Cempedek is home to a diverse population of local birds including hornbills, eagles and kingfishers.
Built on top of impressive granite boulders in an eastern mangrove bay, the resort’s new Rock Spa opened in August 2018 and provides an ocean-view oasis for mind, body and soul restoration.
Visiting yachts can anchor in sheltered waters, or guests can fly to Singapore and take a private boat to Bintan Resorts and a final private boat transfer to the tranquillity of Cempedek.