I bet you’ve dreamed of living on your very own island, away from the stresses of everyday life, surrounded by beauty, great weather and stunning fauna and flora. It was a line in Robinson Crusoe that resonated with me when Daniel Defoe wrote “I was absolute lord and lawgiver, they all owed their lives to me, and were ready to lay down their lives, if there had been occasion of it, for me.” The idea that you would be answerable to no one and that anyone on your island would have to do as you bade them was quite appealing. Well it fuelled a certain egomania anyway.
Richard Branson famously bought his very own island paradise back in 1978 in none other than the British Virgin Isles (where else!). He was yet to turn 30 when he became lord and master of this exotic Caribbean location.
Not a bad view especially when you know it’s all your own!
No need to be smug about your huge paradise island Richard!
Not quite, but not far off. For equatorial retreats you’ll be faced with a price list in the millions, but if you are willing to think of temporary relocations, then there are islands which do meet a slightly more modest budget. There are some really attractive locations off Canada, for example, which would suit long summer breaks but may be a little uninhabitable come winter. Canada is quite a good country to look at with its multitude of lakes and islands: there’s no doubt that availability lessens the price. Size-wise, Canadian islands sell for around one third of the price of an American island or as little as one tenth of a Caribbean island.
While I merrily regale you with lines from ‘Robinson Crusoe’, the desert island may not be what you want. After all, desert island actually implies it’s deserted; not hot and sandy with camels roaming around. If you want undeveloped islands they can be cheaper but sometimes a bit of civilization is desirable. Some islands are available with their own residential or recreational buildings as well as those little luxuries such as power and mobile phone masts.
In principle it’s not that different from buying any other kind of property. There are several businesses that have islands on their books so a good first port of call would be to contact them directly. Unlike your typical house hunting, it’s not as straightforward to drive over and have a look around the neighbourhood. As with the housing market, it is possible to rent an island instead of buying.
I’ve selected some of the latest offerings for you to consider. At the time of writing (August 2011) these were all still on the market.
Just off the coast of East Africa, nestled in the romantic spice islands of Zanzibar, lies this gorgeous island. With awards for ecology and conservation this island is a treasure for snorkelers who can marvel at four hundred species of fish and marine life including hawksbill turtles, parrotfish and blue spotted stingrays.
The reef tracks off the beach and its clear waters never exceed three metres in depth. Passed the deepwater drop off, the lucky owner will witness migrating dolphins and the occasional humpback whale. These properties are currently available for renting – a good way to judge if the lifestyle is for you. Would you like to live in a house like this?
On the Thirty-One Mile Lake, a scenic 90 minute drive north from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, lies Halfcrown Island. This glacial lake is some 200 feet deep in places and is ideal for divers and swimmers. This is ideal for nautical-minded families and is ideal for long summer breaks rounded off by staggering autumnal colours before the harsh winter sets in.
Access is by boat only and in winter the thick ice makes entry impossible. The island is too small to be self sufficient but within 20 miles there are the towns of Maniwaki and Gracefield that have markets with local produce including cereal and fruit. For me, part of the appeal is watching the eerie mists roll in making the island very atmospheric.
The archipelago consists of some 1,780 islands in the South China Sea. If you’re after what ‘Islands Magazine’ calls ‘the next property hotspot’ then you’ll need to get $8 million from your bank manager to buy a piece of it. Thanks to some intelligent legislation by the Philippines’ government, the waters are free from rubbish. Here you can buy parts of the island developments. These include luxury villas with up to 10,800 sq. feet of land. If you are after a bit of civilization, the islands can be outfitted with restaurants, shops and sports facilities.
Island buying is often an instance of first-come-first-served. Over the last few years a number of desirable islands have been snapped up by the wealthy. Here is a small selection of my favourites and how much they eventually went for.
Sale Price: €1.5m/$2,035,965.09
The contrast between the deep blues of the Mediterranean and the stark volcanic rocks of the island attracts the creative and the spiritual. Situated in the Gulf of Corinth the lucky owner would has spectacular views of Mt. Delphi, the legendary home of the eponymous Oracle. From the air it bears an unusual resemblance to images of nebulae taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
At 2.5 acres, St. Athanasios Island is just 1.5 miles away from Itea, a small town that boasts a school, church, post office, a few banks, hotels, pubs, and restaurants.
Sale Price: $46m
Allegedly named after infamous pirate, Captain ‘Black Sam’ Samuel Bellamy, local lore has this island as his base of operations. Black’s own ship sank off a sandbar and his treasure-laden vessel was lost off the coast. The new owner may be looking for that gold to this very day…
Seriously though this large island has been over-developed in my opinion but it’s probably only part of the new owner’s property investment portfolio. More than likely it’s solely used for a holiday lettings.
Sale Price: $25m
This gorgeous 225 acre island is set to be a major holiday letting destination. The owner’s plans include upwards of ten luxury villas, a marina and an executive golf course.
Sale Price $7.96m
This mountainous island of 14 acres and a rugged coastline is a bit of a departure from the stereotypical desert island but, for me, it’s one of the most exciting places to explore and investigate. If it’s been bought as a personal retreat I’m suitably envious. The elevations and expanse of flat beach, however, does lend it to extensive letting development.
Sale Price: $39m
Supposedly the location of the fabled ‘Fountain of Youth’, Charles Island is sure to give its new proprietor a new lease of life thanks to the exotic surroundings and gentle lapping waters.
Sale Price: $650k
If swimming around the Great Maya coral reefs in a cerulean sea is your thing then you really need to buy an island like Diamond Cay. You could take part in ecologically friendly deep sea and flats fishing or just celebrate the unique marine life off its coast by snorkelling and diving.
Sale Price: $2.5m
Not all the best islands have to be big and sundrenched. This small island is great for short getaways. It has some privacy and close proximity to local amenities that make it an attractive proposition for weekend breaks and sailing.
Just because these islands look idyllic and tranquil they are still as vulnerable to nature as anywhere else. Tsunami and cyclones need to be considered and, if you take the long view, global warming might make your island into little more than a stepping stone. Being away from civilisation does have its drawbacks when you may need access to the emergency services. August 22nd 2011 witnessed the ravages of a lightning-caused fire that decimated Richard Branson’s home on Necker Island. Mercifully, everyone escaped with their lives.
Guest blogger, Greg Coltman, writes prolifically for tourist and travel blogs. He would love nothing better than to own a rugged island far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.