Necker Island used to be a little known destination until Richard Branson stumbled across this speck of paradise way back in the 1970s and to put it succinctly in his own words - “I had no idea where they were located or that they were actually called the British Virgin Islands,” the billionaire entrepreneur writes in a blog about purchasing Necker Island. “But one Thursday in 1978, I was told that they existed and that I could potentially own one.”
Richard Branson, known the world over as a billionaire business tycoon with an outlandish lifestyle gave his very best to grab this little speck of paradise. So, when the realtor invited him to come on a visit to Necker Island, Branson the wizard arrived in quick time, meet the realtor who demanded a whopping $6 million, which was way beyond Branson’s reach then. As the negotiations went on, Branson put in $ 100,000 - that was the highest he could afford, which sounded like utter nonsense to the realtor and needless to say, Branson was on his way back home in UK.
However, as fate would have it, one year later, the owner of Necker Island still couldn’t find the right buyer and was anxious to sell the island in quick time. Branson recollects those pre-buying moments thus - “Virgin Records was in a much better position than it had been a year before, so I quickly agreed to a purchase price of $180,000.”
Gone are those murky days of negotiations, debates and parleys. Today, Richard Branson is one of the world’s most talked-about billionaire tycoon and his secluded island retreat is now the world’s most exclusive hideaway for celebs and business moguls. So, can India Inc. be far behind?
With India truly on course towards attaining “Super Power” status and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi evolving into a global leader, times are only getting better for India Inc. What can be more promising than the fact that Indian travel agents are these days receiving calls for believe me or not - on islands that can be hired! They are quite prepared to pay up to $322,000 a week for 25 guests.
The bonhomie between India Inc. is well reflected; courtesy the gesture of Richard Branson owned Virgin Hyperloop to construct a super-fast transportation system in India that would connect Pune with the new airport in Mumbai in 25 minutes flat.
Necker Island offers not just sea, surf and sand. It offers a sleek peek into the mysterious luxury and opulence of the rich and the famous when they are in a holiday mood. From Nelson Mandela to Princess Diana, Necker Island has played host to some of the most glamorous people on Planet Earth.
The moment you touchdown on Necker Island, the feeling that you are in a fortunate place is most predominant. A bewildering array of wildlife, yeah! I am talking about Flamingos, Scarlet Ibis vying for attention along with tortoises that are massive in size.
Guide Allington “Gumption” Creque - Sir Branson’s most trusted friend who plays the role of a guide to perfection - He knows Necker Island by the tip of his fingers and as you go about exploring the hidden secrets of Necker Island, the entire experience is one of “providential escape”- escape from the ordinary.
The in-house wildlife squad - experts with years of hands-on wildlife experience have meticulously incubated a one-of-its-kind Flamingo Breeding programme which is self-explanatory - 54 new baby chicks and 28 parent Flamingos that kind of thrive in the congenial Flamingo-friendly environ specially created by the wildlife wardens. So, today when you step inside this piece of paradise, you are likely to be greeted with the sight of mother Flamingos sitting on eggs and waiting with bated breath for the birth of new denizens of Necker Island.
Richard Branson’s commitment to wildlife conservation is legendary and his passion for protecting endangered wildlife species like the Madagascar Lemur is well known. So, don’t be taken aback at the sight of Baby Lemurs, all recent additions to Necker Island and guests are welcome to feed Baby Lemurs. Apart from Lemurs, other resident species include Stout Iguanas, Parrots, Macaws, Cockatoo, Geckos and what have you!!!
For many visitors to Necker Island, the ethereal sight of a compact team of Ibis airborne and flying like angels over the island is forever etched in their memory.
First-time visitors to Necker Island are curious to know what the weather conditions are like in this part of the world! And why not? Spending megabucks for holidaying doesn’t come easy! Well, Necker Island is blessed with highs of around 28 °C in January to highs of tentatively 35 °C in July. So, it is pretty balmy all year round!
Necker Island, with its longstanding commitment to community, has chosen to participate in the innovation nonprofit, Pack for a Purpose. It offers visitors with a chance to contribute in-kind towards the local community. It goes without saying that when you put aside some space in your baggage and earmark that space for carrying essential provisions for schoolchildren or even medicines that aren’t easily available in Necker Island, you are indeed making a huge impact in the lives of the local community.
Necker Island prides itself for successfully running The Robinson O'Neal Memorial Primary School. The school, set up in the early 1970s, has in course of time evolved marvellously from a one-room office block to three permanent supplementary structures that today houses four classes, a computer lab and kitchen meant for the kids who come to receive primary education.
The September 2017 Hurricane Irma, which many believe to be the most devastating in the Atlantic Ocean in terms of wind speed, left its mark at Necker Island as well. Devastation apart, Hurricane Irma cost the exchequer a whopping $ 77.2 billion and the process of rebuilding wasn’t easier. However, when you have a philanthropist like Richard Branson, the turnaround too is quick.
Necker Island is Branson’s brainchild, his pet project and so the newly refurbished island retreat looks even more stunning than before with king-sized bedrooms, all with attached balconies and the bunkrooms are spacy enough to accommodate up to six children. The cynosure of all eyes - The Master Suite comes with an attached Jacuzzi and a more airy sundeck that offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Great House, which has been redone opulently and expanded. A total of 11 sumptuously appointed bedrooms ensures the ultimate in terms of comfort and rejuvenation. A new addition to the retreat is the Balinese-style house - Leha Lo that can easily accommodate two adults, while the Bali Hi complex that comes with an exclusive plunge will be introduced pretty soon.
From now onwards, the Great House, equipped with freshwater infinity pools, secluded hammocks, tennis courts and a bewildering array of water sports options ranging from Scuba Diving to Sailing will offer the discerning visitors with a holiday they will treasure forever.
These days Necker Island is much sought after as a wedding destination. Not surprising, given the seclusion and the air of exclusivity. With multiple locations to choose from and each one offering unique panoramic attributes, the choice is never easy.
The Western part of the island with its sandy stretches can easily accommodate up to 200 plus guests and with the great Indian wedding industry, now a billion-dollar industry (Pound 12 Billion) - the lure to conduct surreal weddings in Necker Island must be pretty strong.
According to Guarang Shah, one of UK’s leading wedding planners - “The average Indian couple will spend one-fifth of the money they make in their entire lives on the event and some weddings have been known to cost millions of Pounds. The events are getting more and more extravagant, which means couples are opting to travel to exotic destinations for nuptials”.
The best part of travelling to Necker Island is that, notwithstanding the fact that the retreat, having played host to legendary names and being the exclusive preserve of Sir Richard Branson himself, Necker Island is open to ordinary mortals too!
To sum up in the words of Richard Branson - “Necker Island is my home and favourite hideaway. I invite you to explore this idyllic island paradise for yourself and to be inspired by its beauty. I hope someday to be able to share it with you”. And share, he does...
Traveller’s Fact File
Reaching There: The nearest international airport is Tortola (Beef Island). You can reach Tortola via a 35-minute short hop from San Juan or a 1 hour 20-minute flight from Antigua.
Rates: The rates at Necker Island starts from $77 500 per night. Rates are inclusive of airport transfers and guests are offered “Necker Water” (Champagne) on arrival.
Private Jet: The option to land at Beef Island by private aircraft is possible. But, bear in mind that no fixed-wing aircraft is allowed to land on Necker Island.
By Yacht: If you decide to arrive by luxury yacht, Necker Island offers anchoring facilities.
Helicopter: Necker Island is equipped with a helipad, but there is no permission to fly at night as per the aviation rules governing the British Virgin Islands.