The private island experience comes in all shapes and sizes says New Zealand’s own Mr Motu-vator, Farhad Vladi.
Necker Island - Richard Branson’s Caribbean island is the kind of place where a former US president might be seen unwinding on a kitesurf, or a British princess might take a family holiday to escape long lenses and unwanted attention. Most will know it as the sort of holiday destination befitting a billionaire. Few know it is available to lease.
All yours for the very reasonable rate of $180,000 per night, or about $4500pp.
A private island might sound like a vacation rental for posers. A status symbol with all the subtlety of a superyacht moored in front of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, they seem almost designed to appeal to the worst overlap of exhibitionist and sovereign citizen tendencies. If James Bond is to be believed, owning a private island correlates highly with being a supervillain. However it’s uncharitable to paint all islands and owners with the same brush.
Islands come in all shapes and sizes. Unlike a leased, lime-green Lamborghini, they aren’t only for wannabe billionaires. Especially in New Zealand, where islands are plentiful.
Beyond the “big three” there are more than 600 motu. While some have helipads and butler service, those are definitely optional extras.
Over the past few years spots like Pepin Island, near Nelson, have been offering the private island experience for $ 190 per night. With a single-ring kitchenette and outdoor bath, Rocky Point Hut may be a far cry from Mustique but that didn’t stop it from topping Airbnb’s wishlist in 2022.
The luxury comes not from flaunting it, but being far from the madding crowds of Kohimarama beach.
Like the private islands the owners don’t fit one bucket either.
Not far from Pepin is the unassuming Forsyth Island, belonging to Farhad Vladi.
Forsyth and the charming Te Paruparu lodge are yours for $3000 a night. There’s also Shorebeach hut which is let out on occasion. Not cheap, but surprisingly reasonable considering its remarkable links to Necker and the most successful private island broker in the world.
Most of Vladi’s other clients are on the green Lamborghini end of the spectrum.
The 78-year-old German-Iranian businessman has sold more than 2600 private islands since the 1970s and now oversees a growing archipelago of holiday rentals.
There are now rental properties scattered from the South Pacific to the Virgin Islands, for the try-before-you-buy private island market.
“We do however own Forsyth Island, which we acquired around 35 years ago. All other islands are owned by our clients, who have asked us to rent them out for vacation purposes,” Vladi says.
Among the islands his business leases out include Necker and the heart-shaped Makepeace Island in Queensland.
Vladi Private Islands reportedly arranged Prince William and Kate Middleton’s honeymoon in the Seychelles.
“Usually, these private islands are rented out for vacation purposes and family celebrations and reunions,” he says.
Going by the title of “Inselmakler” - or “Island Broker”, Vladi wrote the book on private island ownership. The coffee table book anyway. He published The World’s 101 Best Islands in 2013 as a guide to some of his favourites among the islands he has visited or sold.
It’s an obsession that he says he had well before he sold his first motu: Cousine Island in the Seychelles. On March 14, 1971, he convinced a businessman in Hamburg to sell it for more than a million Deutschmarks, around $3.4m today. At 3 per cent commission, the business of private islands was buoyant from the start.
Since then it is the rental side of the business that has been growing the fastest. Whole island, sole occupancy resort buyouts for milestone events and private parties have become a staple.
“Vladi Private Islands offers a comprehensive service for those who choose to rent a private island,” Vladi says. “We can look after flight connections, boat or helicopter transfers, and any special requests our clients may have.”
Among the super-deluxe Caribbean cays and Pacific atolls he says there are some real “treasure islands” that are a lot cheaper than you think.
Private island experience: Five exclusive and affordable islands for hire
Ariara Island in the Philippines is one of the “more affordable” stays. From US$395pp per night for the “505,857sq m of untouched island” the villa designed by Filipino architect Jorge Yulo, has room for 18. ariaraisland.com
Then there is the charming Lissenung Island Resort in Papua New Guinea. An island buyout for the four bungalows costs around US$130pp per night for a party of 8. The island is a diver’s paradise, and was set up dive instructors Dietmar and Ange Amon. lissenung.com
If only the best will do, and you happen to win the lottery this weekend, Vladi also has some suggestions for how to spend your holiday funds.
Only available for exclusive rental, Nuketepipi, in French Polynesia, can cater for groups of up to 52… or as few people as you want. Staff include a dive master and sailing crew to take guests to explore your private lagoon. On the shores a spectacular Tahitian Massage longhouse and freshwater pool are a focal point for the residencies. Rates start from $1.5 million a week. nukutepipi.com
Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands is another owned by Branson. Despite its name the insects do not bite, but there is a resident DJ and infinity pool-side party pad. Exclusive use from $40,000 per night. virginlimitededition.com/en/moskito-island
Thanda in the Zanzibar Islands is your luxurious perch on the side of Tanzania’s Mafia Island marine reserve. The upscale island caters for up to 10 adult guests and nine children, and has a glass-sided swimming pool and Steinway piano. Perfect for serenading the gentle resident African whale sharks. $358,049 for a five-night stay. thandaisland.com
Farhad Vladi is the founder of Vladi Private Islands vladi-private-islands.de