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LIVING THE DREAM- Exotic Getaway

Hiding Out In Style at Necker Island

by Kaya Morgan

Imagine a hideaway enticing enough to command $31,000 per day…and get it. Imagine having not only your own elaborate Balinese-style villa and attentive staff, but your own private island for as long as you like. How about exploring the same secluded beaches and bougainvillea-covered cliffs as Princess Di, Steven Speilberg, Oprah Winfrey and Peter Gabriel. What would you give for a change to get away from it all in true high style? British entrepreneur and billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic Airlines, imagined all of this…..and then created it.

Necker Island is a unique tropical oasis - a custom-build refuge in the sparking Caribbean Sea. A mere speck on a map of the British Virgin Islands, Necker is the dream retreat of movie moguls, bluebloods and well-heeled honey-mooners who can afford any price tag if the place "just feels right." And this place does.

This utterly private island – which accommodates groups of up to twenty-four guests at a time – belongs exclusively to those able to afford it. For about twenty-two dollars per minute, everything on the island is included.

And Branson made sure that nothing was forgotten. Previously uninhabited Necker Island consists of seventy-four ruggedly beautiful acres, culminating in a peak that touches the azure sky above cal, clear waters. The top of the island was blasted away to make room for the main house, a process that succeeds in the illusion that the low-slung, wood-shingled roof is a continuation of the island itself.

It is pure Balinese splendor reincarnated in the Caribbean - an open-sided, stone-and timber structure with exposed beam ceilings, overstuffed elephant bamboo furnishing, handmade tables unique art pieces and vibrantly-hued island fabrics…..all of which were custom selected for this place and this place alone, naturally. And the lack of closed walls result in a birds-eye, 360-degree view from almost any spot in the house plus access to the blissful island tradewinds.

The main villa consists of ten tranquil bedrooms, each with sweeping sea views, and ten baths with grotto-like showers of native stone. There is also a gorgeous formal dining room with a twenty-four-foot long table surrounded by twenty-two dramatic tall chairs; the al fresco living room with high peaked ceiling; and a free-form pool and spa perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Three separate guest houses, nicknamed Bah Hi, Bali Lo and Bali Cliff, have been added for those who require a separate space.

But besides the spectacular accommodations, what makes Necker Island worth this princely sum? Perhaps it is because the ultimate luxury for vacationers is being required to do absolutely nothing.

At Necker, you won't have to charter a boat or reserve a tennis court or even pick up the phone to order room service. Your wish is their command, and that responsibility is taken seriously with a friendly smile. If a guest desires an action-packed day of sea and sun, the staff is ready. But if a guest yearns instead for nothing more than a warm chaise lounge and an ever-replenished flute of French champagne, the staff makes certain that nothing interferes with those wishes.

In addition to a pampering staff, Necker Island boasts world-class dining, with all-inclusive meals that can be served at elegant place settings in the dining room, or outdoors on the veranda or the white-sand beach. Lunch might be a lobster barbecue on a nearby island or a picnic by the pool; dinner entrees range from perfectly prepared beef Wellington to red snapper Creole. And, of course each day at Necker must begin in style, so mornings bring homemade banana pancakes, fresh local fruits, and traditional egg dishes to the table.

For those requiring more excitement than just dining and dozing, Necker Island offers an almost endless array of activities. Tennis, snorkeling, sailing and sailboarding, water skiing, swimming, windsurfing, hiking, and scuba diving can all be experienced by the active guest. And for cool days or quiet evenings, Necker stocks a full library of videos and board games, as well as the only snooker table in the British Virgin Islands.

Of course, all of this otherworldly perfection did not simply rise out of the dust. Although the resort looks like an endemic piece of paradise, when Branson bought this property for $300,000 fifteen years ago, it was a forlorn little rock, albeit in a pretty spectacular part of the world. No exact figures exist for the expense of turning this one-desolate island into the private playground of the elite, but speculations in the ten-million-dollar range are probably not too far off. Besides the dynamiting of the mountain top, several other major projects were required to make Necker not only inhabitable, but exceptional. Extensive landscaping was brought in to enhance the grounds; much of the main house was constructed in Bali and then flown in to be reassembled on site; power generators and a water desalination system were developed. And as for maintenance, even the colorful fabric upholstery is replaced frequently to keep it bright, and a London fellow is flown in now and again to re-felt and polish the snooker table.

Add to that the housekeepers, gardeners, assistant chefs, and managers, all ferried in each day at dawn from nearby islands, plus all that lovely, unlimited fresh food and imported champagne, and it’s easy to see that the operation of Necker Island is quite a feat. But a bigger feat is keeping all of these mechanics hidden, so that guests truly feel like they are living in a place that was simply meant to be right where it is. It’s a myth that everyone who comes to Necker Island wants to believe, a fable perpetuated by the resort’s team of designer, workers and dreamers.

And why not dream a little? Necker is custom-made for that. Couches are as big as king-size beds; lounge chairs are positioned perfectly to catch a sunset or a breeze; ubiquitous staff members are well-trained to appear only when they’re needed and newer when they’re not. This all adds up to the slightly surreal feeling that Necker has sprung from one’s own imagination of what the ultimate tropical getaway is like – the good life without the glitz. Because although every whim is catered to, this is by no means a glittering marble palace. It is tasteful, warm and inviting, a barefoot, bronze-skinned, carefree little break from real life. It truly is "Fantasy Island" realized.

So, if you have to ask again about the price, maybe Necker Island, regrettably, isn’t for you just yet. Certainly sunny beaches, delightful décor, impeccable service, and tropical island evenings exist at other resorts, in other parts of the world. But for those who can go, this is living. And, if you do have a chance to settle in at this enchanted island, it’s no time to fret about expense. Open your suite’s sliding doors to the breeze, nestle beneath the diaphanous netting in a moonlit room, gaze out to the perfectly planned landscape and the gentle sea beyond, and sign. For you have truly arrived.

To reserve your fantasy island vacation, call 800.557.4255 or book it on-line at

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