Marlon Brando started the whole thing. Whether as a source of inspiration for a new lifestyle, or a cause to curse because islands can be money pits, he stands out as a trailblazer for buying his own private undeveloped island near Tahiti back in 1965. The concept of a celebrity actually owning an island was virtually unheard of until he completed his purchase of the 1400+ acre Tetiaroa Atoll. He instantly became the envy of dreamers the world over for the daredevil move and minds began to think of possibilities.
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Starting nearly from scratch to build an infrastructure is a huge undertaking on a remote island with the need for a water desalination system, power generation, and waste disposal. But being a steward of the land was important to Brando and he honored that personal commitment for the nearly 50 years he spent there before his death in 2004, making huge advances to protect the island and its resources, while developing it into a comfortably habitable home. Since his death, the island has reverted back to public land and plans are underway for a new eco resort scheduled to open in 2013, appropriately named The Brando.
Advancements in technology, especially solar power, have made island living much easier and certainly less costly these days. And following in Brando’s footsteps, it is now nearly de rigueur for rich celebrities to have their own private island.
Leonardo DiCaprio bought 104 acre Blackadore Caye in Belize for a mere $1.75 million. Because island development around the world is so rampant and the natural environments are so fragile, he has jumped on the ecotourism bandwagon with the intent of building an eco luxury resort as an example of sustainable development and conservation. He has teamed up with Four Seasons to develop an 80 room five star environmentally friendly property complete with a solar paneled air strip for additional power.
David Copperfieldowns the 150 acre Musha Cay in the Bahamas which had been developed into a vacation paradise for the rich before he purchased it for $50 million. He has since spent an additional $35 million renovating it. With several luxury houses accommodating up to 24 total guests, the island can be rented for $37,500 per night for up to 12 guests with a four night minimum. Google founder Sergey Brin was married here in 2007, and Tyler Perry, Travolta and Oprah have also been guests.
Mel Gibson bought the 5400 acre Mago Island in Fiji for $9 million. It remains one of the largest privately owned islands in the South Pacific. Local Fijians were anxious about his purchase because of the current rampant interest in developing islands into resorts, but Mel soothed their concerns when he announced his plans to keep the island paradise in its natural state. He has kept that promise and the only buildings on the island are caretaker homes and Mel’s private residence.
Richard Bransonmay be the celebrity island owning king of the world, with three islands under his property umbrella. His best known is 74 acre Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands for which he paid ₤180,000 British pounds in 1978. He has since turned it into a resort that continually has fellow celebrities scrambling to visit. It is available to rent for $325,000 per week to anybody with the cash. Also in the BVI is Moskito Island he purchased for ₤10 million with the intent of creating a carbon neutral ecotourism playground for the rich. Then there’s Makepeace Island, a 22 acre fantasy playground in the middle of Noosa River in Queensland, Australia which he bought as a getaway for staff.
Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle is the 3rd richest man in America with a net worth of over $36 billion. And he recently bought Lanai, one of the Hawaiian Islands, for an estimated $500 million. Actually he only owns 98% of the island with the rest remaining in the hands of the state. Lanai is the former home of a huge pineapple plantation and has over 3000 citizens, complete with a town, school and hospital. Four Seasons operates two properties there, Four Seasons Manele Bay located on the beach, and The Lodge at Koele atop a mountain often covered in cool morning fog. Some may remember that Bill Gates rented the entire island for his honeymoon.
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw own 17 acre Goat Cay in the Exumas, a 365 island archipelago in the Bahamas. They have recently finished construction of their 15,000 square foot home complete with lookout tower. And Johnny Deppis a neighbor with his own tropical paradise called Little Hall’s Pond Cay in the Exumas. With 45 acres and 6 white sand beaches, the island satisfies his infamous need for privacy from the paparazzi. Because there’s no landing strip, he gets there on his 156 foot steam powered yacht Vajoliroja, which he keeps moored locally. Cleverly, he used parts of his name, that of girlfriend Vanessa Paradis and his children in naming the boat, and when it spoken aloud, it sounds like “The Jolly Roger”. Aaaarrgh Johnny, the swashbuckler.
There are more, of course. Nicholas Cage has owned not one, but two islands in the Bahamas, and Eddie Murphy has his little island getaway near Nassau, Bahamas. Murphy purchased 15 acre Rooster Cay for a cool $15 million, and it is rumored to be a prime location for development. Tyler Perry has a 25 acre private island in the Bahamas as well, next to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. And Shakira and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd spent $18 million to purchase Bonds Cay in the Bahamas with the intent of developing it into a luxury resort. And the list keeps growing. It is a good time to be a celebrity with an island. Or at least a friend of one. Private Jets Charter regularly schedules landings on private island airstrips including those in the tropics. And for those islands that don’t have an airstrip, we’ll get you there via sea plane.