It is only in movies or novels that we hear about people getting stranded on a secluded beach after a crash or after their boat went adrift. There are other ways too to get 'stranded' on an island: by paying for it.
The super rich of our country, film stars, big industrialists and, of course, others who do have the money, are renting islands for a pretty obvious reason: 'privacy. Oh and how can we forget the 'brag value' of these trips when they get back home?
A huge body of water serves as a far more effective barrier to the outside world than a stone wall. There are no noisy neighbours; no photographers can set foot on your beach without permission.
With the bare beaches, 360-degree views and solitude, these islands are coveted by billionaires and celebrities alike. The most famous islands are in the Caribbean. There are many others off the coast of Dubai, Australia, the Bahamas, Fiji, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and a host of others.
We have a private island right here in India too called the Kerala Island Resort in the backwaters of Kerala. This two-acre island offers private staff and can accommodate only two people. Though there is not an awful lot to do on the island, it is truly private and costs $485 per week to hire. There are others though that rich Indians have been renting.
Ketaki Kapur Pande, CEO of HOPP Worldwide, handles a few clients who have rented islands in the past. One of the best, according to her, is the Neckar Island in British Virgin Islands, which belongs to Richard Branson. It can accommodate 26-28 people in its 10 rooms. The staff outnumbers the guests here, catering to their every need.
"These guests party non-stop on the island and enjoy the two freshwater pools, two jacuzzis, wind surfing, kayaking, water skiing, snorkelling, fishing, sailing," says Pande.
For meals, a chef is always on standby for your order. But all of this comes at a huge cost -- $30,000 a night for up to 14 guests and an additional cost of $1,250 per person per night for between 15-20 guests. Of course, one can also hire individual cottages -- not everyone is willing to pay $30,000 a night!
Then there is the East Bedarra in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Pande says that this is a 100 per cent private island with a beach bungalow, a tree house and a princess villa for accommodation. Here you can paddle ski with the turtles, hire a catamaran or just chill out on the beach. For about Australian $3,052 per night for six people, this island is as private as it gets. This excludes the Australian $150 for six people for flying to the islands, one way.
Nikhil Kumar, head, outbound, Abercrombie & Kent, also raves about Branson's Neckar Island though he feels it is a tad expensive. He has other names in his bouquet -- Infinite Blue in the Galapagos, Dhoni Mighili in the Maldives, Cayo Espanto Belize and Petit St Vincent in the Caribbean, which are becoming popular in the Indian market.
"From India, people go in groups of 8-16, usually a composition of 2-3 family or friend units. There is no specific time to go for these people. These are business people who generally make their own time. Yes, they are still similar to typical Indian travellers who book late and are looking at value for money, so do a lot of comparative analysis before booking," says Kumar, adding: "They are not the kind to sit in the room or on the beach. They like their beach activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, private yachts and pub hopping, sorry, island hopping! And the evenings are for parties."
The average age of clients renting an island has gone down. "Our clients are in the age group of 35-45 years, which is good for us because it means they spend more, travel more and are repeat clients for us," explains Kumar. And of course, it is an aspiration for them and something to polish their egos and brag about.
Arun Khanna, head-strategic initiatives, STIC Travels, says that while most people book these islands for a week, recently they have got enquiries for renting islands for over two weeks.
Kumar warns that there are very strict cancellation rules while renting islands. They usually need to be told six months in advance (which many Indian's don't bother about) and if cancelled just before your date, you could lose all your money.