Barely more than a dot on the map, Necker Island is Richard Branson’s personal plot of land in the British Virgin Islands, and the place he calls home.
Branson bought the island in 1978. On this first trip to visit Necker, he brought along his then girlfriend (now his wife) Joan, in an attempt to impress her. Writing on his blog, Branson describes this first visit as a real coup de coeur. “When we climbed to the island’s lush center, we discovered views that took our breath away. I felt like i had discovered the love of my life and a precious jewel of the world in one moment.”
It is without a doubt a beautiful place. Palm trees line the perfect white sand beaches, flamingos stalk around the lagoon and lemurs fly from branch to branch. A lot of the species now flourishing on the island are there thanks to the efforts of the Branson family. In the past 35 years they have cared for the island, through fires and hurricanes, restoring many indigenous plant and animal populations. As Branson writes, “I [don’t] see myself as ‘The Owner’ but more as a custodian with a tremendous responsibility.”
Along with responsibility comes a desire to share the beauty of Necker with other people. Famous visitors to the island have included Princess Diana, and Kate Winslet, who was a guest when the Great House caught fire in August 2011. World leaders from Nelson Mandela to Kofi Annan also used Necker in the past as a neutral meeting place.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a celebrity or a statesman to enjoy the many delights of Necker. The island can be rented out in its entirety for up to 30 guests. You get the place to yourself, spread out across the Great House and the 6 Balinese-style villas (each with one bedroom) that are dotted around the western side of the island.
The Great house has been entirely rebuilt since the fire, with the help of interior designers June Scott and Leesa Jones. The fire might have reduced the main house to a “smouldering pile,” as Branson writes on his blog, but the family was undaunted in their desire to re-build. “We were all just filled with gratitude that no-one was hurt or worse,” writes Richard. “The next day I gathered everyone at the dining room table by the beach. I began to plan the rebuild.”
The newly imagined great house is bigger and better than before. The main living areas are open to the ocean breezes, with high ceilings and clusters of comfortable seating, perfect for curling up with a good book, or spending hours in deep conversation. There’s even a jacuzzi on the roof where you can relax and watch the stars fill the night sky – it’s hard to imagine a more romantic spot. And if it’s romance you’re looking for, weddings are one of Necker’s specialities. Jimmy Fallon married there in 2007, and Branson’s own daughter Holly tied the knot on the island in 2011.
For a more affordable taste of the private island life, Necker also offers Celebration Weeks, when individual rooms in the Great House and the Bali houses can be rented out. During these times, visitors share the amenities – with each other, and often with Branson himself, who has been known sit down to dinner with guests, or challenge them to a game of tennis, or a kiteboarding session, his favorite sport. He says, “We have so many fascinating guests come to stay that it’s always a pleasure.”
Whether you choose to share Necker island with other lucky guests or want to fulfil the dream of having a private island all to yourself, after a few hours on Necker you’ll understand why Branson calls it “the most beautiful place in the world.”
Find out more about Necker Island