It certainly won’t come cheap, but Richard Branson’s new private-island getaway in the British Virgin Islands – where you can stay in a luxurious villa staffed by a private chef and resident manager who creates a “hyper-personalized” itinerary for each guest – is the stuff of daydreams and bucket lists.
British billionaire Branson – who made news in July for his space trip on his Virgin Galactic rocket plane – on Friday formally opens Moskito Island, his second private-island getaway in the BVI.
Sitting two miles across the Caribbean Sea from its famous sister island, Necker, Moskito Island sprawls across 125 acres and ultimately will offer ten private estates, some available for rental through Virgin Limited Edition, Branson’s global collection of unique rentals and luxury hotels.
A 35-minute flight from San Juan or an 80-minute flight from Antigua to the airport in Tortola, plus a short boat ride, Moskito Island contains a recreation area on its east side, with a beach house; infinity pool and bar; tennis pavilion with two courts, grandstand steps and a gym; watersports center and a dining pavilion.
The watersports center offers sailing, kite surfing and kite boarding, stand-up paddle boarding, water skiing and wakeboarding, snorkeling and scuba-diving.
Branson’s own Moskito Island estate – named, not surprisingly, the Branson Estate – became available for rental in January of 2020; estates opening Friday are the Oasis Estate and the Point Estate.
Two new luxury properties
The Oasis Estate, located on Moskito Island’s highest peak, offers panoramic, 360-degree views of nearby islands and the Caribbean Sea, extending across 17,500 square feet. Its six-bedroom main house features a master suite with 270-degree views; each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom with a bath and shower both inside and outside. There are also three waterside guest rooms with views from their private decks of the Caribbean and across to Virgin Gorda.
The Point Estate, on the southwest side of Moskito, extends across 16,000 square feet and is built right up to the cliff’s edge; its open-air, seaside dining pavilion provides Moskito’s best views of BVI’s dramatic sunsets. Featuring seven hillside villas that in total offer eight bedrooms, including two master bedrooms plus an eight-bunk children’s room, this estate can accommodate up to 22 guests.
The Branson Estate, the island’s largest, is spread across 19,000 square feet and has its own private beach. It contains three villas – Headland House, inspired by Branson’s 39-year-old daughter, Holly, chief purpose officer of the Virgin Group; Beach Villa; and Mangrove Villa, inspired by Branson’s 36-year-old son, Sam, founder of Sundog Pictures, a production company in London. In total these villas offer 11 bedrooms for up to 22 guests. Each villa is elevated to maximize island views, while each has its own kitchen, lounge area, infinity pool and hot tub.
Some of the island’s seven other estates will be offered for rental beginning next year and beyond.
Branson and the private estates’ owners individually own their estates and co-own the island. Branson is the sole owner of Necker Island, which he purchased for $180,000 in 1979 and converted into a private-island resort in 1983; he is also co-owner of Makepeace Island, a luxury resort in Australia.
Estates sleep big groups – for a price
Unlike Necker Island – which, for the most part, is available only for exclusive use and all of whose 20 rooms must be rented by one group of up to 40 guests for an entire week – the estates on Moskito Island are available individually. Each must be rented by an individual group for a minimum of four nights.
Not surprisingly, Moskito Island’s luxurious stays do not come cheap: Rates start at $17,500 per night at the Point Estate for up to 16 guests, with the four-night minimum. The Oasis Estate starts at $19,000 a night. (These rates are a relative bargain compared to Necker Island’s: A takeover of Necker Island currently starts at $105,000, with the one-week minimum.)
Naturally, a stay at a Moskito Island estate will offer guests the height of luxury: Before they arrive, they will be contacted by their estate’s dedicated manager, who oversees guests’ entire stay, insuring that every aspect of it is individually designed, even before arrival. Guests receive pre-arrival preference forms inquiring about their food and drink choices and activities they’d like to participate in during their stay.
The estate manager works side by side with the estate’s private chef and Moskito Island team to insure what the island calls “hyper-personalization for each booking.” Estate staff coordinate every detail of guests’ stays, including water sports, meal-planning and preferences, spa treatments and activities such as tennis, game nights and beach Olympics.
‘Very private and exclusive’
Jon Brown, chief executive of Virgin Limited Edition, calls Moskito “the newest jewel of the Caribbean, a truly one-of-a-kind escape where visitors can enjoy the luxuries of the most stunning, unspoiled surroundings while having the convenience and luxury of a beautiful private home to serve as the center of it.”
“When Richard purchased the island in 2007, he was able to draw inspiration from his beloved Necker Island and instill some of the incredible designs and qualities that have made it the success it is today. But what makes Moskito Island so wonderfully different is its personality and charm, a result of not only Richard’s vision for the island, but a fusion of other like-minded homeowners, their ideas and unique vision for the island, too,” added Brown.
Kenton Jones, BVI regional manager for Virgin Limited Edition, believes the Moskito Island experience “will be very private and exclusive, with an emphasis on the natural surroundings and experiences on-island, which is appealing to guests during the current state of the world and travel Industry.”
Another attraction, according to Jones, is the British Virgin Islands’ stringent Covid protocols: Vaccinated visitors are required to take an antigen test on arrival there, while those who are partially or not vaccinated must take a PCR test on arrival and must submit an application via the BVI Gateway travel portal.
Moskito, Jones suggests, will provide a “perfect escape” for groups or large families, as well as for weddings, honeymoons, corporate events and summits – of course, if group members are well-heeled enough not to be put off by Moskito’s lavish price tags.