Richard Branson Has Another Island—And It’s the Height of Private Luxury
Among the side-effects of COVID-19 has been the creation of a couple of high-profile TV series set in exclusive resorts, The White Lotus (HBO) and Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu). A big part of the appeal of these programs for travel-starved viewers is the depiction of sumptuous luxury resort accommodations. The White Lotus resort (filmed at a Four Seasons resort in Maui) and the wellness retreat Tranquillum (filmed in Byron Bay, Australia) offer stylish accommodations in spectacular locations.
If only those productions had waited, they might have shot their series in the British Virgin Islands at one of the three private estates now available for exclusive buyouts at Moskito Island, being offered through Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition (a set of eight high-end properties situated around the world, including one in the mountains of Morocco, a safari camp in Kenya and a Majorcan estate). Like Nigel Tufnel’s amp in This Is Spinal Tap, the three Moskito Island estates take luxury and turn it up to 11.
Branson bought the nearby Necker Island in the BVI in 1979 and has a spectacular estate there, where he resides much of the year. In 2007, he added to his island domains by purchasing Moskito Island, which now has 10 estates. The island—about 125 acres in total—is situated to the east of Virgin Gorda (Branson was originally drawn to the area when he learned that there were islands that shared the name of his business enterprises). Branson and two other owners rent out their estates though Virgin Limited Edition. The three now available are the Branson Estate, the Oasis Estate and the Point Estate.
All the Moskito Island estates offered by Virgin Limited Edition are available only as full estates; you can’t book an individual room. But you can, if you desire, book more than one estate. They start at $17,500 a night (the off-season rate at the Point Estate) and go up from there, with the high-season per diem rate for the Branson Estate at $36,000. The minimum booking is four days. The fee includes all food and beverages, and for each estate, there is a head chef who will tailor the menu to your needs and preferences. (Of course, if you want to host an oenological extravaganza, additional charges will apply. But given enough advance notice, the Moskito Island management will make it happen.)
The area was hit by the terribly destructive Hurricane Irma in 2017, and Moskito Island’s structures have been designed with safety and sustainability in mind. The island has its own desalination plant, a facility for grinding waste glass into sand, some solar power and an eco-waste system for processing wastewater for use in irrigation. Food supplies are largely sourced locally, and the fish is brought to the island on local fishing boats—the head chef is on a WhatsApp group with local fishermen.
The Branson estate opened for guests in 2020 and has 11 bedrooms spread across three different sub-estates, each with its own dining area and pool. Headland House is the most elevated of the three, with superb views from the master suite and the inviting great room, which combines ample seating for a large group, gaming options and a generously stocked bar. The feel of the place is vaguely British colonial. The other two parts of the Branson estate are the Beach Villa, which, as you would expect, is situated right by the water and was built with guidance from Branson’s daughter Holly, and the Mangrove Villa, which took direction from Holly’s brother Sam and has a definite Polynesian flavor as it sits nestled among the mangroves along the shore. Each of these villas also has a master suite.
The Point Estate, which opened in October 2021, is the most child-friendly—its eight bedrooms include an eight-bunk room for kids. There are two master suites—Hilltop and Seaside—and the entire property looks west across a channel to an almost unpopulated stretch of Virgin Gorda. It also features a stand-alone structure perfect for sunset-drenched dinners. The Point is the closest of the estates to the lovely stretch of white sand called Manchioneel Beach, with water as brightly blue as one could ever want. Various facilities for water sports, as well as an inviting dining area and a seaside bar, provide additional comforts.
The Oasis Estate, also opened this October, is a hilltop extravaganza of modern architecture and expansive vistas, with nine bedrooms, large common areas, floor-to-ceiling windows and a master suite that almost seems suspended in air, with an enormous terrace and gasp-inducing views. The infinity pool winds along for what seems like about a quarter of a mile, with shallow sections in which chaises allow one to recline while surrounded by water and deeper sections for when one actually wants to swim. And if you do swim, you can swim right up to the bar, with its submerged barstools.
A fourth estate called The Village is nearing completion and is expected to welcome visitors sometime in the summer of 2022. Situated on a hilltop, it will feature such signature amenities as a cantilevered hot tub with a glass bottom clinging to the hillside and looking down at the Caribbean waters, a dry conversation pit inserted into the middle of the large pool and a dining area where part of the floor rises in elevator-fashion to reveal a fully tricked-out DJ booth. The estate’s name, of course, recalls the classic 1960s TV show in which Patrick McGoohan played a British spy who quits and is then kidnapped and taken to an idyllic seaside resort called The Village, where nefarious forces attempt to get him to answer the question, “Why did you resign?” Had he been spirited away to Moskito Island’s Village, perhaps he would have been more accepting of his fate.
The most challenging interrogation visitors to these estates are likely to face is whether they would prefer rum punch or mango mojitos after returning from a snorkeling trip or whether the next activity should be a match on one of the island’s tennis courts or a gym workout.
Because each estate is only rented out in its entirety, visitors can be as private as they wish, while having the opportunity to interact with other visitors to Moskito in the shared recreation areas, such as the Beach House, the tennis courts and Manchioneel Beach. Given the exclusivity of the island, these encounters with other visitors might prove to be an unanticipated asset of a stay there.
In all the estates, the rooms are large with enchanting views and include such luxuries as both indoor and private outdoor showers, balconies made for lounging and riveting views of surrounding islands and reefs. Each estate has its own flavor: the Branson’s Headland House has the most traditional feel, evoking a mansion in one of the hill stations of the British Raj; the Point is seemingly the most private estate and has the easiest access to Manchioneel Beach; and the Oasis, with its soaring four stories of clean modern architecture and its hilltop 360-degree views, is like the lair of a particularly successful Bond villain. Or a much larger version of Tony Stark’s Malibu estate in Ironman.
The scale and luxury of these estates drives one to cinematic analogies. And after staying a few nights at the Oasis, you may wake up in the morning, stroll to your balcony, watch the sunrise over Prickly Pear Island and think, “I am Ironman.” And maybe you are.
Evan Cornog writes about luxury travel and automobiles for Worth. He can be reached at email@example.com.