When Richard Branson fi rst stumbled upon Necker Island, it was 1982 and business was looking good. The island is a 30-hectare slice of heaven which, when Sir Richard bought it, had no water supply and was completely underdeveloped. It was barren and wild, with all the charm of something you might remember from Blue Lagoon or Castaway. If you’re adventurous you might think this is enough — just pitch a tent or sleep under the stars — but Richard (unsurprisingly) had bigger ideas and decided to transform it into the ultimate private hideaway. When beginning the development of the home, Sir Richard enlisted the help of architect Jon Osmon, the principal of Osmon-Adams and Partners, and he has been a part of the development from the word go.
A Balinese theme was adopted and perfectly pertains to the tropical lifestyle and relaxed surrounds. Jon travelled extensively throughout Bali to gather authentic furnishings, stone and wooden sculptures that give Necker its unique Balinese charm. Jon worked with Indonesian craftsmen to create the woven bamboo ceilings that mark the graceful villas. In Brazil, he inspected the huge hardwood timbers that would ultimately become the roof of the main house — the main ridge beam weighing a massive three tonnes! Part of Sir Richard’s vision is a total blending of architecture and the island’s topography, and Jon supervised the removal of the highest peak, using the stone to build the walls of the Great House, the main meeting space on the island. Husband and wife team Amir Rabik and Linda Garland, of Bali, created the interiors to provide the ultimate in luxury, while remaining faithful to the concept of true Balinese style throughout the island. Linda painstakingly chose the beautiful fabrics and furnishings and some pieces were handcrafted by Amir himself. Maintaining this exceptional style and vision, Lory Johansson and June Robinson of Ergo Design Works Inc. of Los Angeles, California, completed a refurbishment of the interiors in 1995. June and Lory journeyed to Bali to purchase and produce the interiors and to immerse themselves in Bali’s art and culture. Much care was taken to ensure the island was developed responsibly and the team was ever-careful to preserve the delicate ecosystem at all times, maintaining the perfect balance between plant, animal, bird and insect life.
Lavish tropical gardens now bloom throughout the once arid island, providing a haven for exotic birds, fi sh, insects and reptiles. Although the island was originally developed as a vacation home for the Branson family, Necker is also available for private rental when the Bransons are not in residence. It provides the perfect setting for memorable holidays for private groups of families and friends, as well as for executive conferences and exclusive incentives. Up to 28 guests can privately hire the island at any one time, or join other couples in one of Necker’s Celebration Weeks to enjoy a getaway “house party” style. All food and beverages (including champagne) are included in your package, with world-class chefs preparing food for all tastes. You can even have your favourite foods shipped in on special request. The island features a number of houses to enjoy, the main precinct being the Great House.
This building is open and alfresco, with incredible hardwood beams supporting thatched roofs and towering over a neverending array of day beds, lounges and hammocks to relax on. The Great House also includes bedrooms on the second fl oor, all with their own (or shared) balconies with vistas soaring over the Atlantic. The master bedroom is on the third level of this house and it’s everything you could imagine, with private jacuzzi, outdoor bath, and home entertainment unit (if you can take your eyes off the view). Another name for it could be the “fun house”, with a snooker table, entertainment system, computers with Internet access, piano and cocktail bar — which you can help yourself to, or have the staff mix your favourite drink. Five other houses are located around the island.
Bali Beach is a lover’s haven, with private access to the double room on one single level, terrace, daybed and a short two steps to the plunge pool. Bali Hi consists of three decadent tiers of luxury, with a lounge area on the top level, bedroom in the middle, and lounge area with entertainment unit on the lower fl oor. The Bali Cliff takes in the ocean on a very intimate level, with an open-air bathroom and bedroom taking in the waves lapping beneath. Bali Lo and Bali Buha are the fi nal two houses located in the middle of the island, with ocean glimpses through lush foliage. Although the island is the perfect getaway for couples, children are most defi nitely welcome and Sir Richard’s own children have whiled away the hours exploring the island and enjoying specially arranged treasure hunts. Pay a visit to Bali Leha, the island’s spa — yes, that’s right, the island even has it’s own spa where you can be pampered with one of the many spa treatments available. If you’re looking to hit the water, choose one of the pools, including the infi nity pool at the Great House, complete with jacuzzi.
The Beach House, however, is defi nitely the place to be for a whole day of relaxation. Grab a cocktail from the swim-up bar and sit at one of the rocks in the pool while soaking in the experience. Duck under the waterfall and fl oat for a while in the freeform space. If you get a bit peckish, take what you like from the Crocodile Pavilion, where a huge crocodile table is often fi lled with fresh delights. To get some sand between your toes, head to one of the many beaches, with palm fronds giving the perfect amount of shade while you lie on one of the sun loungers. Those who are more active can fi nd themselves playing tennis or strolling around the island observing the wildlife. Aside from all the activities on the island itself, it’s hard to forget you’re surrounded by water and water sports are some of Sir Richard’s favourite. Waterskiing, windsurfi ng, kayaking, sailing, fi shing and snorkelling are all available to try, with equipment always at the ready. There’s even an aqua trampoline secured to the ocean fl oor. When the sun goes down, the fun certainly doesn’t stop and the staff will organise your very own calypso band at request, providing all the entertainment you could want to party the night away. All staff are trained in fi rst aid and the nearest doctor is 20 minutes away, so there is never a need to worry.
Transport around the island can either be on foot or via a mule (golf buggy), and to get to the island, jump on a helicopter or boat transfer from one of the surrounding islands with airport access. With all of these things and more available on one island, it’s pretty easy to see why this is the fi rst place Sir Richard heads when it’s time to get away. Like most of his pursuits, Necker Island shows what an incredible outcome can be achieved from vision, imagination and hard work. And what is Sir Richard’s favourite spot on the island? Well, we hear that he likes the hammock on the balcony of the Great House; it has a stunning view out over the Caribbean Sea. So if you ever get the opportunity to go to this stunning heaven on earth, close your eyes and just for a second, experience what it feels like to be one of the most successful, powerful and lucky people on earth! For more information visit www.neckerisland.com