Fat Virgin Seeks Billionaires
So you have a vision to create some spectacular properties in an idyllic location aimed at the billionaire market. It can be anywhere in the world, but there’s a check list to adhere to. The location needs to be beautiful – obviously. It needs to enjoy a wonderful climate with warm seas and a ten-month season. Safety is paramount, so ensure it has a low crime rate and a stable, non-corrupt government. Accessibility is key, as is safe sailing and harbour for ones super-yacht. Perhaps most importantly, the administration, and the land itself, need to allow for the development of property.
Tall order? Just a tad. Enter American property magnate David V. Johnson. He and his wife sailed around the world for ten years to find the perfect spot, so you don’t have to. The small but perfectly formed Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands won the contest, and it’s where he has built his latest and hopefully greatest resort to date. Johnson has form – he’s created 43 select communities and has learnt a thing or two about what the upper echelons desire.
One invitation later, our boat was powering its way through the Caribbean, the tropical breeze playing havoc with my previously perfectly coiffured hair. “That island is Necker – Branson’s obviously. The next one along belongs to Larry Page – the Google guy. The one just visible is Mosquito Island, which Branson has bought to build his new home on, seeing as though Necker is always in demand for rental”, our pilot mumbled as I distractedly searched my briefcase for hair gel.
Hmmm, with Branson and Page as next door neighbours, I figured that this island had to have a lot going for it. I was itching to get my first look at the Fat Virgin – Christopher Columbus’s name for Virgin Gorda, the second most populous and third largest of the BVI’s. But before I dropped in to Johnson’s new baby, it was time for a few days rest and recuperation at his other Virgin Gorda resort, the rental only Biras Creek.
After a seamless transition, typical of higher class resorts, I stepped off my chauffeur-driven golf buggy and into a Grand Suite. Inside, it’s impossible to focus on anything other than the plunge pool on the patio and its backdrop of the inviting Caribbean Sea; all framed by a bright blue cloudless sky. Swimming around in this private oasis, hypnotised by the incoming waves immediately transports one into the majorly relaxed Biras Creek vibe.
I was buoyed further when I discovered the in-suite tea making facilities – an increasing rarity in high-class resorts. Shame about the Lipton’s teabags – just how Lipton has managed to monopolise the foreign hotels market with such poor tea is one of life’s great mysteries. I recognise only a Brit would understand this complaint.
The suite décor has a rustic charm and everything from the four-poster bed, roll top bath and giant corner sofa all enjoy the calming sea views – a stunning combination of blues and green-turquoises. I could easily have spent a few weeks enveloped in this suite’s cosseting bosom. Interestingly, no room keys are deemed necessary here and leaving one’s door unlocked certainly reaffirms the feeling that this place really is off the grid and somewhere special.
When bored of lounging, enjoyable excursions are in no short supply. My day trip included some nearby snorkelling and a fascinating visit to ‘The Baths’. Thankfully The Baths is not the municipal swimming pool, but a natural wonder comprising a series of huge volcanic boulders by the shore. The boulders form natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. It’s quite a sight to explore, but as it attracts the tourists from nearby Spanish Town, the sudden small crowds are a jolt after the peace and seclusion of Biras Creek.
Purely for research, oh, and the bottles of fizz on the terrace, we sampled the exclusive and achingly beautiful Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (its home base is in Porto Cervo, Sardinia). Sailing is an important part of the British Virgin Islands, and as the club itself says “recognised as one of the finest cruising destinations in the Northern Hemisphere. The trade winds and predictable weather patterns, dramatic and mountainous island landscapes, protected anchorages, crystal clear waters, white sand beaches and world-class fishing, scuba-diving and snorkelling continually draw yachtsmen to the BVI from around the world”.
R&R on hold, it was with a heavy heart that I stepped on the boat to leave Biras Creek, but I was ensured that Oil Nut Bay would soon help me forget.
Handily, Mr. Johnson himself was on site at Oil Nut Bay and was happy to share his back story. As a younger man, his original goal in residential development was to build 10% of the housing in the USA per year. He was on course but everything changed after breaking his neck in a swimming pool accident. In his words, God, money and friends were all put into perspective. His real estate domination goal switched to a strategy of creating one-of-a-kind and one-at-a-time developments, all in ecological harmony with the land. He was told he’d never walk again but proved them wrong, and this tenacity and can-do attitude has overcome all manner of obstacles in real estate development too.
The environmentally responsible villas, all with private pools, range from two to seven bedroom homes, with some on the beach, some close to the marina, some on ridges and some on mountain tops. I inspected several and they’re so incredible in design, décor and location that I found myself wearing a permanent inane grin. The views from the higher placed properties must have been manipulated with CGI however, as nowhere is that perfect.
All villas share an incredible $100M of Resort Club infrastructure; which includes the focal point, the ONB Beach Club and restaurant, three pools and pool bar (with great cocktails), an excellent gym, children’s activity and nature centres, spa services, tennis courts, Pickle Ball court (I had to look it up too), marina village shops and a ninety-one slip marina, which provides access to the greater BVI neighbourhood of restaurants and experiences. I was both surprised and delighted to learn there is no ONB golf course, so the public areas avoided the dreaded American golfing types. Perhaps this was a conscious decision by Johnson to keep this community family focused.
This is not Barbados or Antigua and investors need to remember that shopping or bar and restaurant hopping is not really on the agenda here. However what Oil Nut Bay offers is what many billionaires are seeking. It has stunning natural beauty, it’s exclusive, it’s secluded, it’s safe and it has exemplary service. Oh, and it’s only possible to arrive by helicopter, boat or yacht.
Reassuringly, if Wayne Smith wins the UK lottery jackpot, he still wouldn’t buy here. Because he still couldn’t afford it.
My departure day reluctantly arrived and on the white sands of the deserted paradise beach, only yards away from my Bella Beach villa, I contemplated what David Johnson had achieved with Oil Nut Bay. He’s certainly nailed the location – Virgin Gorda surpasses the other Caribbean islands I’ve visited, and never mind how mind-bogglingly perfect the properties are, he’s managed to create a community that any decent, self-respecting billionaire would love to be part of. Reserve one of the remaining plots now.
Oil Nut Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, offers an exclusive collection of beach villas and cliff-side suites that are now available for rent and sale. Real estate lots range from .32 acres to 17.81 acres and sites range from $2 – $15 million. Price per night (room only rate) for the Bella Beach Villa, Oil Nut Bay: $7,250 (high season). Contact +1 800 761 0377 or visit www.oilnutbay.com for details.
Biras Creek Resort is set among 140 pristine acres on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Price per night (room only rate) for Biras Creek Grand Suite: $1200 (high season). Contact Biras Creek Resort 0800 883 0756 (UK) or visit www.biras.com.