Be it a windswept Irish isle or a Caribbean secret getaway, you can rule your own fantasy island-for a price!

Islands for rent: be it a windswept Irish isle or a Caribbean secret getaway, you can rule your own fantasy island-for a price!

Gretchen Kelly

Johnny Depp’s mascara-smeared pirate king, Marlon Brando, Dr. Evil, Sir Richard Branson, and Robinson Crusoe and his own Man Friday–what do these characters have in common? A private island of their own. Privacy–as the rich and famous know–is the ultimate luxury, the last bastion of elitism in the increasingly democratized and overpopulated world of travel. Whether you’re looking to star in your own live Tarzan movie or Isle of the Amazons fantasy, cut off from the world and surrounded by nothing but sea, sand, and sun, private island retreats offer pilgrims their own hedonistic version of the Holy Grail.

The search for this grail can take many forms. Travelers who want solitude but can’t shell out The cash for total exclusivity can opt for a handful of private resorts, but for the real thing–total And complete mastery of all that one surveys—only the complete private island rental will do.

“The fantasy of having an island of your own–all yours to command–is a dream that most people share,” affirms Wallace Tutt, the owner of his own portion of paradise, the private islands Caribe and Coral Cay near Harbor Island, Bahamas.” In the case of these islands, it’s a fantasy gone horribly right.” The interior designer, whose portfolio includes Gianni Versace’s infamous Casa Casuarina in South Beach and Cher’s homes in Miami and Malibu came to Harbour Island several years ago and “fell totally in love. The architecture was stunning … I never wanted to leave.” Along with business partner Don Purdy, Tutt purchased nearby Caribe and then Coral Cay, opening them for rentals when the pair is not in residence.

“There is a simmering feeling of sexiness that comes naturally in these islands,” Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone (a Caribe Cay devotee) says. Other high-profile fans of Tutt and Purdy’s antique and art-filled rentable private home on Caribe Cay include Robert De Niro, Iggy Pop, Elle McPherson, and David Copperfield.

Staking your claim for a private weeklong retreat on either of the cays will cost $15,000-a bargain considering that the whole island is yours to command and that up to six people can be accommodated. “It’s perfect for two gay couples and their straight friends,” says Tutt. “And nude sunbathing is definitely allowed.” (Breeders take note: Caribe does not accept children; Coral does.)

If $15,000 a week doesn’t leave a dent in your Italian leather wallet and over-the-top indulgence is your goal, consider renting Musha Cay or Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Both will set you back about $25,000 to $38,000 a day–a mere trifle considering that all amenities, food, and a serving staff of over 30 is compris.

Musha Cay is a 150-acre island in the Exuma Islands, Bahamas. Owner John Melk has left most of the island untouched but “carefully incorporated luxurious facilities and amenities that discerning travelers expect.” And as all good travelers know, God is in the amenities. These include five candy- and crayon-colored Bahamanian-style houses that can host up to 24 people at a time (only one person can rent the island at a time, but 23 friends can go along for the ride). There is hilltop “manor house” as well as a thatched-roof cottage on a secluded beach with an open air shower and bath room. Thirty-six staff members are at your beck and call 24/7. “The word no is not in our vocabulary,” says Musha’s Web site–which leaves plenty of room for the imagination. Seven empty beaches offer lots of opportunities for seaside soirees or nude sunbathing with no one but your fellow travelers and a passing seagull to watch.

The equally fabulous Necker Island is Richard Branson’s personal hideaway in–you guessed it–the British Virgin Islands. Branson paid about $222,500 for the island in the 1970s, and today the property and the pristine nature-laden island on which it sits are worth a small fortune Branson uses the island for family getaways and for get-togethers with friends like Mick Jagger, but the rest of the year it’s yours for the asking–and $38,000 a day. For that hefty little price tag, 26 lucky travelers can enjoy their own private paradise, Virgin style. There is a staff of 42, including a gourmet chef and a masseuse. Decor is silks, satins, and Balinese teakwood. A Great House and two Balinese annexes–Hi and Lo–offer sumptuous sleeping options for private pirates and their tag-along crew.

“My favorite time of day there is the early evening,” Branson says. “By then it’s midnight in London and virtually impossible to speak to anyone in Europe. The fax and telephone are silent, and the sun sets quickly. The sky turns a velvet midnight blue, and the first handful of stars are out.”

Silence and solitude are also found on Horse Island, a windswept private Celtic idyll off Ireland’s southwest coast. Warm gulf currents keep the waters and winds temperate here year-round. Relics of ancient Celtic settlements beckon exploration and guests can even stay the night in a handmade replica of the ship in which Columbus first sailed to the Americas, perched on a cliff overlooking the landmark Fasnet Rock Lighthouse, eight nautical miles away. The island has three homes and can sleep 12 visitors at a time. Modern amenities include a sauna and a Jacuzzi. Old Irish amenities include a working peat fireplace (the smell is heavenly).The kitchen here is self-service, but a case of Guinness or Irish whiskey and a sack of potatoes is about all that is needed to get travelers singing “Danny Boy” while the sun sets on the British Empire across the ocean. Price for you and 11 of your best buddies: $6,600 per week. Cross eight of them off your invite list and it costs $2,200 total for four guests per week.

With all these options for a small piece of personal paradise, the only question that remains is that age-old conversation starter, “What or whom would you bring to a desert island?”

COPYRIGHT 2004 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group