Courtesy of Vatuvara Private Islands Resort
Pumpkin spice and holiday music aren’t everyone’s cup of cider. If you’d gladly trade a “Silent Night” for sea air, sunshine and chilled Sauvignon, take note: It’s already spring in the sultry Southern Hemisphere, when temperatures rarely dip below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and where, by December, the island waters will be warmed by a full summer sun.
Betsy Cox, CEO of Blackbook Concierge and magic-wand-waver to the most demanding clients, says it’s no surprise people are itching for the summer side of the globe this year. “They’ve spent the pandemic in the Hamptons, Miami and Malibu, then they went to the Med,” she says. “Now they’re dying to go somewhere really exclusive, where they won’t see anyone they know.”
After Oceana and Southeast Asia spent the past two years sitting out some of the strictest Covid-19 lockdowns on the planet, resorts and developers are proving they didn’t squander the time, unveiling a slew of super-luxe sanctuaries loaded with perks that simply can’t be matched in the Caribbean.
Start by scoping out Lizard Island, an exclusive 40-room resort, plus villas, surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Great Barrier Reef. This offshore slice of Australia has long been a gathering place for discreet celebs including Kate Hudson, Tiger Woods, Charlize Theron and Russell Crowe. Now they are clamoring to secure the island’s new villa, the House. Opened in July after almost 30 years of red tape, the getaway is a sweeping four-bedroom perched on a small peninsula between pristine beaches.
A choice of turquoise waters on Lizard Island, off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Courtesy of Lizard Island Resort
Australian businessman Steve Wilson, who built the House (from around $11,000 per night with a three-night minimum) on the island resort founded by his late father in the 1970s, calls the villa a “special response” to a unique stretch of land. “We are the only habitable outer-reef island, and we are very close to the continental shelf, where the coral drops 1,000 feet,” he says. “It has to be seen to be believed.”
Befitting this Planet Earth–caliber natural wonder is an airy design by Aussie architect James Davidson that makes ample use of organic materials such as stone and wood. Plus, the villa comes with staff and a fleet of watercraft, including a 56-foot Riviera yacht.
Meanwhile, the Vatuvara Private Islands, in Fiji, of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s famously hush-hush 2018 check-in, now boasts another unforgettable natural feature—this one below the surf. Closed for two years, the all-inclusive three-villa resort (from $4,300 per night, including island transfer via private plane) sprang back to life in January boasting refreshed amenities, an emphasis on conscientious luxury, island-grown organic food that makes supply-chain woes a thing of the past and a swimmable sea garden that includes two-foot-long giant clams, otherwise extinct in the wild in Fiji.
Cox is sending her biggest fish to Koh Rang Noi, a rare private island off the coast of Phuket that she calls “one of those very word-of-mouth places where the sky is the limit.” At just under 10 acres, the resort hosts three fully staffed villas, ranging from four to eight bedrooms, with prices starting at $5,000 per night. For larger groups or a customized stay, the entire island can be bought out—expect rates to start around $50,000—with the additional option of a range of yachts (depending on group needs) plus three smaller sport boats, windsurfing gear and an armada of 15 Jet Skis. After a day on the water, the whole crew can kick back in the 43-seat cinema.
John Sutherland, who operates Koh Rang Noi, says he’s recently been exploring a sort of hospitality-swap with his “favorite castle owner in Scotland,” in which she and her butler squad would play hostess for clients on the island and Sutherland and team would travel to Scotland.
“The island is absolutely fabulous,” he says. “But it’s also about the quality of the people who are looking after you. The staff makes all the difference.”
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A choice of turquoise waters on Lizard Island, off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Courtesy of Lizard Island Resort / By CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL / Exclusive News / Janbolat Khanat / Almaty Tourism News Office