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The great escape

Zebras, pedicures and a fully staffed recording studio

Gladden Island: complete with pedicure and organic lunch

A 30-minute helicopter ride off the coast of Belize, says Tristan Rutherford in The Wall Street Journal, there is an island where you can “snorkel straight into the world’s second-largest barrier reef”, then indulge in an all-organic lunch and a pedicure. And for a cool $5,000 a night, “you’ll have it all to yourself”. Even the chefs, masseurs and cleaners at Gladden stay offshore, on a smaller island nearby. Private islands, “once the domain of billionaires and Bond villains”, are now more in demand than ever, especially since the pandemic heightened people’s desire for “minimal-contact holidays”. And a robust rental market has grown up to supply them.

For just $250 a night, Norway’s tiny Båtholmen island – bookable through Airbnb – contains little more than a log cabin, a fire pit, and some “epic star-gazing opportunities”. At the other end of the spectrum, a night on Buck Island in the British Virgin Islands starts at $25,000 for 15 guests and comes with unfettered access to a fully staffed recording studio, a spa, and a stable full of horses and, “inexplicably”, zebras. But there is no shortage of options in between. Private Islands Inc has more than 200 on its books, including everything from a beach paradise in the Seychelles to a decommissioned fortress off the south coast of England. “When you wake up on your own island, you’re king of the castle,” says Londoner Tony Hindhaugh, who rented the isle of Ronay in the Outer Hebrides in the summer of 2020. “That feeling is priceless.”