The last time I visited the British Virgin Islands was in November 2016. I was lucky enough to stay on three of the islands and found myself absolutely smitten by the scenery and life on the water. One morning, on our boat ride between two of the hotels, we passed THE Necker Island. As we looked across wistfully, my friend and I discussed how it would be one of those mystical places that we would only ever get to visit in our dreams. We had great fun guessing who might be staying there at that very moment.
Fast-forward to a phone call in early February of this year and it seemed that all my Christmases really were going to come at once. I was being offered a chance to spend four nights on the island and needless to say, there was no question as to what my response was!
Prior to my stay, my perception of Necker Island was that it was a place where the style of the accommodation would be gaudy, and the service would be over the top. It turns out that this is not the case at all. The welcome you receive from staff is so warm and genuine that from the ‘get go’ it feels like you are going to be very well looked after, but in a subtle way and with a healthy dash of British humour. It would be true to say that whenever I needed some assistance, there was someone on hand but it didn’t feel like they were on top of us the whole time. Everyone, from the tennis pro to the spa therapist, the yoga teacher to the lemur keeper, was hugely friendly and geared to ensuring an incredible stay for guests.
The marine location really is the biggest drawcard for guests coming to stay here. Necker Island is the perfect place for those who love life on the water, whether it be taking out a paddle board for a gentle meander on the waters, or attempting adrenaline-fuelled activities like kite surfing, wakeboarding or Hobie cat sailing, this really is a paradise for those with extra energy to burn. In addition to those activities which are available straight from the beach, the snorkelling at Oil Nut Bay is amazing for those who are fans of turtles and rays.
So what makes this place so amazing? The list is probably endless, but here are 10 reasons, just for starters...
1. The beautiful BVIs
Necker Island is a tiny green dot trimmed with white sands, on the eastern edge of the British Virgin Islands. Panoramic views from many of the bedrooms here take in much of the surrounding unspoiled natural beauty, while boating trips are always on offer to explore more of this stunning archipelago. This captivating region used to be difficult to access for those travelling from the UK, but since October 2014 new charter flights to Beef Island mean you can now arrive at an airport that is only 25 minutes by private launch from Necker Island itself!
2. The Great House: A phoenix from the flames
With hammocks on the terrace and comfortable seating scattered throughout, this 9-bedroom residence manages to balance unmitigated luxury with an understated, homely feel. The social hub of the island, the Great House boasts palatial levels of space and is a place for lazy days and decadent dinners. Sadly, the original building was ravaged by fire in 2011, but has since been rebuilt to an even higher standard, with walls and pillars removed to create a truly indoor-outdoor feel to the place.
The accommodation on Necker Island is currently split between two complexes – The Great House and Bali Lo. The devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017 was widespread, but the island is coming back to life with a bang and by the end of March next year, the Temple House and Bali Hi will also have been fully and luxuriously reinstated.
For my stay I was accommodated in the Great House, which is at the highest point on the island and is where the majority of guestrooms are located. As you would expect, this vantage point offers views to die for and the design of the architecture really showcases this stunning destination. Whether you are lying on your own private terrace, on a lounger by the hot tub or sitting at the long table at breakfast you can’t help but be mesmerised by the blue waters.
3. The new additions
As well as the Great House, Necker Island possesses smaller, but no less beautiful residences. The six Bali houses blend seamlessly with the landscape and provide the perfect location for a smaller group or couple's hideaway. New for 2015 come Temple House and the Love Temple, two new accommodation options on the island. Temple House benefits from a freshwater infinity-edge pool, a beautifully appointed kitchen and even sea views from the en suite bath in the main bedroom! Located nearby, just a short stroll down a grassy path, the Love Temple is built on a smaller, more intimate scale, with its own lawn terrace and a sensational open-air bathroom. (Did we mention this was a great place for a luxury honeymoon?)
4. The amazing service
Necker Island boasts a team of around 100 staff members who are dedicated to excellence in all areas. With a group of 30 staying on the island, the staff to guest ratio is more than 3:1! From the tireless housekeepers, to the endlessly energetic Watersports and Activities Team, every need is anticipated and catered to. Amazingly, though, the island team manage to deliver exceptional service whilst also being unobtrusive, hence guests are welcome to make their own drinks at the bar, or use the kitchen facilities in the Great House. You will be treated like royalty, but you won't be waited on hand and foot... unless you really want to be!
5. The fabulous food
Dining on Necker Island is an experience like no other. With the run of the entire island, guests eat what, where and when they want! You might choose a beautifully laid-out candle lit meal on Bali Hi Beach, complete with a bonfire and sand between you toes, or perhaps enjoy a themed dinner at the Great House, where you can help yourself to an aperitif beforehand, or ask one of the obliging staff to mix you a signature cocktail! Wherever you dine, French-born Head Chef Clement Baris will oversee the sumptuous menu.
As if that all wasn’t enough, you can even be in the water when eating your lunch. A personal highlight of the trip was the sushi kayak lunch which was served in the main pool accompanied by delicious Caribbean cocktails. Some may find this bizarre, maybe even a little bit ‘over the top’, but for me, it was pure bliss and capped off a hugely memorable time on the island. A truly one-of-a-kind experience in paradise.
6. The family-friendly factor
The Branson family have seen Necker Island as a home for decades now, and the children have frequented the place since they were infants. As such, the island has a host of delights that make it a child's paradise. Within the Great House there is a Bunk Room, which can sleep six children and is packed with toys, books and games. What's more, staff are happy to arrange treasure hunts, time spent feeding the lemurs or pirate parties on the beach. Of course, the little ones might just want to splash about in the beach pool, or simply enjoy the freedom to explore the whole island!
7. The carbon-neutral credentials
Necker Island's Chief Engineer is currently overseeing a project to harness the renewable natural energy sources that abound on the island. Sensitively placed turbines will take full advantage of the Trade Winds that blow throughout the year, whilst the almost constant sunshine will be absorbed by new solar panels, taking the island almost off the grid entirely. Conserving the natural environment is at the heart of the philosophy here, ensuring this beautiful place will be available for future generations to visit.
8. The wildlife
Flamingos, giant tortoises, lemurs, iguanas; there is a truly stunning array of wildlife on Necker Island. As part of the conservation programme here, species that previously inhabited the British Virgin Islands have been reintroduced. A now flourishing colony of 300 flamingos enjoy a natural habitat overseen by Vaman Ramlall, the island's Wildlife Conservation Manager. Just let the staff know if there's a particular animal you're interested in and they will guide you to the best viewing point. If appropriate, you may even get to help with feeding them!
9. The parties
One thing Necker Island is famous for is its contagious house-party atmosphere. Fun is a byword here and guests will be treated to as much or as little organised entertainment as they like. A host of themed party nights are on offer, from the Las Vegas Casino Night to the Kasbah inspired Moroccan Night. Of course, there's always the option of a party on the island's Main Beach, where the infinity-edge pool comes complete with swim-up bar and the Jacuzzi seats 30 people!
10. The Necker Belle
Another of Virgin Limited Edition's superlative properties, this luxurious 32-metre catamaran is based in the BVIs and available for charter all year round. The surprisingly light and spacious cabins aboard can accommodate up to 12 guests, while bespoke itineraries are available to suit any interest. Enjoying a British Virgin Islands cruise on this stunning vessel is the pinnacle of nautical travel, and a perfect way to cap off a luxury Caribbean holiday is this resplendent region.
Is that ten already? We didn't even get to the 16 different watersports on offer; or the floodlit tennis courts that play host to sporting legends once a year; or the off-island excursions; or the zipline!
Fancy your very own private island escape on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island? Get in touch with our Travel Specialists to find out all about Inspiring Travel Company holidays.