Six of the best private islands to rent
Necker Island (pictured)
If you want to roll naked in the surf, plot world domination like a bald Bond baddie or just be alone, it's hard to top Virgin boss Richard Branson's private paradise in the British Virgin Islands. The bearded mogul takes credit for discovering the island in the late 1970s, and wasted no time turning it into an ultra-luxe hideaway. Its 10-room villa and two bougainvillea-draped Balinese cottages nestle amid five beaches, two pools, a huge Jacuzzi, an aqua trampoline, tennis courts and lush jungle walkways. He'll rent it to you for HK$117,000 a day for up to seven guests. 'It's important to share beautiful things,' he explains. 'I think it would be an indulgence not to, basically.' Revel in 'warm turquoise waters, sumptuous Balinese silks and linens, a dedicated staff', and beds that have been slept in by the likes of Diana, Princess of Wales, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey (www.necker.com).
Little Whale Cay
Let's pop over to the Bahamas, shall we, where this palm-fringed gem awaits. 'Enjoy the bounty of the Bahamian sun in complete, uninterrupted peace' promise its operators, who will even arrange a wedding in a private chapel should you be swept away by the romance of it all. There's a main residence with two double rooms, as well as two guesthouses, the Flamingo House and the Peacock House - so named for the birds that strut around the island. Bedrooms are strewn with corals and shells and sit amid fresh-picked bougainvillea and mimosa. It costs a hefty $428,000 a week (www.littlewhalecay.com).
Nominated one of Conde Nast Traveler's 50 most romantic escapes in the world, this Sri Lankan isle is just the place to release your inner eccentric. The sprawling octagonal mansion was built by world-class weirdo Count de Mauny in the 1920s, and has been inhabited since by tortured novelist Paul Bowles, sci-fi visionary and inventor Arthur C. Clarke and the enormously wealthy arts patron Peggy Guggenheim. Its faintly mouldering colonial furnishings and wrap-around verandahs are tailor-made for inducing day-dreams - indeed, Taprobane is also known as the Isle of Dreams, and guests often gain the impression they have stepped into a 1930s novel. White-tiled floors and high wooden ceilings are enlivened by splashes of colour that reflect the sea and sky. In the bed-rooms, ceiling fans beat lazily over four-poster beds draped with lacy mosquito netting. The dining room overlooks the Indian Ocean, where there is nothing but sea between you and the South Pole. It's yours for a mere $7,790 a day (www.taprobaneisland.com).
We're off to the heart of the Pacific next: to Bora Bora, a gorgeous atoll that artist Paul Gauguin might have dreamed up, about 400 kilometres northwest of Tahiti, where a white-sand islet, Motu Haapitirahi, is available for private rental. It offers a Polynesian-style guesthouse on stilts, a stone's throw from the azure waters of your own lagoon. If you get sick of staring out to sea you can feed sharks, parasail, hire a yacht or go horse-riding. The day's fresh catch from one of the world's most pristine bodies of water is cooked to your liking by a personal chef. And there is all the privacy in the world to get lost in your most lurid South Pacific fantasies. At $9,349 a day, you'll be talking happy talk (www.vladi-private-islands.com).
This rough-cut emerald in the heart of New Zealand's famous Malborough Sound may be short on
tropical lushness, but its wild, untamed beauty screams romance nonetheless.
Your lodgings are a hilltop house called Paru Paru. If you tire of your loved one's company there is plenty of room in which to get lost. Hike to the top of 1,800-metre peaks or explore the teeming tide pools. Otherwise, pluck fruit from the citrus garden or sip on some of New Zealand's finest wines. You can arrive by boat, but why not splash out on the thrilling 20-minute helicopter trip from Wellington airport? Depending on the season, Forsyth Island rents from $3,895 a day (www.forsyth.co.nz).
If ballet is your bag you will thrill to the news that the late Rudolf Nureyev once owned this beautiful island on Italy's Amalfi Coast. Run around naked practising your grand jetes, and when you're bored, roar off in the speedboat to the Isle of Capri, mecca of the Mediterran-ean glitterati. Mind you, Isola Galli is so splendid you're unlikely to want to leave, especially when you'll be forking out more than a whopping $428,000 a week to stay there. The first villa was built on the island
in the days of the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was only slightly less decadent than Nureyev. Le Corbusier modernised the lodgings in the 1920s and supervised the planting of its crowning glory, a
stunning garden overlooking Capri. The stylish decor was the handiwork of Nureyev, who loved the region and its tanned, lithe inhabitants. Your chef will prepare Italian treats using vegetables picked fresh from the island's garden. Two boats are at your disposal, and you can keep yourself buff in the private gym. La dolce vita, indeed (www.vladi-private-islands.com).