These luscious global retreats from the British mogul are definitely ‘Virgin’ territory
In a world where the term ‘five-star’ has become trite and luxury is a catch all label for dime-a-dozen products, it can be a tricky task for resorts and holiday destinations to evoke a genuine wow factor.
There remain myriad properties, however, that would impress even the most jaded of jetsetters – and many of these feature in the Virgin Limited Edition collection, Sir Richard Branson’s move into the highest end of the resort market.
When the UK entrepreneur embarked on what appears to be more of a pet project than a profitable venture, his vision was clear: create a unique collection of exclusive retreats in the most premium real estate destinations.
With locations ranging from the Kenyan bush to a London rooftop, Branson looks to have outdone himself.
What makes the resorts extra-unique is that they are essentially Branson’s private luxury homes. He has a huge say in the location and development of each property, and is closely involved in the overall operation of the business.
Over the last few months, the properties have welcomed more than 30,000 guests and are on track to record a 7 percent increase in bookings over the next year.
Virgin Limited Edition managing director Jon Brown is confident that the collection will continue to grow.
“We’re always looking to expand the collection where we can whether it is a new property or a management contract. It’s about finding something out of the ordinary; a place that has a rare quality that we believe will enable our guests to create amazing experiences,” Brown says.
“There are so many beautiful and appropriate properties which would fit into our collection be it in Asia, London, New York, Africa…. who knows?”
We take a trip around the collection’s eight unique retreats and discover what makes them worthy of their ‘Limited Edition’ label.
Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
The original Limited Edition retreat, Branson purchased Necker Island at the tender age of 28, only six years after launching Virgin Group. The idyllic, unspoiled, white sand beachfront property in the British Virgin Islands is often described as a ‘billionaire’s paradise’. Being in the Caribbean, the Necker Island resort can be booked anytime of the year and can accommodate 30 guests. Exploration of the island is easy, and guests can also meet a wide array of wildlife, including lemurs and flamingos, which visitors can even feed.
Mahali Mzuri, Kenya
A 12-tented luxury safari camp in the Kenyan Bush, the Mahali Mzuri is simply beautiful, literally. Its name in Swahili means ‘beautiful place’, and it is only enhanced by the natural wildlife that surrounds the property. If you’re not feeling the outdoor amenities, such as a walking safari or nighttime game drives, for whatever reason, you can also enjoy swimming in the resort’s 12-metre indoor infinity pool and relaxing with a book.
Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco
Best known for its ballooning expeditions, the Moroccan resort is situated in the heart of the Atlas Mountains. The 27-room property also boasts an expansive antique collections from renowned interior designer Luciano Tempo, accentuating almost every corner of the resort, creating a truly traditional Arabian escape.
The Lodge, Swiss Alps
A stunning mountain retreat in Verbier, the nine-suite The Lodge is open all-year round and can accommodate 18 guests at one time. In the summer, they can enjoy the refreshing outdoors and play golf, trek, or indulge in an al fresco barbecue. Guests can also relax at the spa and indoor swimming facilities after a whole day’s activity up in the mountains. During winter, The Lodge is a frozen paradise, offering 195 km of marked pistes for all types of skiers and snowboarders. Beginners can also hire instructors for lessons, and with a six-day pass at the Ski Lift for CHF385 (USD412), the sub-zero temperatures should never be an issue.
Mont Rochelle, South Africa
One of Sir Richard Branson’s more regular haunts, Mont Rochelle hotel and vineyard property is situated in an area widely considered to be the food and wine capital of the country. Only an hour away by car from Cape Town, the 22-bedroom property also offers a gourmet restaurant called Miko, and a fully stocked wine cellar that can cater to any occasion, be it a wedding, a conference, or simply any large gathering.
Necker Belle, Caribbean
Effectively a mobile version of the Necker Island resort, the Necker Belle property is a 32-metre catamaran that cruises the pristine Caribbean Sea. With room for a maximum of 12 guests, the first-class yacht cum resort targets the adventurous leisure traveller who may be into wakeboarding, scuba diving or good old-fashioned game fishing. A fascinating home-away-from-home hideaway, Necker Belle is a testament to Branson’s love of the ocean, which he now shares with his guests on board.
Ulusaba, South Africa
Another luxury destination in the African Bush, the Ulusaba is the ideal spot for the fearless vacationer who appreciates sunrise safaris, mountain climbing at the Drakensberg Mountains and trekking at the Safari Lodge. Meaning a ‘place of little fear’, Ulusaba is an oasis where guests can relax underneath the stars, and even has expert rangers on hand to point out the Southern Hemisphere’s mighty constellations. Talk about a well-rounded, adventurous, educational and memorable vacation!
The Roof Gardens, London
Guests will never realise that this luxury retreat is London, home to the Virgin Group of companies. Its metropolitan location only adds to its glamorous exclusivity, especially when guests make the ascent to London’s “only rooftop Private Members Club” to party or gather with friends and loved ones. The property also takes advantage of the ever-changing London skyline, with its famed Babylon restaurant located high up on the seventh level. Curious visitors are also welcome to check out the beautifully maintained gardens at The Roof Gardens, free of charge – that is, if it’s not privately booked.