The property market in the British Virgin Islands may work to “island time’’ but the most exclusive pockets of this sailing paradise are still highly sought after. With a prime position on sought-after Virgin Gorda, this 15 bedroom estate maximises the natural beauty that surrounds it, says Francesca Steele...
Sir Richard Branson had not heard of the British Virgin Islands before 1978, when he fell in love with Necker Island. Since then the fame of the archipelago of more than 50 islands off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico has ballooned. A passion for sailing unites nearly all visitors and home owners – with consistent trade winds, sheltered waters and picturesque anchorages making for fine cruising grounds.
Like the pace of life, the property market in the BVIs can be slow. This was particularly the case after the global property slump that followed the crash of 2008. Local agents say that properties listed for sale in this lush tropical paradise are typically on the market for three years and then sell for 15 to 30 per cent less than the guide price. “It is still a buyers’ market,” says Bernadette George, of Smiths Gore, a BVIs estate agent. However, George adds that there has recently been increased interest in local properties, particularly from American buyers.
This is especially true on Virgin Gorda, the third largest island. The average listing price here is 34 per cent higher than on Tortola and the average sale price is 57 per cent higher, according to George. High end developments around North Sound have kept up prices, and with this and the other islands regularly attracting the elite, its reputation looks set to stay.
Christopher Columbus likened the island of Virgin Gorda to the image of a reclining lady. It was this that gave the island its name, which means “fat virgin” – two thin ends on either side of its central, curvy belly. Today, the northern coast of the island is known locally as “billionaire’s playground”, looking towards private islands including the 74 acre Necker Island that is available to rent from $80,000 per night.
It is here, on the upper back or perhaps the forearm of the reclining lady, that you will find Aquamare, a secluded estate of three 740 square metre villas amid stunning landscaped gardens, dotted with the bright colours of hibiscus and bougainvillea. The estate is on sale via Knight Frank for $23 million.
Virgin Gorda is far less built up and populated than Tortola, the main island of the BVIs, making it the go-to destination for wealthier buyers looking for privacy, peace and quiet, and unobstructed views of the ocean. Aquamare certainly offers all this.
The five bedroom villas, which overlook a pristine, sheltered beach and some of the most beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean, are a masterpiece in combining inside-outside living. Designed by the renowned Swedish architect Liselott Johnsson, they have light and airy interiors including 10 metre vaulted wood ceilings and walls made of native rocks and floors of travertine marble. The overall effect is cool and spacious, while door frames and other features made of tropical hardwoods such as mahogany and teak lend the homes a rich warmth that stops cool from becoming cold.
There is a luxury kitchen in each, with double doors opening on to outside seating and infinity pools. There is a common area including the white sand beach, with a thatched palapa (the local style of beach hut) and a king sized day bed suspended over the sand. Everywhere there are hammocks and lounge chairs, ideal for reading and enjoying the spectacular sunsets.
Each villa has three elegant master suites, one double room and one studio, while palm trees provide privacy and soundproofing between each home. The architect’s grandfather was Carl Andersson, the sailing yacht designer and builder, whose boats were known for their quality and beauty. You can see his influence in the fluid, open air feel of the villas. A concierge also lives on site.
It is a 10 minute drive from Aquamare to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda’s main town, once the original capital of the BVIs until it was moved to Tortola in 1741. It is also just a short tender ride from the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, where there are 38 moorings for superyachts. The club was founded in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, in 1967 and established its base on Virgin Gorda in 2010. Aquamare is perfectly located for making the most of Virgin Gorda’s sailing credentials but do bear in mind that it can take about a year to complete the purchase of a property in the BVIs as a new overseas buyer must factor in at least six months to obtain the necessary non-belonger land holding licence.
Aquamare Villas is for sale with Knight Frank, knightfrank.com