Our travel experts’ top three private island retreats
OUR Favourite Private Island in Tanzania THANDA ISLAND: The Olofsson family home in the heart of a marine reserve
Thanda Island is a 20-acre pinprick in the Indian Ocean ringed by coral reefs and the pristine waters of a marine reserve. Built by the Swedish tech entrepreneur, Dan Olofsson, his vision was to design a luxury private island for his family that was unlike anywhere else in the world. The result is an exquisite family home with no cost spared.
The main villa is a plantation-style home with five bedrooms, a library and a wraparound deck with 180-degree views of the ocean. The two Tanzanian thatched bandas have two bedrooms each and were designed as hangouts for Olofsson’s teenage children and grandchildren to escape when they wanted time out with friends. From the glass-rimmed infinity pool to the banda-style beach huts, Thanda Island is a haven of privacy and luxury for families and friends to enjoy in a breathtakingly beautiful setting.
Thanda Island is surrounded by the largest marine-protected reserve in the Indian Ocean, and there are plenty of opportunities for diving and snorkelling. The island can even arrange for guests to swim with whale sharks often found in these waters. There is a tennis court and volleyball court and a well-equipped gym in the main villa. Thanda Island is a perfect retreat for a private family holiday, and it combines well with Thanda Safari, the Olofsson’s private game reserve in South Africa.
Thanda Island is committed to conservation (part of the agreement for building on this deserted island was that Oloffson would invest in the Marine Park and hire from the local community). Thriving marine life is proof that conservation is working – five species of sea turtle can be found swimming in the reefs, and gentle whale sharks frequent these waters.
OUR Favourite Private Island in PANAMA ISLAS SECAS: A wild Pacific wellness retreat immersed in nature
Islas Secas has been on my radar since it opened in 2019. The resort is located in a remote 14-island archipelago in the Gulf of Chiriqui off the Pacific coast of Panama. Islas Secas was purchased by billionaire conservationist Louis Bacon in 2009 and transformed into a haven of off-grid luxury. The resort moves with the slow rhythm of nature – archaeologists estimate that the last human habitation in the archipelago was 600 years ago, and Bacon promises that the island’s wild heart will remain undisturbed.
With a total capacity of just 18 guests and 30 square miles of land and sea to yourself, Islas Secas feels intimate but spacious and can be hired as a private island buy-out. Guests have the option to stay in luxury tented suites or wooden casitas. Every room comes with a private deck and stunning views of the ocean. We love the two-bedroom treehouse casitas surrounded by leafy branches and expansive outdoor space overlooking the bay.
Islas Secas prides itself on being a blueprint for sustainable tourism. The resort has impressive eco-credentials – they run on 100% natural energy and recycle 100% food waste for compost and wastewater for irrigation. Approximately 75% of the archipelago will be left wild and undeveloped, with only 13 of the 14 islands used for human habitation. The privately funded Islas Secas Foundation works closely with the local Chiriqui community supporting local businesses, education and conservation projects.
Our Favourite Private Island in French Polynesia The Brando: Marlon Brando’s escape to paradise
Marlon Brando stumbled upon Tetiaroa Island when scouting for picture-perfect locations for his 1960s film, Mutiny on the Bounty. Guests arriving on the private plane from Tahiti will encounter the same jaw-dropping experience Brando had when he first discovered an island paradise so alluring it was ‘beyond his capacity to describe.’ The Brando sits delicately on a small atoll encased in tropical flowers, shaded by coconut palms and surrounded by coral reefs and sand so white it turns the water in the lagoon silvery blue
There are 35 thatched villas built with a contemporary twist on traditional Polynesian architecture. Every villa has a private pool and spacious deck leading to the soft sand and turquoise ocean. We love the three-bedroom luxury villas with large pools and sundecks and beautiful spaces for private dining and events.
There’s plenty to do on this paradise island including tennis, paddle boarding, kayaking, bicycling and, of course, snorkelling in the coral gardens amongst the tropical fish and marine life. The Brando’s Lagoon School invites children aged 6-12 to learn about the fascinating ecosystems living on the island and in the ocean. Whale watching is available from mid-July to mid-October.
The Brando Team consider themselves as ‘stewards of Tetriaroa.’ The private island resort is nearly at the point of being 100% carbon-neutral and entirely self-sustainable. Half of the resort is powered by solar energy, and the rest runs on biofuel. The Brando was the first resort in the world to obtain the highest Platinum Certificate in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).