Acres of sea and sand. All yours

Richard Branson started the trend with Necker, and for those who have the money, buying your very own island can be the ultimate Robinson Crusoe fantasy. Ginetta Vedrickas reports on the worldwide market in isolated isles
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Buying somewhere abroad to get away from it all is a fervently held ideal for many, and buying on an island often brings some degree of solitude. But, while many of us seek out quieter parts of Cyprus, Sardinia or the Greek islands for a retreat, there are buyers who will settle for nothing less than owning the whole thing.

Waterside Properties Worldwide specialise in marina waterfront and coastal homes in Europe and the Caribbean, but have recently added the sale of private islands to their portfolio. Having teamed up with German company Vladi Private Islands, they now offer hideaway tropical idylls ranging from Nova Scotia to New Zealand and the Bahamas to Bora Bora.

Dr Vladi is famously held to be the world's island expert - as Waterside's MD Nick Byrne found on visiting Vladi's Hamburg base to discuss the joint venture: "There was a huge room with cabinets lining the walls containing files for all privately owned islands in the world, along with satellite and aerial pictures, ownership details, longitude and latitude and information on services, regardless of whether he's ever handled the sale."

Islands are a new venture for Byrne: "We have expanded quickly with our overseas portfolio in the past couple of years, incorporating properties in Spain, Malta, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. Now we are able to offer islands and island homes around the globe and some locations are simply breathtaking. If anyone has the slightest hankering for an island life they should come and talk to us and see the wide selection we have to offer in some of the most beautiful places on earth."

One island that may soon find itself under offer is White Island, which forms part of a deserted archipelago south of Carriacou in the Caribbean, and boasts its own "sugar loaf mountain" with stunning views of surrounding islands and seascape. In an area renowned as a sailing and diving paradise, White Island also has the all-essential sugar-white sandy beach and is home to Morrocoy land turtles. "We are keenly awaiting our first island sale, which may not be too far away as later this month two prospective clients are heading out to visit White Island and, at US$1,400,000 (around £850,000), it certainly is a tempting proposition," says Byrne.

White Island may cost the same as a villa on the Algarve, but at the other end of the scale is Bock Bay Archipelago in the Bahamas - actually eight islands with a total land mass of 795 acres - which is for sale at US$13.2 million. The largest island already includes a main residence, guest residence, recreational building, utility buildings and two wharfs, but the others are ripe for development.

Byrne insists that the tropical island experience need not be the preserve of the rich and famous, such as Richard Branson who owns Necker Island: "Twenty years ago most Brits holidayed in Spain or France but these days people are used to doing all sorts of exotic things, from trekking in Nepal to African adventures, and the island experience is really just an extension of that."

Paul and Heather McCartney recently rented rather than bought a Caribbean island for their honeymoon. Trying before you buy is something Byrne recommends: "It may not suit you and, if you have teenagers, three weeks in isolation with mummy and daddy may not be to their taste." Island life also attracts dreamers: "We do get rather a lot of what I call 'brochure collectors' who are never going to buy or even rent an island but we've learned to ask searching questions and get them to make their own travel arrangements rather than offer £99 inspection visits."

Just US$540 a night buys you the full Robinson Crusoe experience at Motu Haapti, a natural islet set in the warm waters of the lagoon of the Bora Bora atoll in French Polynesia. But lush vegetation, white sand beaches and a bungalow on stilts - which sleeps five and comes with all mod cons including TV, DVD and library - aren't the only luxury items on offer. Extras include full board courtesy of the resident caretaker and mainland trips where you can scuba dive, para-sail and hire jet skis to ensure you don't feel too island-bound.

And with renting you don't have the responsibilities that come with island ownership. Some may have "bargain" price tags but installing services can be prohibitive. "Water can be a real so-and-so although power's not usually too bad," says Byrne, although he adds that remoteness brings its own problems: "Who wants to turn up for two weeks of solitude and find a commune of hippies squatting there?"

If your very own island sounds too lonely, remote or just plain expensive there are many islands where peace and quiet come with infrastructure and friendly neighbours. Croatia has around 11,000 islands, of which 65 are currently inhabited. "Islands attract a certain type of buyer," says Croatian Sun's Paul Keppler. "They tend to buy not for investment but to create their own dream home by the sea."

Among Croatian Sun's properties are new one-bedroom apartments near Milna Harbour on the island of Brac, which have terraces and sea views for just €110,000. A stone-built two-storey house on Hvar island that needs renovating is €35,000 and, for those who want to build from scratch, a 425m2 plot in Zavlatica Bay just 50 metres from the sea on Korcula is for sale at €43,000. "These islands attract sailors from all over the world and the clarity of the sea is wonderful," says Keppler., 023 8023 0066

Vladi Private Islands: 00 49 4033 8989,, 00385 203 12228

The Homes Overseas Exhibition is at London's Excel from 22-23 November, 10.30am-5pm. Adults £4, children free.