Necker Island used to be a little-known destination until Richard Branson stumbled across this speck of paradise way back in the 1970s. And, to put it succinctly in his own words: “I had no idea where they were located or that they were actually called the British Virgin Islands,” the billionaire entrepreneur wrote in a blog about purchasing Necker Island. Adding, “But one Thursday in 1978, I was told that they existed and that I could potentially own one.” Also Read – Oman – Beauty with an addressRichard Branson, known the world over as a billionaire business tycoon with an outlandish lifestyle, gave his very best to grab this little speck of paradise. So, when the realtor invited him to visit Necker Island, Branson arrived in quick time and met the realtor who demanded a whopping $6 million, way beyond Branson’s reach then. As the negotiations dragged, Branson put in $100,000 – that was the highest he could afford, the realtor was displeased and naturally, Branson was on his way back to the UK. Also Read – CANADA: A traveller’s delightHowever, as fate would have it, one year later, the owner of Necker Island still couldn’t find the right buyer and was anxious to sell the island in quick time. Branson recollects those pre-buying moments thus: “Virgin Records was in a much better position than it had been a year before, so I quickly agreed to a purchase price of $180,000.” Leaving behind those murky days of negotiations, debates and parleys. Today, Richard Branson’s secluded island retreat is the world’s most exclusive hideaway for celebs and business moguls. With India on course towards becoming a superpower, times are only getting better. What can be more promising than the fact that Indian travel agents are now receiving calls for islands that can be hired! They are quite prepared to pay up to $322,000 a week for 25 guests. The bonhomie with India Inc is well reflected – courtesy the gesture of Richard Branson-owned Virgin Hyperloop to construct a super-fast transportation system in India that would connect Pune with the new airport in Mumbai in 25 minutes flat. Necker Island offers not just sea, surf and sand; it offers a sleek peek into the mysterious luxury and opulence of the rich and the famous when on holiday. From Nelson Mandela to Princess Diana, Necker Island has played host to some of the most celebrated mortals. As you touchdown on Necker Island, the feeling of being in good fortune is most predominant. A bewildering array of wildlife – Flamingos, Scarlet Ibis vying for attention along with tortoises that are massive in size – dot the landscape in abundance. The in-house wildlife squad – experts with years of experience with wild fauna have meticulously incubated a one-of-its-kind Flamingo Breeding programme – 54 new baby chicks and 28 parent Flamingos thrive in the congenial Flamingo-friendly environ especially created by wildlife wardens. So, today, when you step inside this piece of paradise, you are likely to be greeted with the sight of mother Flamingos sitting on eggs and waiting with bated breath for the birth of the new denizens of Necker Island. Richard Branson’s commitment to wildlife conservation is legendary and his passion for protecting endangered wildlife species like the Madagascar Lemur is well-known. So, don’t be taken aback at the sight of Baby Lemurs, all recent additions to Necker Island – guests are welcome to feed Baby Lemurs. Apart from Lemurs, other resident species include Stout Iguanas, Parrots, Macaws, Cockatoo, Geckos and what have you! For many visitors to Necker Island, the ethereal sight of a compact team of Ibis, airborne and flying like angels over the island, is forever etched in their memory. The climate in Necker Island is blessed with highs of around 28°C in January to highs of tentatively 35°C in July. Necker Island, with its longstanding commitment to community, has chosen to participate in the innovation nonprofit, Pack for a Purpose. It offers visitors with a chance to contribute in-kind to the local community. It goes without saying that when you put aside some space in your baggage and earmark that space for carrying essential provisions for schoolchildren or even medicines that aren’t easily available in Necker Island, you are indeed making a huge impact on the lives of the local community.”The September 2017 Hurricane Irma, which many believe to be the most devastating in the Atlantic Ocean in terms of wind speed, left its mark at Necker Island as well. Devastation apart, Hurricane Irma cost the exchequer a whopping $77.2 billion and the process of rebuilding wasn’t easy either. However, when you have a philanthropist like Richard Branson, the turnaround too is quick. Necker Island is Branson’s brainchild, his pet project and so, the newly refurbished island retreat looks even more stunning than before with king-sized bedrooms, all with attached balconies and bunkrooms that are spacious enough to accommodate up to six children. The cynosure of all eyes, the Master Suite, comes with an attached jacuzzi and an airier sundeck that offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The Great House, which has been redone opulently and expanded hosts a total of 11 sumptuously-appointed bedrooms that ensure the resplendent comfort and rejuvenation. A new addition to the retreat is the Balinese-style house – Leha Lo that can easily accommodate two adults, while the Bali Hi complex that comes with an exclusive plunge will be introduced soon. From now onwards, the Great House, equipped with freshwater infinity pools, secluded hammocks, tennis courts and a bewildering array of water sport options ranging from scuba diving to sailing will offer the discerning visitors with a holiday they will treasure forever. Necker Island is also much sought after as a wedding destination. With multiple locations to choose from and each one offering unique panoramic attributes, the choice is never easy. The Western part of the island with its sandy stretches can easily accommodate up to 200-plus guests and with the boom of the great Indian wedding industry, now a billion-dollar industry – the lure to conduct surreal weddings in Necker Island must be pretty strong. According to Guarang Shah, one of UK’s leading wedding planners: “The average Indian couple will spend one-fifth of the money they make in their entire lives on the event and some weddings have been known to cost millions of Pounds. The events are getting more and more extravagant, which means couples are opting to travel to exotic destinations for nuptials.” The best part of travelling to Necker Island, notwithstanding the fact that the retreat has played host to legendary names, can be home to mere mortals too! To sum up in the words of Richard Branson: “Necker Island is my home and favourite hideaway. I invite you to explore this idyllic island paradise for yourself and to be inspired by its beauty. I hope someday to be able to share it with you”. And share, he does……..