Saturday, July 11, 2009

Buy your own island

With land prices and rentals having collapsed to nearly 50 per cent, investing in an island is finding favour among the elite, says Pheroze Kharegat

If you want to buy or rent an island anywhere in the world, this is the time, the time of recession, when the prices and rental rates have collapsed to nearly 50 per cent of the early 2008 prices. “A private island is one of the best investments. And buying the right island at the right time and place can be one of the most profitable investments you could ever make,” says Navin Raheja, managing director, Raheja Developers.

Many eminent Indians are investing in islands. Vijay Mallya is one of them. In early 2009, he was said to have been buying an island near Monaco in Europe for Rs 750 crore. This wouldn’t be the first island that Mallya would own. He bought a string of islands north of the Maldives years ago and now runs resorts in these islands. Recently, he acquired the island of Thinnakara off the cost of Lakshwadeep.

Another such person is actor Rekha, who is said to be buying one of the small man-made islands in the World Islands projects in Dubai. According to the brochures, individual islands have been sold for prices ranging between Rs 75 crore and 250 crore, with one island known to have been offered for sale at a price of Rs 1,250 crore.

If you feel that you would like to invest in a small island under Indian control, then you might be in trouble. For despite having possession of more than 1,200 islands out of the 1,00,000 in the world, the Indian Government is not selling any of the islands due to security reasons.

In fact in the last two decades the only occasion when an Indian citizen could take possession of his private island was when Ramesh Kundanmal, Managing Director of the Dolphin Stone Crest MNC, legally acquired the Under island off the Thal coast near Mandwa on the Maharashtra coastline, from the Koli tribals owning it. Gifted by the British more than 150 years ago to the Kolis through Tamra patra, the island was fortified with a wall of stone in the 16th century. Now although the Kundanmal family has the island under their control, some politicians are making efforts that the Government of India should take back the island.

Internationally many islands are available for sale, the price ranging from Davis Island is a 0.8 acre island off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada priced at $27,000 (Rs 13 lakh) to Vatu vara island (in the Fiji islands) for sale at $75million (Rs 375 crore) and you can be neighbour if actor Mel Gibson as he owns Mago island, which is merely 30 km away.

For buying an island, one needs to do lot of homework.

Research: Start by browsing “for-sale” islands on the Internet and get an idea of where you want to buy. Islands are a niche form of real estate, so you need to deal with people who are aware of any special restrictions or laws pertaining to their purchase.

Cost: With private islands, you need to think about how much it will cost to make the island liveable. Some private islands are already fully developed, while some others require huge amounts of money for basic necessities like water and electricity.

If you are not a Vijay Mallya or Kundanmal and still like to enjoy a complete island to yourself, there is hope for you, as the Coconut island off the coast of Kerala is available for rent on a daily basis. This island is a private and exclusive island guesthouse in the backwaters of Kerala and is 150 metres from the shore in the Canoli canal — a man-made canal built for navigation in 1848. There are no inhabitants in the island other than the four hotel staff.

The whole island is a coconut plantation. Other than coconut trees, there are mango trees, amla, neem and a natural garden. The southern end of the island is kept as a wild garden for birds.

There is only one large cottage on the island. This cozy air-conditioned cottage can accommodate two adults, one extra bed for an adult or two adults, 2 extra beds for 2 children.

The house is designed and built according to Vaastu. It is in traditional Kerala design with open verandah on all sides. The cottage consists of one spacious bedroom of 180 sq foot and 320 sq foot verandah. The room is well equipped with large a wooden almirah, writing desks, and chairs. The room has a small television, phone and dial-up Internet connection for your laptop. Enjoy the privacy of your room and the beautiful views through six large windows and two doors. The island always has a good breeze with a very fine climate. The bedroom has a ceiling fan and an air conditioner in case you wish to control the climate. There is another house in the island, which serves as a complete kitchen.

There are families living 200 metres away on both sides of the nearby Canoli canal. The staff comes from the villages itself. There are four staff members in the island and two of them sleep in the island. There are mobile phones in the island, and battery backup for continuous power supply.

At Rs 6,000 per night for two persons with all meals and Rs 1,500 extra for two children, you can enjoy your own private island in India. — MF