The British Virgin Islands, a lush tropical paradise of clear sapphire waters, silky white sands and home to rebel billionaire Richard Branson. Sir Branson was kind enough to invite the Tinggly team to his private Caribbean Island Necker as part of the Extreme Tech Challenge an annual business competition run by MaiTai Global.
Linas the CEO of Tinggly emailed me the invite to Necker and I stared at my iphone dumbstruck. I re-read the message not quite able to believe that I was getting to visit Necker, one of the most luxurious islands in the world.
The trip from Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands was an experience in itself, with only one other passenger I boarded a tiny 6 seater Cessna light aircraft and glided over an archipelago of tropical islands, they looked like tiny emeralds strewn on a carpet of blue ocean.
After touching down I met up with some other attendees of the event, including a former Super Bowl star, the world number three kitesurfing champion, and most eminent of all Alex the co-founder of Tinggly! Together we jumped in a slick looking speed boat and raced over the waves to Necker.
My excitement started to build as the island appeared on the horizon, within minutes I could make out the famous Great House rising out of the trees at the top of the island. When we landed a myriad of attractive island staff swarmed out to greeted us with with trays full of passion-fruit champagne! Alex and I wandered through the tennis courts towards the boathouse and casually bumped into Richard Branson who was sunning himself in a deck chair! We had a little chat about Tinggly, nabbed a photo!
The island was crammed full of luxuries. I was most impressed by the collection of lemures that lounged around in the palm trees. The island was being used as a breeding ground for a species that was facing extinction with only 200 left in the world!
There was plenty of time to chat with the other attendees, they ranged from venture capitalists, many of whom had flown in on private jets, to wealthy sea-bums who had rocked up in their yachts to enjoy some kite surfing and wake-boarding. There was also a number of interesting start-ups, my favourite was Cambrian Genomics who created the world’s first glowing plant with their DNA laser printer!
After an evening of networking and talks Alex and I headed up to dinner at the big house. Most people were waiting for a lift up but we decided to stretch the old legs. Half way up the road a golf cart zoomed up behind us, and a familiar voice said ‘Would you like a ride?” we turned round to see none other than Richard himself behind the wheel. I didn’t ever think I would be chauffeur driven by a billionaire!
After dinner things rapidly declined into chaotic hedonism. Champaign bottles were popped and people started to spray them at each other! To avoid the onslaught I did the only sensible thing and jumped into the hot tub. It was probably the worlds largest hot tub and fitted about 30 people. It felt surreal to be sitting in a hot tub on a private Caribbean island. I let the warm water engulf me and let my gaze wander from the full moon to the people dancing on the sandy beach under the stars.
At 2am a boat was scheduled to take people back to the hotels on the neighbouring islands. However I had other plans. I’d decided to stow away on the island! Earlier in the day I had found a little beach hut full of books and a little bed! As night turned into early morning I snuck away and got some kip.
I was awoken by the sounds of parrots and decided it would be fun to go for a jog round the island. My secret agenda was to bump into Branson so I could tell him more about Tinggly! Necker is packed with wildlife, I ran passed a lagoon filled with bright pink flamingos, on the beach I saw huge Komodo dragons, that scuttled into the bushes as I approached.
After my run I went to the Great House for a swim in the infinity pool, I gazed up at the sun which was rising gently, illuminating the islands like glittering jewels in the worlds treasure chest. Then I headed to the dining hall for some breakfast, there was a fantastic spread, but since I wasn’t supposed to be there I didn’t linger too long. Instead I took some fresh coconut water and head up to the very top of the Great House. Perched on the roof at the very top of the house is a tiny little wooden hot tub that looks out over the whole island. I lounged in it, sipping my cool coconut water and listening to some of my favourite music while reflecting on the journey. From this luxurious vantage point I could see hundreds of yachts, sailboats, small planes flying overhead. Hypnotically the aquamarine waves lapped on the bright white beaches that surrounded the islands. I like to imagine that many people had used the hot tub to mull over important decisions, reflect on the past and plan for the future. I spent a long time there, unwinding and thinking about my plans for the future. Necker left me feeling rejuvenated and excited for the road ahead, I can’t wait for my next visit!