The flamboyant founder of the Virgin Group, billionaire Richard Branson, has always had an affinity for prestigious properties. In 1979, when the Caribbean was just emerging as a major vacation getaway, he snapped up the now-famous, 74-acre Necker Island for just $622K. In the intervening years, Branson poured more than $10M into creating a personal paradise on the previously uninhabited island, which can now accomodate up to 28 guests and is available for rent at $54K per day. Google co-founder Larry Page was recently married on the island in a ceremony that included some 600 guests and Necker has also played host to A-listers like Donna Karan, Michael Douglas, Princess Diana, Madonna, Larry Ellison, and Kate Winslet. In 2011, Winslet heroically carried Branson's 90-year-old mother to safety from the burning main house. Branson has since expanded his stable of luxury vacation properties under the title Virgin Limited Edition.
? Nestled on a craggy hilltop in eastern South Africa, the Ulusaba Private Game Reserve sits amid the Sabi Sand Reserve and on the border of the world-famous Kruger National Park. Three separate lodges provide absurdly opulent living spaces and are connected by a series of rope bridges. With 21 rooms, the resort caters to a select few at any given time, at rates that start at $590 per person, per night, and go all the way up to $6,800 a night for exclusive use of the Cliff Lodge. All drinks and meals are included in the price, plus twice daily game drives and a daily safari walk.
? The Virgin Limited Edition collection was expanded again to include Morocco's Kasbah Tamadot, an ultra-luxe escape on the outskirts of Marrakesh. The Kasbah was purchased by Branson in 1998, during one of his ballooning expeditions, and now houses 27 bedrooms and suites, including nine private Berber Tents. The staff of more than 120 are largely hired from the surrounding villages and help to maintain the hilltop resort to Branson's exacting standard. Prices here range from $650 per night for a basic room to $2,800 a night for exclusive use of Branson's favored "master suite," a three-bedroom combination.
? Just when everyone got to thinking that the Brit-born Branson could only tolerate warm weather, he went and bought an extravagant chalet in the chic Swiss mountain town of Verbier. Known simply as The Lodge, the log-hewn vacation home sleeps 18 and may only be rented in its entirety and for a minimum of seven nights in high season. Want to spend Christmas on the slopes? That'll cost a hefty $163K per week, but the staff of 13 will provide for every whim, and The Lodge has plenty of impressive amenities, including an indoor swimming pool, full-service staffed spa, and a wine cellar.
? For some reason, Australia's Makepeace Island isn't officially included in the Virgin Limited Edition collection, despite being jointly owned by Branson and former Virgin Blue CEO and Aussie native Brett Godfrey. Makepeace, named after the island's former owner, now has room for 22 guests, but, like The Lodge, must be rented in its entirety. For a full contingent of 22 guests, that will cost upwards of $15K per night. Of course, that high price includes plenty of privacy and luxurious amenities, like a large swimming pool, 15-person hot tub, three separate villas with "carved volcanic boulder bathtubs," tennis courts, and even an outdoor cinema.
· Kate Winslet 'will never forget' Necker Island house fire she narrowly escaped with two children [New York Daily News]
· Virgin Limited Edition [official site]