Widi Reserve: These uninhabited Indonesian islands are up for auction


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(CNN) — A group of Indonesian islands known as the Widi Reserve is about to be auctioned off in what could be one of the most sensational real estate sales ever to take place in Asia.

The 100-plus islands in eastern Indonesia’s “Coral Triangle” cover 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres), roughly the size of Bora Bora.

Indonesian law states that non-Indonesians cannot officially buy islands in the country. The Widi Reserve gets around this by getting the eventual owner to invest in PT. Leadership Islands Indonesia (LII), a holding company.

From then on, the owner is free to develop the island as he wishes.

The Widi Reserve is located in the Coral Triangle of East Indonesia.

The Widi Reserve is located in the Coral Triangle of East Indonesia.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions

However, should you feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect, several experts – selected by LII – are already waiting in the wings to help build a resort on the Widi Reserve. The lineup includes Bill Bensleythe star designer behind some of Asia’s most exclusive hotels and resorts.

Charlie Smith, Executive Vice President for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions, clearly expects bidding for this archipelago to be substantial.

“Any billionaire can own a private island, but only one can own this exclusive opportunity that spans more than 100 islands,” he said in a press statement.

The Widi Reserve includes several coral atolls like this one.

The Widi Reserve includes several coral atolls like this one.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions

While the eventual buyer of Widi Reserve is under no obligation to work with Bensley, the Thailand-based designer has already worked on some design concepts for a hypothetical island resort, and a Sotheby’s representative told CNN that the architect is “an advocate for responsible development of the reserve.”

Whatever happens to the Widi Reserve, it contains some of Indonesia’s most beautiful scenery, including coral reefs, mangroves and about 150 kilometers (93 miles) of beach.

The reserve is only accessible by private plane. Bali Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport is a 2.5-hour flight away.

The auction starts on December 8th and lasts until December 14th. There is no reserve price, but bidders are asked to provide a $100,000 deposit to prove they are serious.

The Widi Reserve offers dramatic Indonesian landscapes.

The Widi Reserve offers dramatic Indonesian landscapes.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions

The sale of private islands has boomed in recent years.

Already a popular option for the very wealthy (Shakira and Leonardo DiCaprio each reportedly own one), the desire for privacy and safe distancing made them an even more desirable commodity during the pandemic.

However, some islands are deceptively cheap.

As Stacy Fischer Rosenthal, President of high-end travel company Fischer Travel Enterprises, explained CNNit’s the maintenance and infrastructure costs that make owning an island really expensive.

Many islands have no existing structures, and some owners not only have to build houses, but also set up plumbing, electricity and other infrastructure if they want to live there.

Add to that the cost of transportation, the cost of flying in and out for food and staff, and owning an island can get very expensive very quickly.


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