SUNDAY TIMES - Shuttling off to an island paradise
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Sunday Times STLive By SUBASHNI NAIDOO, 2011-07-24 01:31:55.0

Shuttling off to an island paradise

An aerial view of the Bom Bom Island Resort on the northern shore of Príncipe Picture: WWW.AFRICAS-EDEN.COM
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South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth has splashed out on a luxury resort on Príncipe Island off the west coast of Africa - where rooms cost up to R83000 a night.

A tourist brochure describes Bom Bom Island Resort as "a true haven of luxury and calm".

Shuttleworth, 37, could not be reached for comment on his purchase of the secluded "paradise", which boasts 34 rustic bungalows constructed from wood and other natural materials, and queries to his spokesman went unanswered.

The luxury bungalows, which feature en-suite bathrooms and private patios overlooking two private beaches and a dense rainforest, are nestled on the island of Príncipe, the smaller of the two major islands that make up the country of São Tomé and Príncipe. A wooden walkway connects the bungalows to the tiny islet of Bom Bom.

The islet features a restaurant, a pool bar, a jetty and a souvenir shop.

According to an online reservation system, daily rates range from R1666 to R83643 for the resort, described in one brochure as one of the most remote and luxurious fishing spots in the world.

The getaway mostly attracts European oil company workers from nearby Nigeria.

In a recent press statement, Shuttleworth said he was thrilled with his purchase and that his "aim is to help develop eco-tourism, agriculture and a sustainable agri-forestry system, while creating jobs".

According to Príncipe newspaper the Tela Non, Shuttleworth signed an investment agreement with the regional government, undertaking to invest in the development of the island's airport and pier.

"The South African billionaire wants to extend the runway from the regional airport in order to receive larger aircraft," a report said.

It is not known what Shuttleworth - who owns a private jet, a Bombardier Global Express, and lives on the Isle of Man, a tax haven - paid for his slice of paradise.

Private Islands Inc, a Canadian real-estate agency which sells islands around the world, said prices for island resorts and entire islands off the coast of Africa ranged from R8.9-million to R125-million.

Shuttleworth's latest splurge is arguably a drop in the ocean compared with the total sum of his wealth. The London Sunday Times's annual rich list - which ranked Shuttleworth as the world's 362nd-richest individual - says his shareholding in several companies is worth more than £150-million (R1.6-billion), although he is thought to be even wealthier.

Shuttleworth made his fortune by selling Thawte Consulting, an e-commerce security company he started in a garage in Cape Town in 1995.

It was bought by US-based VeriSign for $575-million (R3.9-billion) in 1999.

In 2002, he spent $20-million (about R138-million) to join the Russian space programme as a cosmonaut, training for a year before blasting off from a launch-pad in Kazakhstan.

He was the first African in orbit and the world's second paying visitor to space.