I was always enamored with the idea of having an island. The freedom to start a new utopia, the feeling of being open to the air, of having fresh water surround me. I also like the idea of being able to reinvent a world. Islands have also meant adventure and relaxation to me. My grandfather once gathered my extended family on an island then called Palm Island. The discoverer of the island had written a book about his adventure and how he survived and then made the island into a lovely retreat for people to enjoy. I think owning an island is a life adventure. It is part Robinson Crusoe, part James Bond villain, and part Hawaiian vacationer.
Later, my family and I took a safari with our friends the Lithgows. Tom Lithgow had grown up in Tanzania and he and Belinda gave us a great safari. I decided to look for land there, believing that the world would eventually discover such a beautiful place. They identified Lupita Island (p. 72) on Lake Tanganyika and using Belinda’s sense of design and architecture, we all moved forward on the purchase and construction of the paradise you now see.
When Lupita was offered to us it was bare rock and foliage with no permanent habitation, so we had a blank slate. Construction began in 2004 and was completed in 2008. You have to be prepared because things can go wrong. Some of our workers incinerated garbage too close to the clubhouse and burned it down. We rebuilt it better than before, but it was a real setback at the time. Wherever possible we utilized locally sourced thatching, wood products and bricks, and employed tradesmen from the local region. We consider the lodge as rustic luxury.
Our island is marketed quietly because we want it to stay special. We have mostly focused on wealthy families who want to have large gatherings. Occasionally, we host exclusive conferences there. Of course celebrity honeymoons are great because they can totally get away from their fans.
My trips to Lupita have been with friends or family where we gathered 20 to 30 people and we took over the island. These trips are ideal. Everyone gets to know each other so well, and the things we see or do are things we couldn’t do anywhere else. Helicopter to the second longest waterfall in the world. Scuba dive with rare freshwater fish. See the chimps that Jane Goodall studied. Meet the locals on the mainland. It is all fun, but one thing I will never forget is waterskiing on a lake where I was in the only boat for miles in every direction and where locals all waved thinking somehow I was walking on water.
Founder of Draper Associates/DFJ