Last year, VUE sat down with Chris Krolow, executive producer and host of HGTV’s “Island Hunters” to discuss his career as a private island broker. Though Krolow is a Toronto-based entrepreneur with a background in international relations and tourism, he has followed his passion for private island realty. He first discovered his zeal for private islands at the age of 11 when visiting the cottage of a family friend in Georgian Bay, Ontario. After convincing his family to camp overnight on one of the three undeveloped islands, Krolow’s appreciation for seclusion ultimately encouraged him to share the experience with people who also enjoy a tranquil getaway.
Krolow began traveling the world in 1999 to develop marketing and strategic partners to unify the geographically diverse industry. These partnerships have aided in establishing his company, Private Islands INC., a leader in private island realty; the company serves as the global marketplace for private island rentals and sales. Private Islands Online is their exclusive database where customers can view a plethora of islands in several regions around the globe.
This time, instead of helping a client buy an island, Krolow and his business partner, David Keener, bought one of their very own and transformed it into a secluded resort for up to four guests. Located 20 miles northeast of Placencia, Belize, Gladden Caye is a hidden resort that just began taking reservations in September 2017 and it is already currently booked for the next six months. Gladden is the longest reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world.
The island was completely untouched when Krolow and Keener acquired it, and in just seven months, Gladden was transformed into a luxurious private vacation getaway. According to Krolow, “The idea that was our guests don’t see any other guests and they also don’t see any staff.”
Keener also explains that the privacy meter system is used to respect guests’ privacy while still being able to provide excellent services. “When the staff comes over to the island, they hit the dock, they press a button, the lights go to red, when they leave the island, they go to green meaning there’s no one on the island but the guests,” he explains.
Many luxury private island vacation opportunities either offer a single home on an island, but that would also result in self-catering, or an intrusive staff. Other opportunities provide great services in a resort setting, however space is limited and guests are unable to enjoy solitude. Gladden Caye provides the ultimate seclusion for guests to truly appreciate the luxuries of a private island stay. The manager, chef, concierge, and staff are a two-minute boat ride from the smaller island and are quickly available when signaled for assistance.
The aerial view over the island shows crystal clear water with 200-foot visibility and beautiful green reefs. Being close to the reefs provides a level of protection against rising tides, however David Keener explains, “In a storm we want the most protection possible, so I had from Florida, high-velocity hurricane shutters custom made.” The shutters are hidden and can be easily released if needed during an emergency.
The private resort consists of a single modern 3,000-square-foot Mayan-style villa for one couple with a second master suite in the house to accommodate two more guests. The resort is all-inclusive, providing meals prepared by a rotating group of renowned chefs, accompanied by a sommelier-curated wine collection. Services and excursions also include spa treatments, snorkeling, scuba diving, including a scuba certification and trips to see whale sharks that gather in the area, and transportation to and from Belize City.
There is a minimum three-night stay at Gladden Caye and included in the price for a seven-day stay is a one-way 35-minute helicopter transfer over the barrier reef directly to Gladden. A Gladden representative meets guests at customs and takes them directly over the Belize Barrier Reef and land on Gladden in approximately 35-40 minutes. The alternative means of transportation is also included in the price, which consists of a flight from Belize City to Placencia where guests will be escorted by a Gladden representative by speedboat which takes approximately 40-50 minutes. A night’s stay on Gladden will run about $2,950 a night with a minimum of three nights. Guests also have the option of adding a second couple at $3,550 (this includes the helicopter ride to and from the island).
Gladden Caye is an experience like no other. Guests can customize their vacation to be as relaxing or adventurous as they please. Keener says, “If they can’t relax here, they’re not going to be able to relax anywhere in the world.”