One part Casino Royale to two parts Blue Lagoon, add a splash of Vilebrequin swim trunks and you have Musha Cay, the ultimate lifestyle cocktail for movie moguls and captains of industry alike. This private island gives new meaning to exclusivity; although there are enough sprawling villas, flotillas of Boston Whalers and Hobie Cats to amuse a hundred guests, a civilized cap of only 24 are catered to at a time.
Typically, one windfall-bloated blue chip books the island for $265,000 a week and invites a dozen or so people to share in the spoils. For celebrity weddings or corporate retreats, small groups may anchor yachts offshore and head in for pool time and torch-lit dinners. What manner of Svengali-cum-hotelier could pull off singular vacations at detached-home prices?
Speeding toward Musha Cay under cover of darkness, I approach a jetty bathed in moonlight. A strong hand reaches into the boat and pulls me up onto the dock. “Hi, I'm David. You've finally arrived,” owner David Copperfield says. And so begins my five-day trip to the private playground of the world's most iconic and successful illusionist.
“Musha Cay is all about celebrating the big things in life,” Copperfield tells me over a spread of satay and sushi laid out on the dark mahogany bar at Landings, the social hub of the island. Big things indeed. He's known to keep mum on his high-profile guests, but a quick Google search reveals that the search engine's own co-founder, Sergey Brin, hosted his wedding here (post-IPO). The location was such a closely guarded secret that guests who boarded Brin's jet were unaware of their exact destination. Bill and Melinda Gates entertain friends on the island, and when Mr. Microsoft noticed guest houses wired with iPods, he playfully replaced them with Zune music players. Flipping though the guest book, I spot Oprah Winfrey's praises alongside Jim Carrey's playful scrawl, a few pages later a beefy John Travolta in Sharpie black.
Peppered along the most pristine stretch of the Exumas in the Bahamas, Musha Cay sprawls across 283 hectares over 11 islands blessed with 40 sugar-sand beaches. Temperatures average a high of around 27 C year-round, dipping to a balmy 23 in winter. A total of 12 bedrooms are spread across five villas on the main island – each villa outfitted in styles ranging from theatrical Balinese to clean India Hicks chic, accented with artifacts from Copperfield's personal collection.
The Houdini Room at Landings displays personal letters from Charlie Chaplin, pieces of Houdini's water torture cell and a fortune-telling machine with playful, custom fortunes for each guest. A surf-side beach gym is accented with a mojo-motivating statue of Jack Johnson, the first black boxer to win a heavyweight title (a tribute that once stood at the base of the Eiffel Tower).
While the gym draws dumbbell addicts, my preferred workout here is boarding Copperfield's custom 37-foot speedboat, Midnight Express, replicated on a design favoured by Pablo Escobar, to get to nearby islands to hike the route favoured by 19th-century smugglers. The Colombian drug lord's boat was commissioned to outrun the Coast Guard; the speed this one generates is a full three decades faster, whipping my Ray-Bans off and to the back of the boat.
After my second night, I rouse fully refreshed. The king-size bed is so light, feathery and buttery soft, it's like a croissant you can sleep in.
There's a reason every detail here feels so consummately and subliminally perfect. After years of periodic residence at the world's most expensive hotels on his international tours, Copperfield knew exactly what he wanted. He curated standout items or experiences from other stays into Musha Cay, often adding his own playful twist.