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Travel Guy Laliberté's private paradise: Cirque du Soleil co-founder welcomes guests to his luxury escape in French Polynesia

A private airstrip crosses through the Nukutepipi atoll.

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Leave it to Guy Laliberté to create his own time zone. The creative entrepreneur, best known for co-founding Cirque du Soleil, is now focused on real estate ventures. This year, he’s expanding his portfolio of two villas in Ibiza, Spain, and one in Hawaii with his latest property, Nukutepipi, a private atoll in French Polynesia.

A two-hour flight east from Tahiti (but by Laliberté’s decree, one hour ahead on the clock), Nukutepipi is a far-flung escape. The only thing visible from the island is the South Pacific and, on occasion, a visiting baby shark or humpback whale. Laliberté spent a decade dreaming of and building up this diminutive destination, which covers less than six square kilometres. “I spent 10 years searching the South Pacific,” he says. “This is a result of my life travelling, visiting beautiful places and paying attention to detail.” Construction began eight years ago. “It was not an easy story to build here,” Laliberté says. A wild patch of sand and palm trees, his team had to clear paths on the atoll before building could begin. “We had to clean the entire island,” he says. “There is a swell here that comes every 15 years. We were ready to construct and then we see it coming.”

Undeterred by the wash out, the team cleared the island again, finally finishing the tropical scene that greets visitors today: 16 luxury villas dotting the northeast coast of the island, clear ocean water lapping gently on the shores, open-air communal dining spaces, a well-stocked central bar with adjacent decks for the resident DJ, volleyball and tennis courts, pool, spa, expertly equipped fitness centre, art installations and a sandy bicycle path encircling it all.

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A private airstrip crosses through the Nukutepipi atoll.

Hinting at Laliberté's theatrical origins, the artwork in each bungalow, such as sculptures of tattooed contortionists by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, evoke magical performers. But it’s nature that puts on the real show. One end of the atoll is untouched by development and remains a sanctuary for birds, and an observatory allows for stellar stargazing. Perhaps most impressive is a freshwater reservoir in the middle of the island, the life source for the self-sustaining property’s farm, which boasts six greenhouses producing 36 kinds of organic produce, and nourishes a fruit orchard, a poultry house and bee hives.

Nukutepipi can only be rented as a whole property by the week, and accommodates up to 50 guests. It’s rumoured Céline Dion holidayed here last fall, but news of her stay only surfaced after she had left. After all, Laliberté says, the point of the project is privacy. “It’s paradise on this planet.”

For more information, visit sunsetluxuryvillas.com.

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