Wedi Reserve: These uninhabited Indonesian islands are up for auction

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(CNN) – A group of Indonesian islands known as the Widi Reserve is about to be put up for auction in what could be one of Asia’s most eye-catching real estate sales ever.

The 100-plus islands in eastern Indonesia’s Coral Triangle span more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres), and are roughly the same size as Bora Bora.

Indonesian law states that only Indonesians can officially buy islands in the country. Widi Reserve gets around this by having the ultimate owner acquire an interest in PT. Indonesian Command Islands (LII), a holding company.

From there, the owner will be free to develop the island as they wish.

However, if they feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect, several experts—chosen by Sotheby’s, the auction house overseeing the sale—are already waiting in the wings to support the construction of a resort at Widi Reserve. The lineup includes Bill Bensley, the star designer behind some of Asia’s most exclusive hotels and resorts.

Obviously, Charlie Smith, EVP EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions, expects bids for this archipelago to be significant.

“Every billionaire can own a private island, but only one person can have this exclusive opportunity spread across over 100 islands,” he said in a press release.

Widi Sanctuary consists of many atolls like this one.

Concierge auctions courtesy of Sotheby’s

While the eventual buyer of Widi Reserve is under no obligation to work with Bensley, the Thailand-based designer has already worked on some design concepts for a virtual resort on an island, and a Sotheby’s representative told CNN that the architect is “an advocate for the responsible development of the reserve.”

Whatever happens to the Widi Sanctuary, it contains some of the most beautiful scenery in Indonesia, including coral reefs, mangroves, and nearly 150 kilometers (93 miles) of beachfront.

The reserve can only be reached by private plane. Gusti Ngurah Rai Bali International Airport is a 2.5-hour flight away.

The auction starts on December 8th and will run until December 14th. There is no reserve price, but bidders are required to deposit $100,000 to prove they are serious.

Private island sales have boomed over the past few years.

Already a popular choice for affluent individuals (both Shakira and Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly own one), the desire for privacy and safe distance has made them a sought-after asset during the pandemic.

However, some of the islands are deceptively cheap.

As Stacy Fisher Rosenthal, president of high-end travel company Fischer Travel Enterprises, explained to CNN, it’s the cost of maintenance and infrastructure that makes owning an island really expensive.

Many islands do not have existing structures, and some owners not only have to build homes but also have plumbing, electricity, and other infrastructure if they want to live there.

Add to that transportation, the cost of moving food and staff in and out, and owning an island can get very expensive very quickly.

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