Have you ever wanted to own a tropical island? The idea might seem unattainable to most, but one group of travellers has made that dream a reality by purchasing Coffee Caye, the world’s first crowdfunded island. By Richard Collett
Located off the coast of Belize, just a short boat ride from Belize City, this uninhabited, 1.2-acre island takes only five minutes to walk from end to end, and it’s lined with mangroves and surrounded by coral reefs.
So far, 80 investors have bought into the dream of owning an island through the rather appropriately named Let’s Buy an Island crowdfunding project. The plan has been over a decade in the making, and investors are not only buying into the island itself, but also into the world’s newest micro-nation.
How crowdfunded island Coffee Caye is growing
Coffee Caye has been officially restyled as the Principality of Islandia, and the first tour group — consisting of 13 curious tourists and excited owners — landed on the island in February 2022 to formally open the new micro-nation to the world with a weekend of camping, snorkelling, s’mores and more.
Gareth Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Let’s Buy an Island, describes the new micro-nation as an “experiment with democracy itself.” The Principality of Islandia has a national flag, hundreds of online citizens, and is inspired by famous micro-nations such as Sealand (a floating platform in the North Sea) that claim to be independent.
Marshall Mayer, co-founder and co-chairman of the Let’s Buy an Island board, tells Travel + Leisure, “Many of the initial investors were really into travelling off the beaten track, including to places where there were micro-nations, and they were interested in [creating] an island where you can make your own rules and laws.”
“But we are a tongue-in-cheek micro-nation falling squarely within the laws of Belize,” stresses Mayer.
More investors and more development
Mayer adds that while they have already bought the island outright, they are still looking for more investors to fund the next stage of development, whatever that may be. Investor numbers will be capped at 150, and for the grand sum of USD 3,250 (INR 2,47,690), you can purchase a share in Coffee Caye, a vote in the Principality of Islandia’s fledgling democracy, and a say in the future of the island.
“Who hasn’t dreamed of making their own country?” asks Johnson. He explains how he came up with the initial idea to crowdfund an island in order to make a micro-nation around 14 years ago, but the project didn’t kick off until 2018, when Johnson, Mayer, and a group of travel enthusiasts with a penchant for visiting extraordinary destinations began crowdsourcing funds and island hunting. After looking at islands in Canada, Estonia, Ireland, and the Philippines, the initial investors voted in December 2019 to purchase Coffee Caye in Belize. “It had everything we were looking for in an island,” says Mayer.
And how much does a crowdfunded island cost? Mayer says that they paid USD 180,000 (INR 13,718,250) in taxes for Coffee Caye. He also notes that this isn’t a project that’s ever going to make them rich; rather, investors are in it for their love of travel, the desire to build a quirky micro-nation, or to purely fulfil the dream of owning an island.
Future development plans are yet to be decided by investors. Mayer envisages building a sustainable venture of shipping-container-style accommodations or glamping tents that can be rented out for a small profit or used at leisure by investors. Investors currently need to bring their own camping gear, while investors, potential investors, and tourists can also join any future tours organised by Young Pioneer Tours.
Fancy owning a share in the world’s newest micro-nation? Find out more about the project at letsbuyanisland.com.
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This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com