Disembarking on a private Caribbean island in the same week as its billionaire owner is jetting off into space feels faintly surreal. Is he avoiding me? Have I done something to upset him?
Necker without Richard Branson, who bought the island in 1978, is like Ant without Dec, Morecambe without Wise. It is more than his home, his secret hideaway — it is where he has stamped his entire personality. Brilliant and bonkers and often both at once.
This little slice of luxury in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has had a torrid time of late. In 2011, the main house was destroyed by fire and then in 2017, Necker was battered by Hurricane Irma, the most ferocious in memory. Then along came coronavirus.
With so many setbacks, so much damaged infrastructure to repair, Branson has had to invest tens of millions in his beloved Necker. It remains his headquarters on Planet Earth and he has his own home on the island.
But he is also keen to attract more paying guests — which is why I've been invited to sample its pleasures before its relaunch as a private island resort. Not a taxing assignment.
The 74-acre island can accommodate up to 40 guests in a handful of high-end properties, done in Balinese style, with plunge pools, 360-degree views, complimentary champagne et al.
Only those with cash to splash need apply. To book the island for the exclusive use of you and your family will set you back £75,000 a night. But in selected weeks of the year, targeted at families celebrating special occasions with their friends, the island functions as a hotel, with room rates starting at just over £3,500 a night.