Floating islands: when a mega-yacht just won't do

Islands and yachts may have been the “it” destination for high-end tourists for years, but no more. The newest thing for the wealthy vacationer is a combination yacht and island: your own floating, move-able island.Floating islands have been in the works since people first imagined exploring the ocean, but technology is finally making that a reality.

The Wally Island premiered four years ago as a kind of giant floating home that’s 325 feet long, $200 million and comes with its own swimming pool. Yacht Island Designs also provides vacation-goers with a $50 million floating island that can be customized to look like a tropical paradise or the streets of Monaco – complete with small castle or fake volcano as you see fit.

The latest of these aqua-offerings, the ORSOS Island, announced last month, is smaller (at 65 feet by 121 feet) and cheaper (at just over $6 million) than its predecessors. The floating islands destinations, which really have no set destination, are the hottest trend in wealthy travel.

A number of organizations and companies have even begun developing plans for floating cities, including a concept that would house 50,000 people in a floating lily pad-style island with the outside layer reacting with UV light to create an air-purifying effect. One plan, from the Seasteading Institute, hopes to create floating cities as a way to allow new, sustainable communities to be built outside the governments of existing countries.

All these ideas have been growing in popularity as property becomes increasingly expensive and in-demand. The ORSOS Island won’t be unveiled until 2013, but interest and orders have already been high, said ORSOS management assistant Jacqueline Jackson. The company is even considering chartering the island to make it more affordable for the masses.

“It’s human nature to want to pioneer new places,” said Randolph Hencken, senior director of the Seasteading Institute.

What separates floating islands from just your run-of-the-mill mega-yacht is the feeling of actually being on land, yet living on the sea. Most floating islands aim to be sustainable and exist off the world they’re floating on top of. The ORSOS uses solar panels, wind power, and heat recovery from seawater to produce its own energy, which powers the island, converts seawater into drinking water and treats wastewater. ORSOS has no motor either; a tugboat or cargo ship is needed to change your vacation location.

Although much focus in recent years has been on exploring space and that final frontier, Hencken believes it makes more sense, and offers just as much for the high-end vacationers, to first explore what’s right beneath us.

“We already have the technology to live on the ocean,” he said. And, that technology can be yours – for just a few million dollars.