A group of uninhabited Indonesian islands is about to hit the auction block

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

The more than 100 islands in eastern Indonesia’s “Coral Triangle” are spread over 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres), roughly the same size as Bora Bora.

Indonesian law states that non-Indonesians cannot officially buy islands in the country. Widi’s reservation is circumvented by having the eventual owner acquire a stake in PT. Leadership Islands Indonesia (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 — handpicked by Sotheby’s, the auction house overseeing the sale — are already waiting to back the construction of a resort on the Widi reserve. The lineup includes Bill Bensley, the star designer of some of Asia’s most exclusive hotels and resorts.

Charlie Smith, executive vice president of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions, clearly expects the bidding for this archipelago to be significant.

“All billionaires can own a private island, but only one can own this exclusive opportunity spread across more than 100 islands,” he said in a press release.

The Widi reserve consists of multiple coral atolls like this one.

The Widi reserve consists of multiple coral atolls like this one.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s Concierge Auctions

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

Regardless of what ends up happening in the Widi Reserve, it contains some of Indonesia’s most beautiful scenery, including coral reefs, mangroves and some 150 kilometers (93 miles) of beach.

The reservation is only accessible by private plane. Bali’s Gusti Ngurah Rai 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 asked to put down a $100,000 deposit to show they are serious.

Sales on private islands have increased over the past few years.

Already a popular choice for ultra-wealthy individuals (Shakira and Leonardo DiCaprio have one), the desire for privacy and safe distancing made them an even more coveted asset during the pandemic.

Some islands, however, are deceptively cheap.

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

Many islands have no existing structures, and some homeowners not only have to build houses, but also have plumbing, electricity and other infrastructure installed if they want to live there.

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

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