In the gulf of Panama sits a trio of undeveloped islands with 50 beaches, more than 19 miles of coastline, and biodiversity on par with the Galapagos, including hundreds of bird and plant species and sea turtle-nesting grounds—and they’re for sale.
Collectively called Islas Cayonetas, one wealthy individual (or a group of wealthy individuals) could buy the trio for $100 million, but the goal of the sale isn’t to make the islands a private getaway for only the rich, the sellers say, but a way to promote scientific discovery and conservation. If you purchase them, at least 70% of the islands’ 1,800 acres must remain a nature preserve, and up to 30% can be developed, with a private compound for hospitality and ecotourism opportunities.
Whomever buys the Islas Cayonetas would be able to work with Pangea World, a foundation that champions a business model that combines eco-conscious tourism, scientific research, conservation, and sustainable development. For years, Pangea World founder Hana Ayala has been working with the Panamanian government on a tourism-conservation-research economic development plan, and these islands have been a key project of Pangea World’s vision.
To Ayala, this project and the sale of these islands isn’t about the spectacular real estate, at least not only. “This project seeks to revolutionize how we value real estate destined for luxury development in the context of world heritage,” she says. The hope is that the prospective buyer is a “legacy investor” who sees the value of setting up these islands as an opportunity for research, and shares the knowledge that comes with that. “The larger your legacy ambition, the smaller the development footprint on the Islas Cayonetas will be,” a brochure for the islands, which are for sale through Bespoke Real Estate, reads.
Our understanding of the world’s biodiversity is still limited; as of 2011, a study found that 86% of the world’s species were still not fully known. “The location of these islands is totally unparalleled,” Ayalas says, noting that the three islands are all in different parts of the Las Perlas Archipelago and represent a “microcosm of the extraordinary biological ecological diversity of this archipelago of more than 200 islands.”
As to why these islands are for sale at all rather than leave them uninhabited and undeveloped, Ayalas says the whole point is to foster that research and knowledge, and to share it with the entire world. “The islands are endowed with great natural wealth and beauty, but they can be much more beneficial if developed sensitively,” Ayalas says. “They could become a portal into benefits that are much, much larger than would be achieved on the islands themselves.”