Since 2012, Peter Nicholson, the largest owner of Grand Isle Resort & Residences, has offered up this slice of paradise for hundreds of charity auctions

When Peter Nicholson first laid eyes on Exuma, it was love at first sight.

Located in the southern Bahamas, this archipelago of islands, just a 40 minute flight from Miami, seemed like it should have been on the other side of the world. Exuma’s famously blue, clear water – boasting multiple shades of blues and whites – reminded him of more far flung destinations, such as The Maldives or Bora Bora. Except this paradise was on the doorstep of North America.

“We only had two months of real summer growing up in Nova Scotia,” Nicholson says, who is also the President and Founder of WEALTH (WCPD Inc.)

“I have been around the world twice, and nothing compares to the natural beauty of Exuma. It is the best in the world.”

So Nicholson dove in and purchased 31 villas at Grand Isle Resort & Residences in 2012,  a luxurious resort and second home community on the main island of Great Exuma.

It has been a labour of love ever since. 

Over the years, Nicholson estimates he has personally invited and hosted thousands of Canadians in Exuma, showing them the remarkable beauty that changed his life forever.

Indeed, the Canadian connection to Exuma runs deep, with many others either buying a villa at Grand Isle, or building second homes on the island. Meanwhile, from November to April each year, Air Canada Vacations runs a direct flight to this slice of paradise, a remarkable and unique route for the airline.

“This flight is hugely popular, because it means you can go from a winter coat in -20°C weather, to 30°C weather in just over three hours,” he adds.

The wonderful weather and lifestyle of Exuma was expected. 

What Nicholson didn’t expect, at first, was how impactful this investment could be for Canadian charities.

“Our firm is in the tax reduction business, allowing our clients to drastically reduce the cost to give to charities of their choice,” he explains. “So naturally, we regularly attend galas, golf tournaments and other fundraisers. And I thought – why not offer something I love to these auctions. Maybe they will love it, too.”

The response was resounding. 

For more than 10 years, Grand Isle and Exuma have been a dependable, marquee item at more than charity auctions, according to Nicholson.

Rather than a hotel room, guests of the resort receive a luxury home, ranging from one bedroom villas to four bedroom penthouses. The resort features three restaurants, a fitness centre, spa a world-class beach, and many other amenities.

Earlier this month, Skifest, in support of Ronald McDonald House Ottawa, auctioned off a villa for the fifth consecutive year, fetching nearly $7,000 for the charity. During that span, this partnership alone has now raised more than $30,000.

But really, it is just the tip of the coral reef.

Depending on the event, and those in attendance, it is not unusual this item to raise $10,000, or more, for charity. Nicholson estimates Grand Isle has generated close to $1.5 million, and counting, for around 300 charitable events in Canada.

“My wife and I went to Grand Isle soon after Peter bought in Exuma, about 10 years ago. And then we went back this year after winning a trip through Black Tie Bingo, in support of the Bruyere Foundation,” Bruce Raganold says, Director of Business Development at Welch LLP. 

“The property is spectacular and Peter’s passion for the island shines through. This past trip, we brought along family and friends, and the size of the villa really allows you to spread out and feel like home in paradise. The fact our purchased went towards a worthy cause is the cherry on the sundae.”