Adventure like Leo
- January 16th, 2024
- in Lifestyle
From the tender age of three, a passion for adventure and the outdoors has coursed through the veins of Leo Forte. Now he has harnessed that joie de vivre for his home country and is ready to show it off to the world.
Leo grew up on Tortola with equal doses of freedom and motivation to succeed – encouraged to play and explore the raw, untouched wilderness that is the Virgin Islands. Fast forward to 2024, and this gentle young man has launched Bonita, a luxury concierge service, recreating experiences that he lived out in his childhood for visitors and residents.
“As children my brother Jasper, sister Nina and I played in and around the water every chance we had. We surfed, went free diving and sailing, played football and squash, hiked and beach combed. We were lucky to spend our childhood in an endless natural playground and were given the freedom to make the most of it” he says.
The adventurous side of Leo may in part be inherited from his Mum, Jeanette who was raised in Kenya surrounded by a vast wilderness, an environment in which she flourished. Leo’s Dad, Mark, a lawyer and restauranteur provided a watchful eye and a disciplined approach to education. An ideal combination that prepared Leo for his future in business (and having fun!).
Leo attended Cedar International School that educates students under the world class International Baccalaureate® (IB) programme. After finishing high school, he took a gap year to backpack around the world before heading to the University of Manchester, graduating with a first-class degree in Business with joint Spanish honours. Then it was on to Madrid to work for Payflow, a start-up fintech company that allows employees to instantly access earned wages through a mobile application. The experience was pivotal in Leo’s career.
“Many children who are born and raised here leave to complete their tertiary education, get exposure to the big, wide world and therefore, sadly never return” says Leo. “I saw an opportunity to create my business based on a depth of knowledge of my home that I love so much and grew from all the adventures of my childhood”.
There are too many special Virgin Islands memories to name, Leo says, but surfing at a deserted beach with his closest friends as the sun sets and the water turns to fiery red, island hopping as teenagers on Hobie Cats and setting up camp on an uninhabited island, are a couple of stand-outs.
Leo loves being creative and taking his guests requests and super-charging them. Recently Leo was working with a couple on their itinerary and they requested a massage in a location “that was not just on the balcony of their villa”.
So during their stay they were whisked off to the uninhabited island of Sandy Cay near Jost van Dyke, where a masseuse and his massage table awaited. “They were so happy!” said Leo, “this is exactly why I love my job, because I have the opportunity to curate something very unique for each guest”.
Guests are not all necessarily visitors. Bonita caters to residents who, for example may have family or friends coming to visit, corporate business trips and special events.
Bonita has a small network of preferred partners who also bring the authenticity of the Virgin Islands to life, such as Hike BVI’s Sef Graham who started out hiking as a way to pass the time and stretch his legs during the pandemic – this has now become a thriving business. Sef knows an endless amount about the flora and fauna of the islands, including its natural remedies.
Another favourite of Leo’s is the farm-to-table experience at Tortola’s Good Moon Farm where guests tour the farm, pick their own fresh ingredients and learn about organic farming on the island. Returning to the villa, where a private chef uses the freshly gathered ingredients in a delicious meal created especially for them.
Thinking about arrival logistics? Bonita provides an expedited BVI Customs and Immigration service. Step off either your private or commercial aircraft straight into a golf cart where you are taken directly to your private transportation and onto your villa or estate and an itinerary of adventure by Leo. •