Survival of the richest: The billionaires building doomsday bunkers

Billionaires are planning to ride out the apocalypse in luxury underground dens complete with swimming pools and staff quarters… or on Mars. What’s your plan?

The survivalist movement certainly isn’t new. People have been stockpiling supplies and preparing for the worst for decades. But in recent years, this end-of-times anxiety has reached fever pitch. With the environment on the brink of collapse, the unnerving rise of AI and the increasing instability of society in an already fragile world (just to name a few), doomsday prepping is big business. And its punters have seriously deep pockets.

Rather than throwing their hands up and accepting their fates when the so-called ‘Event’ takes place, the 0.001% are secretly hatching elaborate getaway plans and building luxury doomsday dens to while away the apocalypse in. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill survival shelters, either.

'Cyber House', an ultra-durable bunker-house that interprets Elon Musk's concept of the Tesla Cybertruck.

Take the 5,000-square-foot underground bunker currently in the process of being built by Mark Zuckerberg on the remote Hawaiiian island of Kauai, as reported on by Wired last December. Set underneath Zuckerberg’s 1,400-acre luxury compound and accessible via tunnels that lead from two separate mansions, it features living spaces, a mechanical room and an escape hatch, with keypad-operated and soundproofed doors as well as its own food supplies, water tank and pump system. When coupled with land purchase prices, the bunker is set to cost a cool $270 million.

A bedroom in an Oppidum bunker.

Other tech billionaires are looking to flee further afield. As in, outer space. SpaceX founder Elon Musk wants to facilitate the colonisation of Mars, based on his belief that a ‘multi-planetary’ approach is the only viable solution for the long-term survival of the human species. “It’s important to get a self-sustaining base on Mars because it’s far enough away from earth that [in the event of a war] it’s more likely to survive than a moon base,” Musk said on stage at SXSW in 2018. “If there’s a third world war we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilisation somewhere else to bring it back and shorten the length of the dark ages,” he added. It’s safe to say that, if Musk’s plans are eventually realised (emphasis on the if) it will be survival of the richest: a ticket to Mars won’t come cheap.

The swimming pool in the Vivos Europa One bunker.

With the likes of Zuckerberg and Musk setting out elaborate doomsday strategies, fellow billionaires and business moguls are clamouring for their own peace-of-mind solutions. Since the pandemic, a wave of underground survival shelter companies have propped up, and business is booming. Companies such as Survival Condo, Oppidum Bunkers and Vivos are advertising architect-designed “ultra-luxury fortified underground residences” (Oppidum’s words) that will set their owners back anything from tens of thousands of dollars for a small one-person suite to hundreds of millions for a full underground compound complete with garden, cinema, swimming pool, art gallery, gym, sauna and staff quarters.

Survival Condo is a former missile silo converted into a luxury survival residence.

The underlying implication inherent in the mere existence of these companies is that a catastrophic event is an inevitability of our near future. Ominously, Vivos’ website implores, “Join us while you still can”.

For more billionaire basements, discover London's sprawling subterranean homes...

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