The concept of building an Eden from scratch is almost biblical – and in this case, the result is most definitely paradise. Which is not surprising at all, as “paradise” is probably the word that that best describes the Seychelles.
But that’s not just because these fabulous palm-fringed tropical islands scattered in the middle of the Indian Ocean are beautiful with white beaches, turquoise lagoons, extensive coral reefs, and forests of palms and spices. This standard paradise stuff is obviously all part of it, but – to be honest – there are quite a few pretty tropical islands in the world. What makes Seychelles a real paradise is that none of the fabulous tropical fruits are forbidden. While (unlike the original pre-fall Eden) it’s obviously not completely free from sin, it does have one of the lowest crime rates in the world, zero private gun ownership, and very low unemployment. And even though it’s decidedly tropical, it’s not too hot, has no malaria, and also lies outside the cyclone belt.
Of course there are some serious constraints to island living, the major one being space. And with over 40% of the land area being dedicated to conservation, it’s clear that the Seychellois have to be pretty creative when it comes to housing. So they embarked on an extensive land creation programme – similar to our own foreshore in Cape Town, but different. Obviously it’s sad to destroy any undersea environment, but it’s better than building on irreplaceable natural forest, especially considering that much of what was reclaimed was actually a dead coral flat, the legacy of El Niño in the late 1990s. It’s a trade-off, and building over a few dead coral reefs is definitely a lesser evil than building on agricultural and conservation land.
As well as one island off Praslin, there are, to date, six reclaimed islands off the coast of the main island of Mahé, most of which have been earmarked for commercial use and to provide affordable accommodation for Seychellois. But don’t let that put you off. I had a look at the newly built housing on Perseverance Island when I was there last year, and, really, it’s nothing at all like the government-built accommodation we’re used to seeing in South Africa. Perhaps our municipalities could learn a few things from the Seychelles government.
But Eden Island is different. Developed by the South African- and Austrian-owned Eden Island Development Company, it offers almost the only property in Seychelles available to foreigners on freehold title.
The reclamation of Eden started in 2001, and by 2005 it was a low-lying vegetated island. The next year, the dredgers and other big machinery moved in and started resculpting, creating mini-lagoons and a yacht marina. By 2008, the first few homes had been built. Seven years later it looks like it was always there – the houses and apartments are set in lush gardens, and the marina is full of beautiful yachts. The island features five enclosed lagoons and four beaches.
You can choose between apartments, maisons and villas, each of which comes with its own mooring (either at the front door or in the main marina), a golf cart-style buggy for getting round the island and a parking bay where you can keep your car – should you feel the need to own one. You can choose from a variety of decor themes, and can even have the unit furnished in one of four styles with a further choice of four palettes. So, while there will be some harmony of style, your home won’t look identical to your neighbour’s.
The spacious apartments range from 87m2 one-bedroom units to three-bedroom units of up to 214m2. The maisons are cleverly designed townhouses. Limited to a maximum of three connected units, they are built back to back to maximise privacy and to avoid visual repetition. Ranging from 173m2 to 319m2, the maisons are on plots of up to 700m2, some with plunge pools. At the top end of the market are the villas, each of which stands in its own spacious garden with pool. Prices start at about US $ 500 000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
I popped in to Eden Island when I was in the Seychelles last year. Once you cross the bridge from the mainland – well, main island – it feels like a different world. The best of the Seychelles and tropical island lifestyle, with a definite dose of the familiar. We had lunch at Bravo, a restaurant run by South African Brett Saunders, who has created a menu that’s comforting and familiar but with some awesome exotic twists. Expect a range of cocktails and the usual burgers, pizza, pasta and salad, but with the addition of idiomatically Seychellois ingredients like great local seafood, fabulous spices, tropical fruit and Creole creativity. I felt right at home at Bravo, but it was when I wandered through the shopping precinct and popped in to the Spar that I got a real whoohoooo moment, thinking I had been miraculously teleported back to Rondebosch – or possibly Kyalami. So I guess it’s a great place to live – beautiful, exotic and secure, with just a hint of familiarity.
And, best of all, even if you don’t want to live there, or don’t want to live there yet, you can buy to rent. I chatted to Brian Gradner, Project Sales Manager Pam Golding Properties, about the expected returns.
The rental pool is going really well, he told me, adding that they get up to 80 enquiries a month. The returns depend on how you want to structure your rental, but he said you could easily get about $ 3200 per month for a two-bed apartment on a long-term rental, or up to $ 500 or $ 600 a night if you opted for a short-term arrangement. If you chose the latter you could, of course, spend some time in the unit yourself. Either way, it’s a good offshore hedge against the rand depreciating any further, and Brian did say, that some people who had bought a few years ago and were getting dollar-based rentals, were smiling rather widely. The Eden Bleu Hotel also sometimes uses the short-term rentals for overflow. Another bonus is that buying into Eden Island enables you to apply for Seychelles residence, so you could settle permanently in paradise – on Eden.
Check out www.edenisland.sc or the Eden Island Facebook page. You’ll find some stunning photographs there to whet your appetite. If you’re struggling to decide, maybe you should have a quick on-site inspection. After all, what better excuse can there be to spend a week or two in the Seychelles? Not that you really need an excuse. It’s a mere five-hour flight from Joburg, and no visa is required. Check out www.airseychelles.com. You could always stay at Eden Bleu, www.edenbleu.com, and check out www.seychelles.travel for more info about what to do and see.