Why a second home in the Seychelles is an enticing investment
The Seychelles's 116th island is replete with such interesting titbits. For instance, it is located on what used to be a coral reef. In 1999, when the coral began to die due to the El Niño effect, the government reclaimed the land and decided to approach investors to develop a man-made island that could offer the tiny African country's many long-term visitors a place to call home.
Ten years later, and thanks to the efforts of a marine-biology division employed by Eden Island's South African and Austrian developers, the coral began to show signs of recovery. "We invested in relocating some coral a few years ago, and that amazing coral has flourished and regenerated naturally," says Peter Smith, the sales and marketing director of Eden Island Development Company. "As developers, we are guests in the beautiful Seychelles, as are our foreign owners. It is critical that, where we can, we give something back."
Smith and team display a seemingly genuine concern for the economic and environmental health of the unspoilt Seychelles Islands. Not only is Eden Island responsible for creating 700 jobs within the local community, but it also represented 40 per cent of the country's foreign investment in 2014 and 4 per cent of its GDP.
The draw of owning a second or investment home here is evident from the moment you pass over the bridge leading to the private island. The marina is crowded with superyachts - in the week I visit, one of these bears the UAE flag. Within, as you drive past Eden Plaza and Eden Bleu, the on-site boutique mall and business hotel, the island seems to close in around you. It's enormous, yet feels satisfyingly exclusive. Cars are swapped for electrically powered vehicles, which are like golf buggies - all owners get their own personalised buggies to travel to and from their homes, and can ride these over to one of Eden Island's four beaches, to the community centre or to the pier-facing restaurants, bars and supermarket.
Once I am let into the main accommodation arena by security - residents get an access card to pass through the various checkpoints - a warren of lanes stretches out before me. It's all narrow paths and lush greenery interspersed with views of the postcard blue ocean. The cutesy-sounding "street" names, Cardamom Road, Zarine Avenue, Ambrosine, Jacaranda Lane, add to the sense of island exotica.
The 138-acre Eden Island is made up of 570 freehold homes in three formats - apartments (one to three bedrooms), maisons (three or four bedrooms) and villas (up to six bedrooms). Of these, 500 have been sold, while the last 20 are still under development. The 50 homes currently on the market are being offered up for between Dh1.67 million and Dh11.38 million, depending on their format, finishing and furnishings. From an airy one-bedroom apartment and three-bedroom duplex maison to a six-bedroom villa with an indoor pool, there's choice enough for all manner of second-home makers.
The exterior of each plot employs a common theme - one that adheres to the natural wood features, wrap-around verandas and pastel colours found in Creole architecture, which is inspired by the Seychelles's African, Arabic and French heritage. Folding doors with floor-to-ceiling glass let in plenty of natural light in the bigger homes, while the apartments have multiple high windows along each wall. All the maisons are equipped with plunge pools and green patches, while the villas boast bigger pools, expansive lawns and outdoor cabanas. Three community swimming pools and a health centre offering a personal trainer, tennis lessons, and yoga and spinning classes are open to all residents. The private beaches - also manned around the clock - offer snorkelling and fishing opportunities, as well as diving lessons.
"The layout of the island and all the homes, with their generous terrace balconies, caters to the need to be more outside than indoors - a typically Seychellois way of life," says Smith. The 40 acres of private waterways that are part of the island are divided among the owners, and each home comes with its own mooring for private or hired yachts.
While the facade of each plot is unchangeable, and each centrally air-conditioned home comes equipped with Miele kitchen appliances, buyers can custom-select the interiors. "Residents can choose from six finishes - sand, shell, rock, coral, granite or pearl - which will be evident in all elements, from the floor, wall and bathroom tiles to the countertops, wardrobe joinery finish and even the wall paint," says Evon Smuts, director of Source Interior Brand and Architecture, the interior-design architects for Eden Island.
The 6,500-square-foot villa where I spend my stay features pearlescent walls and floors, with a gleaming banister that leads up to the four newly minted bedrooms, complete with walk-in wardrobes and shaded verandas. Behind the open kitchen is a fully functional yet hidden "dirty" kitchen, ideal to stow used dishes when guests come around. The pool starts from the living room and descends through an underwater flight of stairs to the garden outside. Another set of steps leads straight down to the ocean.
While the Eden Island decor team has furnished this villa, many residents prefer to buy an unfurnished house and then do it up with the help of the on-site interior decorator - or to fly in their own experts. A good option is to choose a partially furnished plot, so you can take advantage of the stylish yet weatherproof outdoor furniture, supplied by the innovative German brand Dedon, which is ideal for the tropical temperatures of the Seychelles. Fabrics, artwork and various objets d'art can also be made to order in four colour themes: forest, aqua, driftwood and sunset.
As you shuttle about in your buggy, it's not uncommon to hear greetings of "heita", "bonjour" or "salaam" as other residents cheerily whizz past. The 500 sold plots on Eden Island are home to 40 nationalities, including South Africans, French, Italians and Britons, while Emiratis currently own 7 per cent of the units, which make up 13 per cent of the property's monetary value.
"What drew us to Eden Island was its truly superb location, so close to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with regular daily flights and visa on arrival," says Dubai-based Kez Taylor, who owns a villa, maison and apartment on Eden Island. "This is a great development located between the airport and Victoria, and is close to other islands such as Praslin and La Digue. We love the sense of community living. It is the ideal home away from home."
A cleaning service, satellite television, Wi-Fi access and concierge desk are some of the other amenities offered by this residential marina development. Plus, the Seychelles is only a four-hour flight from the UAE, and the airport authorities offer a VIP service that takes you straight from the airplane to a private waiting lounge - even while members of staff organise your visa, luggage and any duty-free shopping requests you might have - and then straight to your slice of beach paradise, located a mere 10 minutes from Mahé airport.
And if that were not reason enough to temporarily relocate to Eden Island at every possible opportunity, a second home here comes with a host of other benefits. "The Eden Island units have proved to be a good investment from both a capital appreciation and rental-return aspect," says Taylor. Resale prices, for instance, are displaying an average compounded growth of 8 per cent per annum. So a four-bedroom villa that sold in 2007 for Dh5.6 million is currently on the market for Dh9.9 million. The rental pool - short-term and long-term - is another lucrative source of income for homeowners. "There is high demand from tenants on Eden Island, and owners can feel comfortable giving their homes out knowing that there is a daily housekeeping and long-term maintenance service in place," says Justin Arenhold, head of rental.
Depending on the season, overnight rates can go up to Dh2,800 for an apartment, Dh4,095 for a maison and Dh7,160 for a villa. Buyers also qualify for a five-year residency in the Seychelles for up to six members per family. "Land is a finite resource in the Seychelles, so we expect the last 70 homes to be ready and sold by the end of next year," predicts Smith.
An island getaway is often labelled the "ultimate luxury". Coming home to a property as exquisitely designed and cleverly managed as Eden Island lends credence to that promise.
Read this and more stories in Luxury magazine, out with The National on Thursday, June 23.