Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

He sells Seychelles: inside a bespoke villa in Mahe on the market for international buyers

The development has been designed to attract luxury home buyers

An infinity pool at a $11 million villa in the Royal Palm Residences development.
An infinity pool at a $11 million villa in the Royal Palm Residences development.

Adored by luxury-loving honeymooners and water babies alike, Seychelles has always been a dream holiday destination. Now, a bespoke villa development high up in Mahe’s hills might just tempt some to make these islands their ­permanent abode or invest in a second home.

A manageable four-and-a-half-hour flight from the UAE, the Seychelles promises a taste of the tropics within easy reach. The approach to Aeroport de la Pointe Larue, the archipelago’s only international airport, reveals a string of verdant islands framed by pearl-white beaches and turquoise seas. Mahe is the largest of the 115 islands and is a great starting point for most visitors, who often island-hop courtesy of short domestic flights and local ferries.

Escaping the capital Victoria’s car-clogged streets, a steep road winds up through the hills lined with well-kept plantation-style homes on Mahe’s eastern coastline. In prime position, Royal Palm Residences is a small collection of bespoke homes, carefully designed by architect Alex Ellenberger, who trained in London before returning home to launch his practice, Add Locus Architects. Ellenberger has multiple schemes under his belt – from private and residential commissions in the UK and Japan to Mahe’s Four Seasons – but says this is his most ­ambitious project yet. “The market is changing,” he says. “People want comfortable spacious villas yet with every comfort you can get from a hotel.”

A Palladian-style villa in the Royal Palm Residences development is on the market for $12 million.
A Palladian-style villa in the Royal Palm Residences development is on the market for $12 million.

Only 24 houses will be built at the gated development, ensuring privacy and peace for all. A peek inside the two villas currently for sale during a visit last month certainly reveals comfort and space. In a prominent spot, a grand Palladian-style house has six bedrooms, masses of light and an open-plan space with views of surrounding islands and tropical rainforest.

Boasting a floor space of 3,437 square metres, the villa’s tick list reveals every amenity you might expect from its $12 million (Dh44m) price tag: a home cinema, hammam and staff quarters tucked discreetly beneath an infinity pool.

Ellenberger is designing his own home at Royal Palms and is currently in discussion with high-end hotel operators to manage the resort, which he thinks will appeal to home owners seeking a holiday vibe all year round. “You can be in the UAE in four hours or Kenya in two and a half; it’s a great base.”

Room with a view in Mahe's Royal Palm Residences.
Room with a view in Mahe's Royal Palm Residences.

Tom Leach, from the UK, his Polish wife Paulina and son Jan first holidayed in ­the Seychelles in 2015, and Leach went on to buy a three-bedroom villa with an ­infinity pool at the Four Seasons Private Residences for $7.25m. “It was an almost unique combination of ­permanent super weather, being on the ­equator, and a liveable time zone, ­enabling us to stay in touch with the ­European office and avoid jet lag,” says Leach, who found the buying process straightforward after ­receiving the government sanction required for all non-­Seychellois buyers. Transaction costs are 8.5 per cent on top of the purchase price, and buyers can rent out homes that are within a resort for a viable return on investment.

Leach spends about seven months of the year on Mahe, where Jan attends school. Proximity to the UAE is a big draw, he says. “Invariably our flights pass through the UAE. Recently FlyDubai opened a Dubai-Krakow route, which suits us well for trips back to Poland,” says Leach, who often works from Mahe, but says he has a “permanent holiday feeling. It’s partly the great weather, but also the laid-back, easy-going nature of almost everyone. We also appreciate the safety and greenness.”

Family living aside, the second villa at Royal Palm Residences that’s now on the market has enough space for you to bring several other guests with you. Sculpted into the hillside, nature and mortar blend perfectly together with a series of detached pavilions centred around a 50-metre infinity pool, reportedly the island’s largest, shaded by an enormous granite boulder. Its $11m price tag also gives up to six family members eligibility for residence permits, explains Ellenberger.

Tourism is thriving, too, with 361,844 visitors clocked last year, while high-profile honeymooners included the Clooneys and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

“The Seychelles is a wonderful mix of people and cultures, and its warm welcome and diversity is what makes it a great place to live,” he adds. The cultural diversity is evident in downtown Victoria. The noisy chatter of French, English and native Creole makes for a friendly feel at Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke Market, where tourists and locals jostle to buy the catch of the day, fruits and vegetables and home-grown spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Many British remnants endure – the Brits took control from the French, making the Seychelles a colony in 1902, and erecting the silver painted Little Ben on Albert Street to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Tourism is thriving, too, with 361,844 visitors clocked last year, while high-profile honeymooners included the Clooneys and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who, while staying on North Island, were gifted a “love nut” – the produce of a palm tree that grows only on neighbouring Praslin. North also appeals to the footballing fraternity, regularly spotted on the helicopter ride from Mahe, including last summer’s visitor, Mohamed Salah.

Buyers at Royal Palm Residences get their own helipad and mountain spring water supply, says Ellenberger, who also plans on installing a gym, spa and restaurant, as well as protecting the 30-hectare site’s ancient trees, flora and fauna. “The Seychellois love their environment; we have the cleanest air on the planet, and want to keep it that way.”

Updated: January 12, 2020 10:59 AM

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