Words by Ben West
When a luxury property buyer is looking for a tropical beach island paradise, the Caribbean is very likely to spring to mind. However, there’s another dream destination – the Seychelles – that buyers are increasingly opting for.
When you consider all the attractions of this beautiful Indian Ocean archipelago, it’s easy to see why. If ever a chain of islands was made for Instagram, the Seychelles would be it: beautiful beaches, warm blue waters, lush green hills, jagged mountains and thick rainforest, striking rock formations and a host of excursions ranging from jungle zip lines to encounters with Aldabra giant tortoises, hawksbill turtles, grey herons and a wealth of other exotic wildlife. Oh, and the locals are very laid back and ultra-friendly too.
Although a direct flight from London, at around ten hours, is about the same as for the Caribbean, the time zone difference is more ideal to the Seychelles, as you don’t experience the jet lag a trip to the Caribbean entails.
The Seychelles comprises 115 islands, although only four are inhabited, and 90 per cent of the land on those is reserved for vegetation and wildlife. Not only is the water purer and cleaner here than in the Caribbean – and therefore you can indulge in superior snorkelling and diving, with there being more fish – its air is amongst the cleanest on the planet. Indeed, in 2016, it was deemed to possess the cleanest air in the world.
Although there are monsoons, these delectable islands off East Africa do not suffer from the extreme weather patterns seen in the Caribbean, which has a hurricane season generally lasting from June to November. The Seychelles enjoy stable weather throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from 24C to 32C, and the islands are free from earthquakes and active volcanoes.
The Seychelles is a spirited merging of different cultures – African, British, Chinese, French and Indian – which has created a unique Creole cuisine utilising spices grown on the island and dishes that exploit the abundance of fresh fish available all year round. A great place to sample the local gastronomy is La Grande Maison at the Takamaka Rum Distillery, which is on a 230-year-old sugar plantation.
International buyers are further attracted to the Seychelles because there are no visa requirements to enter. The modern infrastructure, advanced telecommunications and excellent air connections make the islands a highly coveted destination to live and to enjoy a holiday home. The property market is currently thriving, with most buyers coming from Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, China and Russia, attracted by its exclusivity, privacy and security, as well as its natural beauty.
It’s no surprise then, that the Seychelles are a popular holiday haunt for celebrities, which have included the Beckhams, Liz Hurley, Bill Gates and Brad Pitt. It is also popular with the Middle-Eastern elite: Qatar’s Al Thani family have a villa here, the Saudi royal family financed Mahé’s Four Seasons hotel, and Sheikh Khalifa al Nahyan, the emir of Abu Dhabi and ruler of the United Arab Emirates, has had a palace built on one of Mahé’s hills.
The islands have also become something of a celebrity honeymoon hotspot, fuelled by the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge choosing the Seychelles for their honeymoon in 2011, and the Clooneys choosing it for theirs in 2014.
The increase in flights in recent years has boosted visitor numbers considerably – tourism has increased by 50 per cent in the last couple of years or so. Air Seychelles launched direct flights from Paris in 2015 and British Airways from London in 2018. The Seychelles also happens to be an excellent hub for Europe, Asia and Africa (it’s about four-and-a-half hours flight time from UAE), and now the islands are served by Edelweiss, Swiss, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Turkish Airlines also.
UK-based property advisory service Private View Property is currently marketing a pair of luxurious villas on Mahé, the biggest Seychelles island, and home to its charming little capital, Victoria. Victoria has Mahé’s only set of traffic lights, which sums up its compactness and easy-going spirit. It’s a great base for exploring the other islands.
The freehold villas are located in a prime position on Mahé’s eastern coastline high up in the hills, with properties overlooking neighbouring islands and lush tropical rainforest.
They are nestled within the 30-hectare Royal Palm Residences, a secluded, leafy, gated development that eventually will have no more than 24 villas, to ensure privacy for residents. The development will also have a spa and gym and its own mountain spring water supply.
The larger of the two villas currently available, the $12m (£9.3m) 37,000 sq ft Villa Palladio, boasts six bedrooms, large open-plan living spaces, a hammam, games room, home cinema and staff quarters. Based on a neo-classical Palladian style, it stands in a prominent and commanding position with dazzling views of the mountains and sea, distinct from the surrounding wild and natural landscape.
The building materials are Italianate in inspiration: marble, white walls with touches of tropical hardwoods. This striking building has an opulent, graceful feel, offering exceptional light, space and comfort, framed by a glorious, shimmering blue setting, enhanced by a stunning infinity pool.
Also available is the 29,400 sq ft Villa Salazi, with a more modest price tag of $11m (£8.5m). Sculpted into the hillside, its layout is influenced by the landscape, blurring the boundary between the buildings and nature, with large, granite boulders and vegetation featuring in the overall structure. The materials used reflect the tropical setting, with hardwoods, shingled roof, aged copper roofing and local stone.
Sleeping 12, it features a series of detached pavilions, its centre built around a gigantic granite boulder. It’s best described as a big house with smaller separate living areas around it, perfect for several families or groups of friends. The villa features an infinity pool that appears to connect with the sea, whilst a wide verandah wraps seamlessly around the villa, creating shaded outdoor areas from each room.
The vibrant interiors have been created by Chelsea-based interior designer Leila Corbett, using a blend of traditional, rich finishes, fine craftsmanship and simple contemporary elements. The detached bedrooms are sumptuous, with upholstered furniture for an authentic classic look. The house has a resort feel and has six guest bedrooms, three of which are free-standing with their own pools. The elevated front lawn has a commanding view of the Indian Ocean and inner islands, whilst featuring what is, at 50-metres, reputedly the longest swimming pool in the country.
The villas were designed by architect Alex Ellenberger, who trained in London before returning to the Seychelles to launch his practice, Add.Locus Architects. Alex won international renown as executive architect for the Four Seasons Hotel on Mahé and for the spa, pools and villas on Fregate Private Island too. His practice is multicultural and global in outlook, with private commissions and residential projects in the Indian Ocean, the UK and in Japan.
He recognises that nowadays, as well as wanting spacious, immaculate properties, today’s luxury buyers also want the comforts available from a hotel. To that end he is in discussions with a top hotel operator to manage the resort. Whilst some owners would plan to live on the island all year round, others would wish to rent their villas out, which Ellenberger believes would command in the region of $20,000 a night for each of these properties currently.
The villas attract communal maintenance and service costs of around £850 per month and on top of the villa prices are 6.5 per cent purchase taxes. This consists of a 5 per cent property transfer tax and 1.5 per cent sanction processing fee for foreign buyers. Buyers are entitled to apply for residency permits for up to six family members when buying one of these villas.
Private View Property
Tel: 44 (0)7493 779779