Four degrees south of the equator and hundreds of miles from anywhere, the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles are a glamorous destination. This is where A-list celebs escape - think Posh and Becks, William and Kate - and it’s a staple for well-heeled honeymooners. It hasn’t featured on UK second-home buyer’s radar but that could change as projects aimed at a surprisingly broad range of budgets near completion.
The magic of Mahé
The Seychelles are 115 dreamy coral and granite islands, mostly uninhabited, and several are surrounded by protected marine reserves. International flights land on the main island of Mahé, 10 hours from London, where most of the 85,000 population live.
At 17 miles by eight miles it is easy to circumnavigate Mahé in one hour, passing through the world’s smallest capital city, Victoria, twinned incongruously with Moscow. The lush mountainous interior is beautiful but it is the unspoilt white sand beaches - 70 on Mahé alone - where most of the activity is focused for diving, fishing and snorkelling.
Crime is low, people are friendly and the islands lie outside the hurricane belt. Yet with few available properties for international buyers and only two resort projects currently being sold on Mahé, second-home ownership lags behind that of other islands such as Mauritius and Phuket.
“Seychelles has a much greater mix of nature and beauty than Mauritius but it is less commercialised," says Alastair McAlpine, general manager of the Four Seasons on Mahé. "Flight access and hotel offerings are improving and the government has looked to the Maldives and realised the benefits high-end tourism can bring."
Luxury villas with five-star services
The Four Seasons, where nightly room rates start from £347, is certainly high-end. It opened in 2009 on a steep 188-acre site in the south-west overlooking beautiful Petite Anse Bay. As well as 67 hotel villas there are 28 freehold private residences for sale.
These are luxurious timber-and-stone, three- to six-bedroom villas of up to 11,170sq ft with separate bedroom pods based around central courtyards and pools in grounds of at least one acre. Some are close to the turquoise sea, some are perched high above it in splendid isolation, but all come extensively furnished and with access to all of the Four Seasons’ impressive facilities.
“Fifteen residences are sold, including two in the past three months, to buyers from Europe, Russia and the Middle East, who typically visit three to five times a year," says Scott Moseley of developer Petite Anse Developments. "They like the space, comfort and privacy of these villas. It feels remote and tucked away, yet is on the main island and easy to reach."
These buyers already own several properties worldwide and are undaunted by the starting price of £4.4 million. Owners can apply for Seychelles residency, which comes with such advantages as no Capital Gains Tax or tax on earnings outside of the Seychelles.
A Marina with appeal
Prices are very different on Eden Island, a residential marina development on a man-made island attached to Mahé by a short road bridge. Building started in 2006 and today the resort is 65 per cent complete with 330 homes out of 550 sold.
Property ranges from one-bedroom apartments of 742sq ft for £236,850 to detached villas for £1 million, all with an allocated berth in the marina.
Apartments have sold strongly and rent well, says sales manager Laura Lotter, with buyers coming mainly from South Africa, France and Britain.
Andre Rassool of Realty Seychelles Estate Agency says the success of Eden Island has helped give Seychelles more international exposure. His average sale on Mahé to overseas buyers is £450,000 for a three-bedroom house with garden.
“Many buyers choose to build their own property," says Rassool. "Land costs £10 a square foot on the ocean, and from £1.50 to £7 inland. However, demand is overtaking supply and the government is considering restricting land sales to foreigners."
* Four Seasons Private Residences through Hamptons International (020 7758 8447; hamptons-int.com).
* Eden Island through Savills (020 7016 3740; edenisland.sc).
* Realty Seychelles (realtyseychelles.sc).
* Tax advice in Seychelles from Zetland Corporate Services (zetland.biz).
* Four Seasons and Eden Island owners can apply for residency.
* Management costs at Four Seasons start from £2,600 a month.
* Air Seychelles flies twice a week from Heathrow to Mahé.