10 February, 2009

Seychelles: Onehundred-fifteen Islands Plus One

Does the stunningly beautiful Seychelles really need man made islands? Regarded by many as the most beautiful and most exotic group of islands in the world, Seychelles has one more island. Now. An artificial one called Eden. And several other developments, catering mostly for the super rich, are being undertaken - to attract more cash to the Islands:

The Seychelles is one of those tropical paradise destinations that attracts wealthy holidaymakers and ultrahoneymooners. Located in the Indian Ocean, 1,000 miles off Africa’s east coast, this otherworldly archipelago of 115 islands – some made of low-lying coral and reef atolls, others of ancient granite – offers textbook ­white powder sand, aqua waters and a balmy climate with temperatures rarely lower than 24ºC nor higher than 32ºC. It is more remote and rugged than Mauritius or the Maldives, yet it has regular flight connections direct to the capital of Mahé from Dubai (four hours away) and the UK (10 hours). It also sits in a time zone between Asia and Europe with working hours that overlap with those of major financial centres.

Not surprisingly, property on the islands has long been coveted by foreign househunters. But the market has only opened up in the past four years, following a legislative change that allows non-locals to buy into new, high-end developments. This is designed to promote the right kind of new construction and ensure that locals – who tend to live in two- to three-bedroom traditional wooden or contemporary concrete houses on the main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue – are not priced out of the market.

As a result, a host of new residential resorts is springing up. The first to launch, in early 2006, was Eden Island, a high-density development on a man-made island beside Mahé, followed by the Banyan Tree Residences on Mahé. Last April Dubai-based Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) announced it was opening up a group of 23 Raffles-branded residences and estates on Praslin alongside a soon-to-be-constructed Raffles Resort and, in May, Four Seasons Private Residences launched an upscale collection of 28 individual villas on the south-west side of Mahé at Petit Anse. The Per Aquum group has also revealed plans for a project called Zil Pasyon on its own private island, Félicité, with 28 ultra-sleek hilltop residences. The Financial Times

The archipelago of 115 granite and coralline islands is home to some of the best beaches in the world, two Unesco World Heritage Sites and an amazing ecology of some of the rarest flora and fauna. If God had intended land and sea to coexist so distinctly and harmoniously, Seychelles would surely be on top of that list. The Seychelles has been one of the very few places in the World and certainly in Africa, that has taken care of and protected its wildlife and natural resources very well - in spite of the many hotels that dot the islands . But, with these new developments - the Island's wildlife, both on land and in the sea, will now be more threatened and endangered.

With its economy in trouble this year - prompted by the global financial downturn on top of years of unsustainable borrowing - the Island's economy is predicted to shrink. Not grow. That could either mean less development on the Islands or, desperate - the country's government could open the Islands even more to development. Which could lead to more man made islands. And more destructive foot prints of Man.

Photo and More from: The National Geographic

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