With its colourful blend of cultures, year-round attractive climate and 205 miles of white-sand beaches, the tropical island of Mauritius is a well-established destination for honeymooning couples. Previously, those who fell in love with the island so much so that they wanted to stake a claim on it were unable to do so, but this all changed with the Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), which was introduced in 2002 to increase foreign investment when traditional exports went into decline. Happily, the administration is encouraging us to invest in a piece of what must be the closest thing to paradise possible.
A major force in terms of buyers has been the South African market-being just four hours by air means it’s within easy reach, and South Africans appreciate the security of the island. The high numbers of French buyers hark back to when the island was French, and the British are well represented often the second most frequent buyers on the island.
Although it’s a 12-hour flight from London, the time difference (four hours) is mildly less discombobulating than the Caribbean, and Britain still has strong links with Mauritius: it was part of the Commonwealth until 1968. Residents grow up learning English and French and drive on the left, and other cultural influences on the island include Indian, Chinese, and Creole-everybody celebrates Christmas.
The IRS is a sensible way of taking what the island is very good at-providing high-end resorts for couples and families-and selling foreigners properties they can rent out when they’re not there themselves. The first of these projects, Tamarina, launched in 2004, and sold extremely fast. Progress of the developments has been deliberately unhurried, and now the dust has cleared a few years after the initial rush, there is a handful of classy and established schemes up and running.
‘The government took a long look at some badly overdeveloped resorts in other countries and decided that it was crucial to pick the right projects for foreign investors,’ says Robert Green, director of Cluttons Resorts, which are marketing Villas Valriche (pictured below), one of the most popular and established of the schemes.
The government is also insisting that foreign buyers commit a healthy level of investment. Under the IRS, foreigners can only purchase properties for more than US$500,000, plus a registration duty of US$70,000; notary fees are 0.5%. Owners, and their families then automatically qualify for residency, which also allows them to take advantage of the beneficial tax laws, including no inheritance tax, no capital gains tax and a 15% flat rate on income.
‘The market didn’t hit a brick wall as it did in some of the more overpriced areas of the Caribbean because asking prices were a bit more realistic to start with,’ believes Mr Green. However, things did eventually slow, particularly in terms of UK interest, because of the relative position of the pound. But now buyers from all over the world are returning to invest in these very high-end, low-maintenance Indian Ocean properties.
The north of the island is the most developed stretch and holiday resorts pepper the coastline. The best high-end IRS schemes are evenly distributed around Mauritius, with the Club Med villas and Tamarina/Akasha to the west, Anahita to the east and Villas Valriche to the south.
Tamarina Golf Estate/Akasha
Tamarina Golf Estate and Beach Club to the west is a well-established development (www.pamgolding.co.za/tamarina). It sold out three years ago, but resales do come to the market. The newly launched second phase is Akasha: 60 luxury villas on 60.5 acres. (Savills 020-7016 3740; www.akashavillas.com)
Anahita/Four Seasons Residences
Residents have access to all the hotel amenities. (00 230 404 2266; www.anahitaproperty.com)
Located in the less developed, wilder south of the island, Villas Valriche is a well-established project on the estate of Bel Ombre, a resort built on the site of an old sugar plantation. Owners have access to the two hotels and an 18-hole championship course. Each villa has an infinity pool and panoramic views (020-7584 3050; www.cluttonsresorts.com)
Club Med Villas
This is the first foray into residential property from the French company. Club Med has built 40 high-quality single-storey traditionally styled villas on the west of the island at La Plantation d’Albion. You can buy outright or choose the management option, which enables Club Med to rent the property for you when you’re not there. This means you can stay for six weeks in the house per year. Available through Théma Properties (00 33 1 30 83 03 35; www.villas-chalets.clubmed.com)
NEED TO KNOW
Visit The Black River Gorges, a UNESCO national park in the south-west of the island with a jaw-dropping waterfall cascading through the jungle foliage
Walk The steep climb to the top of Le Morne Brabant, famously used as a shelter by runaway slaves
Dive The Passe St Jacques is known for its shark-infested waters and La Passe St François is a half-mile-long channel teeming with tuna, unicorn fish, groupers, turtles, rays and jacks
Eat Smoked marlin-plentiful everywhere you go, it’s better than smoked salmon and has to be tried as part of a sushi tasting menu. And venison, as it’s the only red meat that doesn’t have to be imported
Try The food stalls at the market in Port Louis, open daily-they offer Chinese, Tamil and Creole dishes (including bhel puri, potatoes and puffed rice on a pancake)
* This article first appeared in the spring edition of COUNTRY LIFE INTERNATIONAL, out on March 2 with COUNTRY LIFE magazine