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Overseas buyers love to moor in Mauritius
Property "civilisation" overseas goes through three distinct stages. At first, anyone can buy in an overseas resort because laws are so relaxed - but would you want to? The next, the locals become appalled at the number of foreigners moving in so they restrict property ownership. In the third stage, they relax a bit, realise that the foreigners are not as bad as they thought and allow them to buy again.
Drawn by the sublime climate, relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals, stunning beaches and great food, more than a million people visit Mauritius every year. Now, thanks to generous provisions from the Mauritian government, more and more visitors are buy ing property on this tropical island, sitting in the Indian Ocean a few hundred miles east of the African coast.
Full title to property is available for foreign investors, along with repatriation of business profits and zero capital gains or value added tax. And since 2005, overseas buyers have received special treatment and encouragement to buy in Mauritius through the Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), which offers further tax incentives and an automatic residence permit.
Prices are not tiny, with modest villas and apartments starting at 500,000 euros (approximately £440,000) and the best houses with pools on the coast routinely selling off-plan for 2.25 million euros (just under £2 million), but these prices compare well with Caribbean properties and there are many good reasons to prefer Mauritius to, say, Jamaica.
A 12-hour flight from London takes you to a four-hour time difference, minimising jetlag. The varied heritage of the island means that French, Indian, Chinese and African cuisine and culture create a fusion of tastes and experiences.
Mauritius has a small Jewish community. Details of latest activities can be found at www.africanjewishcongress.com and some holiday companies offer occasional kosher packages. Prospective buyers should tour the island to get to know the various regions. There is the busy west coast, home to the island's capital Port Louis, with its buzzing harbour, shopping opportunities and nearby soaring peaks including Le Pouce (The Thumb). Moving south, the terrain grows wilder, with the jungly Black River domain and further majestic peaks that descend almost into the sea. Here lie the resorts of Paradis Hotel and Le Telfair, in Bel Ombre, with golf courses, beaches and an unspoilt, tranquil aura.
To the east is a chain of top-end resorts, sprinkled around coves and bays, islands and peninsulas. Among them can be found villas such as the two Sankhara properties, voted among the world's finest private villas in the Sunday Times and offering a quite spectacular array of concierge services, including two butlers, an award-winning chef (who will provide cooking demonstrations), yoga lessons, catamaran excursions, horse riding and golf. The course at Le Touessrok, about half an hour's drive away, was designed by Bernhard Langer and is among the world's most challenging (and extravagantly beautiful) courses. It sits on its own island, 10 minutes by boat from the main resort.
In the Sankhara villas themselves, visitors can laze in the heated pool, stroll on the (specially swept) beach, snorkel in the lagoon, order food and drink from one of the butlers (why not give them something to do?) or relax to the sound of the Indian live music accompanying the five-course dinner. Prices start at £800 per night for the three-bedroom villa, rising to £2,400 per night for the five-bedroom property.
Finally, to the north, is the town of Grand Baie, with its beach-front restaurants, chic boutiques and thrumming nightlife.
Stars recently spotted visiting Mauritius include actor Robert de Niro, rock musician Mark Knopfler, singers Kylie Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia (on a girlie holiday to commiserate with one another over how awful men are), butch TV presenters Bear Grylls and Ben Fogle, singer Chris de Burgh (a regular visitor to One&Only St Geran) and comedian Rob Brydon.
Detached plantation-style four-bedroom villa with patio, infinity pool and secluded landscaped tropical garden on the Telfair estate in the southwest of the island, with access to the five star hotel facilities and championship-level 18-hole golf course. Prices start at 2.2 million euros (£1.9 million).