Property abroad: African nature reserves

Homes on African nature reserves are doing a roaring trade. Laura Latham reports

Wednesday 18 March 2009 01:00

Africa has always fired the imagination, yet many of us would hesitate to invest there. Such reticence is usually due to lack of knowledge or confidence about the continent, however, if you want a destination with character and excitement, it certainly fits the bill.

Many of the more interesting properties are on game reserves with a strong environmental ethos. Being in the bush doesn't mean roughing it though. Homesteads on the 54,000-acre Phinda reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, for example, are the height of eco-chic with five bedrooms, luxury fittings and pools.

Phinda is the brainchild of Africa specialist Steve Fitzgerald, of travel company &Beyond. "I've been approached countless times by guests to help them acquire lodges," he says. "I've always had to say we couldn't help them." However, Fitzgerald discovered that people buying independently often have difficulties with issues such as land title or untrustworthy associates. "All the stories made me believe there was an opportunity."

Fifteen homes are now being built at Phinda and the reserve offers access to some of the best game viewing in the region. Such luxury doesn't come cheap and prices start at £3.5m, though more affordable options are available. South African agency Pam Golding, for example, has a selection of homes on wildlife reserves in the same region, from around £150,000.

For a similar price you can also invest in beautiful Botswana, which is gaining interest thanks to Alexander McCall Smith's popular series the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency.

A stake in the 80,000-acre Limpopo-Lipadi Game Reserve costs from £142,000 and allows unlimited visits to the property. The more shares you buy the more time and perks you get, including the option to build a private lodge.

Your money funds the reserve's environmental projects while you get a fabulous place to holiday and the possibility of future dividends. But don't expect to see financial returns in the traditional sense. "This is an opportunity for people who want to be involved in preserving the natural landscape of a stunning African nation," says project founder Alan Marneweck.

If your idea of a holiday retreat is less earthy, Kenya has a well-developed tourist industry and is home to projects such as stylish eco-resort Medina Palms. Designed along green principles, its apartments overlook the white sands of Watamu National Marine Park.

Prices start at £180,000 through Knight Frank and the agency's James Price says buyers tend to know Kenya and love it. "The Kenyan government is quite outward looking when it comes to tourism and investment," says Price. "Nevertheless, people should be cautious. Make sure you understand your chosen area and are happy with the infrastructure in place to support it."

&Beyond: 0027 11 809 4300, ; Pam Golding: ; Limpopo-Lipadi: 0871 244 5152, ; Knight Frank: 020-7861 1057,

Africa: Buyer's guide

* Land in many areas of southern Africa is unavailable freehold, though leaseholds are often in place or can be negotiated.

* Always check the legal status and title of any property or development before committing to purchase.

* Only buy property with land or game if you know how to manage it, otherwise buying into an established resort development is the best option.

* The safest way to transfer money to a developer is via an escrow account, where it's held until project completion.

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