Oasis for filming and tourism
NAMIBIA, with its breathtaking scenery, petrified rock ridges, dolomite formations, granite koppies and red dunes, is the setting for a unique property development concept that combines an international motion picture destination with a luxury resort.
Desert Star Motion Picture Resorts combines Namibia’s natural beauty with epic permanent film sets tastefully integrated into the landscape, film studios and production facilities, historical tourist attractions and a desert getaway in a corner of Africa.
Few places in the world exude the magic of the Namibian desert. With its shifting sands, enchanting sunsets and breathtaking views, the desert has provided the backdrop to international films in the past few decades. So it made sense to a group of filmmakers and property developers to launch an appropriate mix.
Rudolf Markgraaff, Desert Star Holdings CEO, says: “The development does not just cater for the film industry.
“At each of 10 strikingly different locations in Namibia Desert Star will develop private, freestanding residences that will be marketed and sold internationally through a fractional property ownership model. European investors are looking for investment opportunities outside Europe, specifically in tangibles like commodities and real estate, making this the ideal time for a sustainable project of this nature to take the international stage.
“They are choosing Namibia as a safe haven for high-growth, high-yield property investments. The possible unpegging of Namibia’s currency from the South African rand in the future provides major opportunities for serious investors to diversify internationally. There is tremendous positive sentiment towards Namibia at the moment. In a time when the world economy and stock markets are unstable at best, the investment opportunity in Desert Star property developments has never been more relevant, with the discovery of vast oil reserves and natural gas.”
The Desert Star development is modelled after the highly successful strategy employed by the Moroccan government that saw the transformation of Ouarzatate, an insignificant oasis in the Sahara Desert, into a bustling film and tourist city with more than 80 000 inhabitants.
Over the past decade Ouarzatate has attracted 42 international film productions and thousands of tourists, generating more than $1,2bn in foreign income for that country.
Desert Star seeks to emulate and improve on the Moroccan success story. Masterminded by Markgraaff, who spent 12 years working in the film industry in Hollywood and as a stockbroker on the NYSE, Desert Star hopes to establish itself as the epicentre of the film industry in southern Africa, attracting blockbusters and international film productions focusing on family and epic historical genres.
He says that five international productions, including one to be produced by Steven Spielberg, are lined up for production at Desert Star, which will have the biggest collection of first-century sets in the world when completed.
The first of 10 destinations dotted around Namibia, Desert Star South will be located along the Orange River in the southeastern corner of Namibia near the Northern Cape’s Augrabies National Park. Only a few hours by plane from major cities in Namibia and SA, and serviced by regional roads, Desert Star South is easily accessible by land and air.
Desert Star International Airport will service special-purpose charter flights from the resort, as well as domestic travel, scouting missions and aviation sports, such as ballooning and skydiving.
Also, on the cards is an international airport and a luxury railway service, as well as a rail link to the existing grid that connects with the rest of southern Africa’s main railway network.
The Desert Star City is the planned administrative and commercial hub of Desert Star South. Scalable to accommodate up to 50 000 people, it will feature world-class commercial and business facilities, live-in and work-in permanent film sets such as an ancient city fortress, a city palace and many more, and will include prime residential locations to be developed on the top of the cliff overlooking the basin.
Desert Star says it will bring economic prosperity and job creation to an underdeveloped region through its business model.
Investors who buy into the fractional title properties will have access to Africa’s first seven-star hotel, a spa, restaurants and clubhouse. The 18-hole Golf Course of the Stars designed by South African golfing legend Ernie Els will be one of Desert Star’s major attractions. Stretching across hills and valleys on the Namibian side of the Orange River, bordering the core resort development, the golf course forms part of the entertainment hub for guests and visiting celebrities. It will be developed in harmony with the natural environment using the latest sustainable methodologies.
Although Desert Star has access to conventional electricity supplies, the project developers are committed to using renewable energy technologies, such as establishing a 300kw solar and hydro-electric plant for the project, as well as to contribute to the Namibian power grid via the existing 400kw line and substation that runs through the Desert Star South properties.
The Namibia government has welcomed Desert Star’s vision for Namibia and have facilitated all project approvals, including township establishment, subdivisions of the farms Komsberg and Stolzenfels, necessary consolidations of created portions, and final clearance of the environmental scoping report and environmental impact study. Desert Star has received its water permit and the roads and access plan has been approved. All these documents are available for prospective investors to inspect.
Says Markgraaff: “Desert Star goes beyond imagination. We have pulled out all the stops to create a one-of-a-kind property development — a fusion of authentic African style and seven-star Hollywood glamour, with the advantage of the unhurried pace and glorious vistas of the Naukluft Namib.”
On offer for property investors are shares in 100 riverside lodges, of which 12 have already been sold. Designed by Denis Moss Planners and Architects, the designers of Eden Island in the Seychelles, the lodges come fully furnished and feature a riverside entertainment area with outside dining lapa and braai, bonfire pit, pool, jacuzzi, a jetty, outdoor shower and open air bar. The lodges were designed for family or corporate getaway trips.
Africa is a harsh continent but visitors find themselves seduced by its ancient cultures and exotic landscapes. Designed in a rustic, yet contemporary style using glass, stone, thatch and wood, the units will be furnished in cane, natural grasses and bright African fabrics. The outside is brought inside into a large entertainment area consisting of cooking, dining and relaxing spaces.
The Orange River is known for its white-water rafting, canoeing and fishing. Set among the willow and ebony trees lining the banks of the river, all units are connected to the river by a rugged stairway.
Lodges feature a doublevolume thatched roof reaching to the ground, providing shelter from the Namibian heat. Units boast private decks ideal for bird watching. The region is home to the Fish Eagle, Malachite Kingfisher and Goliath Heron.
The design was supervised by fractional ownership expert Terry Colacino to ensure that each unit was designed in line with international norms.
Sizes range from 79m² for a one-bedroom Luxury Nature Suite to 159m² for a two-bedroom Waterfront Chalet, 210m² for a three-bedroom, single-storey Riverside Lodge, to 320m² for a double storey Riverside Lodge, and 880m² for a five-bedroom Orange River Villa. Each bedroom has an en suite bathroom.
The Riverside Lodge, which is selling for R299 000 for four weeks, is a popular unit. To understand the returns investors can expect, this same unit will sell for R1,6m when Desert Star launches internationally in early 2012. The development is in the pre-launch phase and prices are expected to increase next year.
Investors can own all or a portion of the property exclusively, while ownership is taxdeductible and deeded.
The property can be sold, rented, ceded or exchanged.
Desert Star is concluding an agreement with RCI that will put the resorts among the top 200 destinations in RCI’S Registry Collection portfolio.
Desert Star plans to break ground in mid-2012, which means owners will not be able to take occupation for at least 18 months as the golf course and project infrastructure will be built before the luxury units. However, the RCI agreement allows owners to use their equivalent exchange value for any unit in the Registry Collection without giving up any of their owned weeks until their unit is completed.
“We have chosen the fractional model because fractional ownership is the fastest growing segment of the real estate industry in the world, with more than 6 500 resorts worldwide.”
In SA there are more than 400 fractional resorts, while Namibia has only two. This will make Desert Star one of the most sought-after resorts in the world, as international tourists are eager to visit Africa.
It is incumbent on the Desert Star executives to ensure that the development is financially sustainable. We have pursued as many economic drivers as possible in the tourism and filmmaking industry to ensure that it is much more than a resort,” says Markgraaff.
“People love movie stars and movie stars love Africa. Desert Star will utilise the star power generated by the film industry to market the development internationally. Positive word of mouth by the stars who’ve had the experience of a lifetime will be harnessed to attract major productions to use Desert Star’s facilities.” Price: From R99 000 to R2,2m for four weeks Contact: Andrea Vinassa 079 089 9835 Office 011 706 4736
The golf clubhouse.
Chalets along the river.
Orange River villa.