Sun, sea and sand-traps

Golf cour­ses, ten­nis stars, light-fin­gered mon­keys: Pezula has it all. Emma Hart­ley re­ports from the Gar­den Route of South Africa

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Overseas -

The Pezula es­tate, on South Africa’s achingly pic­turesque Gar­den Route, is a taste­ful, lux­ury golf de­vel­op­ment pop­u­lated partly by world­fa­mous sports­men, in­clud­ing ten­nis hero Roger Fed­erer. The plots of land for sale are rea­son­ably priced by UK stan­dards and the area is prac­ti­cally crime-free. And it is par­tic­u­larly hard not to like a place where pri­mates lope in through the front door of the es­tate’s lux­ury ho­tel and steal ap­ples from the fruit­bowl (“So­lu­tion,” mut­ters Den­nis Rob­son, Pezula’s wildlife man­ager, “Don’t leave ap­ples in the foyer.”)

But I still couldn’t help feel­ing it was all a tad too smooth for com­fort. I found, for ex­am­ple, that a mag­a­zine picked up in the ho­tel foyer pub­lished by Pezula, about Pezula, con­tained the essence of nearly ev­ery ap­par­ently-off-the-cuff con­ver­sa­tion that I had had with a Pezula em­ployee since ar­rival 24 hours pre­vi­ously – from the pat­ter by the he­li­copter pilot who de­liv­ered me, re­peated in other peo­ple’s ar­ti­cles, right down to tid­bits of in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal plants men­tioned dur­ing a tour of the es­tate, then, ap­par­ently, re­gur­gi­tated in print as a list of in­ter­est­ing eco-facts.

Great mar­ket­ing, per­haps. But why take a prod­uct whose strengths are, you’d think, pretty self-ev­i­dent, and mar­ket it to within an inch of its life? The es­tate has more than enough charms for buy­ers not to need to be spun.

Not least the wildlife. As I stood on a clifftop, over­look­ing a gor­geous, misty, foresty scene, Gary Muller, the es­tate’s sales di­rec­tor, peered south­wards out to sea. “It’s the whale sea­son right now,” he says. “I was up here re­cently with a fam­ily who were think­ing of buy­ing and as we stood here a whale spout ap­peared in the Bay. The wife de­cided it was a good omen and it tipped the bal­ance. I kept quiet. The fact is that if you stand here at this time of year you will see whales.”

But spout­ing whales and klep­to­ma­niac ba­boons are not the only at­trac­tions for prospec­tive pur­chasers. Now is a good time to buy in South Africa gen­er­ally. The res­i­den­tial prop­erty mar­ket is cool­ing, with growth at its slow­est since 2000, al­though at an av­er­age of 14.9 per cent it re­mains a solid in­vest­ment, par­tic­u­larly with a strong pound. An up­wardly mo­bile, black mid­dle class makes the af­ford­able end of the mar­ket the strong­est growth area, with an­nual price rises of 40 per cent, in­di­cat­ing strong de­mand.

At Pezula — where, in­ci­den­tally, al­most all the res­i­dents are white and se­cu­rity is tight — you can pur­chase slightly un­der an acre of land for about £90,000 and then build on it; all ar­chi­tec­tural plans have to be ap­proved by the es­tate. Dr Stan Tarl­ton and his wife Ge­orgie bought in Knysna, on what sub­se­quently be­came the Pezula es­tate, in 2000.

They came to South Africa orig­i­nally from Peter­bor­ough, where he was an RAF doc­tor and then a haema­tol­o­gist, and she a nurse. Sub­se­quently they moved from Jo­han­nes­burg to Knysna be­cause they be­came fed up with the city’s crime and the traf­fic. Now they are sell­ing up and mov­ing back to Jo’burg for fam­ily rea­sons.

It was golf that at­tracted them to the Knysna area – their gar­den is on the course – and their airy, three-bed­room, two-bath­room home has an ocean view from the front and a view of the la­goon, dot­ted with sail­ing boats, from the back. The cou­ple are cur­rently sell­ing it pri­vately for about £247,000 (3.45 mil­lion rand), hav­ing paid less than half that when build­ing was com­pleted back in 2003; the land cost R650,000 in 2000. It is five hours by road to Capetown, 12 to Jo­han­nes­burg and the near­est gro­cery store is four kilo­me­tres away, in town; but the area is spec­tac­u­lar: “If we were free of fam­ily obli­ga­tions we would never leave,” said Dr Tarl­ton.

An es­ti­mated 4 per cent of buy­ers in South Africa are for­eign na­tion­als, which pe­ri­od­i­cally draws the at­ten­tion of the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress gov­ern­ment. News­pa­per head­lines along the lines of “Brakes will be put on for­eign­ers’ land grab” are gen­er­ally dis­missed by for­eign an­a­lysts as merely a symp­tom of a na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment pan­der­ing to its core vot­ers.

How­ever, it is true that it is be­com­ing eas­ier to re­tire to South Africa than it is for a non-SA na­tional to work there, due to a re­cent tight­en­ing of res­i­dency re­stric­tions. New reg­u­la­tions which came into force on July 1 are still be­ing pored over to de­ci­pher their ex­act mean­ing.

The coun­try seizes ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to show­case it­self to the out­side world. Fol­low­ing the huge suc­cess of cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup last month, it is now look­ing to cash in on the 2010 foot­ball World Cup. It will be the first time that the tour­na­ment has been held in an African coun­try, and a boom in for­eign buy­ers is an­tic­i­pated in the af­ter­math.

How­ever, there are lin­ger­ing prob­lems with in­fra­struc­ture. The wa­ter had been cut off the day be­fore I ar­rived at Pezula, and re­mained off for sev­eral hours, my lo­cal flight con­nec­tion was de­layed by 24 hours and power cuts are fre­quent. De­spite th­ese draw­backs, 17 years af­ter the col­lapse of apartheid, there is much to ap­peal to over­seas home­buy­ers, both at Pezula and else­where in South Africa. I, for one, would hap­pily live in a place where play­ful pri­mates pop in to steal my ap­ples.

Wild life: the Pezula Ho­tel (in­set and main pic­ture) is a lux­u­ri­ous oa­sis amid the rugged beauty of the Gar­den Route (right)

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