WHEN you have been away for a while, especially if you have been in a remote spot, it's always a bit of a culture shock when you hit the suburbs of Port Elizabeth and realise what a big city it has become.
But when that culture shock sets in when you have only been away from the city for 90 minutes, and when you were only a 20-minute drive from the CBD, then you know that you were in a pretty special country environment.
Which is what the Royalston residential estate and private game reserve certainly is. And what is really exciting is that this unique development, which has been five years in the making, is now finally starting to come to life.
While the concept in estate living is nothing new, with golf estates being popular throughout the country, what Royalston has to offer is unique, certainly to PE, with its five different villages being part of a massive game reserve with buck, ostriches and giraffe roaming freely around.
"There's 1000 head of game which ultimately will belong to Royalston residents," the estate's technical advisor (and part- time game ranger) Stacey Howcroft said during a tour of the site this week.
With services and infrastructure finally in place, the first of the luxurious homes are starting to rise: and again an exciting innovation in the building industry is being implemented.
"While residents are certainly welcome to bring in their own building contractors, we have an on-site agreement with Genesis Civils, who have broken ground on the first seven houses to start rising," Stacey said.
"People opting to use Genesis are given two options: an ordinary bricks-and- mortar building or a pre-cut steel 'kit' house which rises very quickly and is then finished in the traditional way.
"Not only is the steel structure much quicker but, because it is less labour intensive, is it also slightly cheaper than the brick-and- mortar approach."
While individual owners have already started building their houses, the plan is to start off with a retirement village aimed at the 55-plus age group who will also eventually have access to a frail-care centre.
Shopping, doctors and dentists aren't a problem either as the Bay West Mall, which is currently under construction, is a mere kilometre away.
Also on the cards at a later stage of the project is the construction of a hotel which will have a home- owners lounge where residents can get together to watch sporting events.
A number of chalets will also be built for overnight visitors.
And while all of the above may sound a little claustrophobic, this is far from the case as there will be a maximum of 310 houses on the completed 1000 hectare estate.
Added to that is the fact that there is a coastal rain forest which is a private protected nature reserve between the estate and the sea. This forest, which offers walking and hiking trails, may not be developed, ensuring that the country feel continues long after all construction has finished.
Houses will not have boundary walls but courtyards can be enclosed for residents with dogs. A controlled dog park offers space for playing with the pooch, while not endangering the game.
An added bonus is that the estate is also home to the largest freshwater lake in Port Elizabeth with an abundance of bass, carp and barbel. The lake, which fronts the Lake de la Vie wedding venue (also part of the estate), will be opened to the public on a controlled basis, possibly by December.
Royalston boasts its own sewerage plant, with recycled grey water being used for irrigation.
For security, the estate is fronted by a huge gate house with controlled access.
"Response to the scheme so far has been really good," says Stacey. "There has been interest from Knysna, George and even Johannesburg.
"In fact, the most exclusive of the villages, Winchester, where Cheeky Watson has a plot, is just about sold out."
Which, taking into account the estate's perfect location, amazing views over the countryside and Indian Ocean, and the opportunity to live on a game reserve, is hardly surprising.
WHAT IT COSTS:
Plots selling from R395000.
Complete home development packages 160m² – R1450000; 200m² – R1650000.
Pam Howcroft: 072-204-7289
Colin Dobson: 084-393-0404.