By NATASHA SMITH
A PLANNED project to create a luxury manmade island off the coast at Vale do Lobo could boost and improve the quality of tourism to the region.
With 400 hectares of land, the Vale do Lobo resort is approximately three times the size of Monaco, and this new concept, which exceeds all that has gone before, will increase its size and push the boundaries of Vale do Lobo to the water.
The Vale do Lobo development was established in 1962. When Dutch entrepreneur Sander van Gelder brought Vale do Lobo in 1977, it was 20 per cent the size it is today.
Arguably, the most exciting project to be conceived in the Algarve is the construction of a manmade island 500m off the Vale do Lobo coast.
The project is inspired by Dubai’s manmade island shaped like a palm tree, which has been incredibly successful for tourism and the promotion of Dubai. The island at Vale do Lobo will be shaped like two nautilus shells, and will thus be named Nautilus Island.
Plans include an 18-hole golf course with the first tee located on a small island near the main island and the fairway located on Nautilus Island. The golf course has been designed by Rocky Roquemore, who designed Vale do Lobo’s Royal course and upgraded the Ocean course.
The Vale do Lobo Group of Companies has commissioned the services of universities in Portugal and Holland, for their expert opinions about creating the manmade island. Dredging companies have also being consulted as well as nautical authorities.
Vale do Lobo is confident that there will be no backlash from environmental associations as, according to a spokesperson for the group: “We are doing everything in our power to preserve the ocean around us.”
The island will have a harbour in the centre to allow cruise ships to stop and enjoy the casino, which will also be housed on the island. An underwater restaurant and hotel is also planned, as well as 700 to 1,000 homes along the planned golf course.
Access to the island for golfers will be via a long bridge from the mainland as well as an underwater glass tunnel. Also planned for the island is a monorail from the mainland and a heliport. Gondola’s will be available as an alternative form of transport to guests on the island, which will offer spectacular views of the island and the Algarvean coastline.
Van Gelder believes this is a great opportunity for the development of tourism in Vale do Lobo and the region.
“We are taking it to the next level” he said, adding that he wanted the golf course on the island to be the most famous in the world.
The project will not be funded by the state, but by the Vale do Lobo Group of Companies. Sander van Gelder believes the group is as strong as it is because it focuses on long-term future and detailed planning. Every concept is well thought out and financial planning is key to their success.
The project may be viewed as a concept that could only be completed in 10 years, but if all plans are approved, van Gelder guarantees that the island could be finished in as little as five years.
The Vale do Lobo Group of Companies have approached Prime Minister José Sócrates, who has said that approval is in the hands of the ministers of the environment and the economy.
It is being considered for a project of national interest and, if the decision for planning is given by the end of the year, construction will begin.
Around 20 million cubic metres of sand will create the island on the water and, van Gelder has said that he has already received offers from people for payments in order to secure property on the island. The total investment in Nautilus Island will be 1.5 billion euros.
Van Gelder is sure that as international interest grows, the process could move more rapidly. He is keen not to make this an eye-sore and so the highest point of the island will be no more than 30 metres – the same height as the cliffs in Vale do Lobo.
The environment has always been a top priority at Vale do Lobo and a large amount of money has been invested to preserve the landscape in conjunction with this new project.
Vale do Lobo is constantly improving and creating, with future projects including the completion of Vale do Lobo II, beachfront properties, as well as Villa Nutopia, a technologically superior computer housing system, combining security systems with entertainment on one computer panel. Vale do Lobo III will include a five-star hotel – The Royal Golf and Beach Hotel, comprising 180 luxury suites and 283 villas and apartments.