Paradise Sun

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PARADISE SUN LANDSCAPE REHABILITATION

The Paradise Sun Hotel is situated on one of the 115 islands of the Seychelles known as Praslin, on a beach which overlooks the Bay of Anse Volbert. It can be reached by boat or small plane. The 80 room hotel is owned and operated by Southern Sun Africa and in December 2004, was devastated by the tsunami which hit South East Asia.

Derek Vincent of Earthquest Management Consultants was asked to evaluate the extent of the damage as he was in the Seychelles a few weeks after the tsunami. The insurance company for Southern Sun had requested an estimate to re-instate the gardens to their former glory and it was decided, after receiving all costings from the various consultants and contractors, to close the hotel for a period of six months to undertake the renovations. This included landscaping, building work and work at the entrance to the hotel, where a new entrance wall on both sides of the hotel was built. Proper signage is now clearly visible from the road.

The damage was extensive because of the re-occurring waves that covered the entire garden. This caused salt poisoning of the roots ofexisting plants and grassed areas, andlarge amounts of beach sand had been deposited all over the gardens. Fortunately, heavy rains occurred within a few days of the tsunami and this helped to leach out some of the damaging effects of the salt. However, this did not help much and all the grass in the crescents, groundcovers and some of the many large shrubs were lost due to salt poisoning.

The chalets that were on the ground floor were totally destroyed, as were the possessions of guests staying at the hotel. Fish and other marine life was still being collected from the gardens and car park many weeks after the tragedy.

The gardens (25 000m² in size) were originally designed and installed by Landmark Studios about 13 years ago. Planting of dense shrubs between the villas had been carried out to give each villa a sense of privacy. Rolling lawns led to the beach front. A fully automated irrigation system also existed, supplied by waste water from an on-site recycling plant on the hotel property.

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Transformation

The landscaping was transformed and upgraded to be more open and inviting, and some beds were re-designed as existing trees had caused grass to grow with difficulty. It was therefore an appropriate time to attend to these areas.

All the Cocus nucifera palms survived the poisoning and plant material that had a chance of survival was removed and stored in the hotel nursery for incorporation later during the upgrade. A row of these palms had been growing along the main road leading to the entrance of the hotel. They had been planted under power lines and were continuously being trimmed by the council so that they did not grow into the lines. As a result, they were unsightly and would eventually die because of the way they were being pruned. It was therefore decided to transplant all 22 of them to the beachfront and a back actor was used for this as no crane trucks were available on the island. Permission had to be obtained first from the Department of the Environment to move the palms and to drive onto the beach.

A red flowering Hibiscus hedge of 400m was planted along the perimeter of the road to act as a boundary fence and screen the hotel off from the road.
All material including grow bags, garden implements, fertilisers and irrigation equipment had to be shipped in from South Africa. An order for compost was placed with the local state owned company, but this was supplemented with mulch that was chipped on site from dead plant material.

Beds were watered consistently by hand for a week to assist in leaching out the remaining salts. Beach sand was physically removed and plant material pruned back heavily. Temporary roads were demarcated in the grassed areas for the main contractor to bring in construction material and topsoil from the local quarry was imported for garden beds and grassed areas that required filling. The grassed areas at the hotel were sprigged first, as was the grass for the instant turf farm. There were only four months of growth before opening. Large feature plant material, shrubs and groundcovers were sourced from the gardens of the local community. These were bagged and stored in the on-site nursery. When the compost eventually arrived (eight weeks after the order was placed), this was incorporated into the garden areas. A mixture of super phosphate and 2.3.2 fertilisers was also worked into the soil.

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All large feature plant material was installed first. Unfortunately the shrubs and groundcovers could not be planted as the shipment for the some of the irrigation and electrical cabling equipment for garden lighting was stranded in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

The design theme of the beds was chosen using plant material that was growing in local house gardens and hotels. A tropical feel with a variety of colours was the brief from Landmark Studios. The villas had to be screened from one another, but still allow a view over the grassed areas from the patio to the sea and beach. Plant material included Hibiscus, Crinums, Cycas sp, Heliconias, Acalypha, Alpinia, Plumeria, Alocasia, palm species, Hymenocallis, Dieffenbachia, Allamanda and Dianella.

Height differentiation of shrubs and groundcovers was incorporated into the beds, with more feature plant material planted in the public areas. The client requested that a lot more flowering shrubs be planted as these would be used in cocktails and food dishes in the restaurant and bar. Some edges to beds were re-designed to allow better traffic flow for guests and to screen off back-of-house areas (maintenance yard, laundry etc). Vincent used this opportunity to upgrade the back of house areas with planting and grassing.

Exposed aggregate stones were laid at some of the entrances to the villas and service entrances. These were manufactured on site by the main contractor.

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Irrigation

Controlled Irrigation was called in to assess the damage and make recommendations for the best way forward. Head designer Steven Perry was responsible for this and after a week of investigations, it was decided that everything other than the pipe work would be replaced.
Most of the sprinklers, all solenoid valve stations and the pump station had to be replaced because of the damaging effect of the waves and salt.

A full time crew was sent from South Africa to assist with the installation and was based on the island for a period of two months. The whole system was packed in Johannesburg, shipped to the island and installed under the supervision of Vincent. The system was completely restored and additional areas were upgraded. It is now working to full capacity and the gardens are doing well. Some of theNelson sprinklers that were under water for several days were re-used.
Once irrigation, electrical cables and other services were installed, planting could take place.
Timeous completion was achieved by the end of May 2005.

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Challenges

The most challenging part of the installation was the re-instatement of the contractors’ road once construction was complete. This was only handed to the landscape contractor in stages and the largest area was handed over a week before opening. Sufficient instant lawn was laid from the instant turf grass farm propagated four months earlier. The sod cutter from the local golf course broke down midway through lifting operations andspare parts had to be awaited, so all grass had to be removed and laid by hand.

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Other challenging aspects of the project included:

  • the tight deadline;
  • the problem of sourcing sufficient plant material;
  • establishing an instant turf grass farm;
  • obtaining maximum productivity from the local labour; and
  • working with a foreign construction company.

Work permits had to be organised by the hotel through the Seychelles Department of Irrigation. Letters of contract, CVs, photographs, health and police clearance certificates had to be submitted and approved before any contractors were allowed onto the island. Gainful occupation permits were issued on a bi-monthly basis and extended monthly, as required.

Landscape rehabilitation started in February 2005 and had to be complete by the end of May 2005 for opening in June 2005. Once the installation was complete in June 2005, a monthly maintenance audit was carried out for a period of six months.

Information provided by Derek Vincent of Earthquest Management Consultants. Photos by Merwelene van der Merwe, Derek Vincent and John Nothard.