These islands are open to leisure travel from South Africa

Dhow excursions to Matemwe Lodge. Image provided.

  • Several island destinations are now open to leisure travel and close to South Africa.
  • They offer everything from palm-fringed beaches to volcanic features and incredible marine life.
  • Some still have availability – and offers – to travel this year or early next year.
  • Many are a direct flight from Johannesburg, aAnd most only require a negative PCR test before departure.
  • Here are several island vacations to consider – and what Covid-19 considerations are currently in place.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Nothing says escaping reality, or Covid-19, quite like an island vacation. After nearly two years of difficult access or completely closed to tourism, several islands within reach of South Africa are reopening to tourists – and some still have availability at reasonable prices for December and January.

South Africa is ideally placed to enjoy several famous Indian Ocean destinations, but some less visited Atlantic alternatives offer incredible island getaways as well.

If you’re looking for an island vacation with easy flights from South Africa and Covid-19 conditions at the time of publication that aren’t entirely onerous, here are eight options to consider.

Mauritius

    Lux Belle Mare.  Picture provided

Lux Belle Mare. Picture provided

Mauritius, one of the most popular and accessible island destinations for South Africans, reopened for leisure travel in October. The island is known for its idyllic beaches, reefs, and all-inclusive resorts, with packages that pair well with family vacations and honeymoons.

Restrictions related to Covid:

There are no travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers who have a PCR test before departure and one on the fifth day of their stay. Unvaccinated visitors, however, must remain in the complex’s bubbles for 14 days.

Getting There :

There are daily flights between South Africa and Mauritius. Air Mauritius, British Airways, Safair and South African Airways fly regularly from Johannesburg.

Where to stay:

There is no shortage of resorts in Mauritius that meet all requirements – from peaceful honeymoon getaways to ones with family-friendly facilities. Among the top rated online sites are those run by Lux resorts, which has four resorts there.

Sao Tome and Principe

HBD

HBD Bom Bom Lodge. Image provided.

São Tomé and Príncipe is the second smallest country in Africa. The islands were created by volcanic activity, and tropical rainforest covers almost a third of its land, leading many to call it one of the greenest islands on Earth. It’s a largely preserved and undiscovered gem from a South African perspective, save for one notable giant – tech billionaire Mark Shuttleworth has invested millions of dollars in the country, and his operation is currently the biggest employer there.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test prior to departure that is less than 72 hours old.

Getting There :

There is no direct route between South Africa and São Tomé & Príncipe, but the journey typically takes between five and eight hours, including a short stopover. Typical connections are via Accra (using SAA and TAP Portugal) or Luanda (using Airlink or CemAir and TAAG Angola Airlines).

Where to stay:

Mark Shuttleworth’s Here Be Dragons (HBD) properties are among the most luxurious on the islands. Although currently closed for renovation, Trip Advisor ranks Bom Bom as the best value luxury resort.

Seychelles

Seychelles.  Image: Tommaso Nervegna / Unsplash.

Seychelles. Image: Tommaso Nervegna / Unsplash.

Seychelles comprises 115 islands and is home to coral reefs teeming with marine life. Dense forests bleed onto unspoiled white sand beaches, and nature reserves are home to a unique life of birds and animals. It’s a destination that has built a reputation for its expensive all-inclusive luxury resorts that leave travelers who can afford it almost universally singing their praises.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must present a negative PCR test prior to departure upon arrival no later than 72 hours. All visitors should also purchase travel health insurance that covers potential costs related to Covid-19.

Getting There :

There are regular direct flights between Johannesburg and Mahé on Air Seychelles.

Where to stay:

There is no shortage of luxury resorts in Seychelles, so final decisions will likely depend on budget and personal preference. If it’s a family vacation, consider Constance Lemuri. The North Island is appreciated for its exclusivity and has a nearly flawless online review.

Zanzibar

Lodge Matemwe.  Image provided.

Lodge Matemwe. Image provided.

Zanzibar is one of the most popular and accessible island destinations for South Africans – in the heyday of low cost carriers, several local operators flew directly to Stone Town. Although getting there is a bit more difficult than before, it is still an idyllic getaway and often better value for money than other island destinations in the Indian Ocean. Crystal-clear waters, spectacular marine life, and pristine beaches tick all the boxes on the island’s to-do list, and it’s a destination complemented by fascinating culture and architecture in the capital Stone Town.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must present a negative PCR test prior to departure upon arrival not older than 96 hours.

Getting There :

Historically, several low cost local airlines flew direct from Johannesburg to Stone Town. Until their return, the easiest and cheapest flights between South Africa and Zanzibar are now usually on Ethiopian or Kenya Airways, which pass through these countries.

Where to stay:

Matemwe is one of the island’s original lodges and is ideally located on the pristine east coast – famous for its beaches, scuba diving, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Travelers on Trip Advisor also rank Tulia Zanzibar as one of the best on the island, especially for a romantic getaway.

Reunion Island

Meeting.  Marie Rouilly / Unsplash.

Meeting. Marie Rouilly / Unsplash.

Reunion Island is a small piece of land in the east of Madagascar. It is popular among nature lovers and adventurers who explore its rugged volcanic lands and unspoiled landscapes. For years, it was a closely guarded secret of the French, over which the government still retains control. But a growing number of South Africans and other international travelers are venturing there for its ease of access and unique natural attractions.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must present a negative PCR test prior to departure upon arrival not older than 72 hours and are asked to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival.

Getting There :

There are regular direct flights between Johannesburg and Reunion on Air Austral.

Where to stay:

Reunion Island offers accommodation for all budgets and in various locations. Online travelers have rated Diana Dea Lodge and La Tamaréo de La Nouvelle as favorites. Cana Suc is a great value option that still has solid reviews online.

Madagascar

Madagascar.  Ako Randrianarivelo / Unsplash.

Madagascar. Ako Randrianarivelo / Unsplash.

Madagascar is a vast expanse of land off the east coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world, and despite its proximity to South Africa, it remains a unique destination in terms of culture, scenery and wildlife. Traveling to and around Madagascar is usually not as easy or luxurious as many idyllic islands dotted with resort towns, but those who do venture there are richly rewarded.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must have a negative Covid-19 PCR test prior to departure not older than 72 hours and be quarantined at an approved hotel overnight until a second coronavirus test returns a negative result.

Getting There :

Flights to Madagascar have started to reopen, but online options are still limited.

Where to stay:

If you are looking for a beach resort in Nose Be, Andilana Beach Resort is among the top rated of its kind online. Anjiamarango Beach Resort, at the northwestern tip of Perfume Island, has good marks online for its value offerings.

Mozambique

and beyond the island of Benguerra.  Image provided.

and beyond the island of Benguerra. Image provided.

Mozambique has some of the most idyllic tropical archipelagos in the world, many of which are easily accessible from South Africa. Among the most famous are Vilanculos, Benguerra, Quirimbas, Medjumbe and Bazaruto, and each offers unique variations on the theme of idyllic tropical island getaways.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must have a negative Covid-19 PCR test prior to departure that is less than 72 hours old and may be subjected to a Covid-19 PCR test upon arrival.

Getting There :

Residents living in Johannesburg may choose to travel to Mozambique, especially if they are visiting the southern islands of the country. There are regular flights to the capital Maputo and other towns in Mozambique, with easy island connections from there.

Where to stay:

There are lodges across the Mozambique archipelago that range from good value to luxury. & Beyond’s offers in Bazaruto and Quirimbas are among the most sought after and exclusive.

Maldives

Maldives.  Image: Mike Swigunski / Unsplash.

Maldives. Image: Mike Swigunski / Unsplash.

The Maldives is at the top of most island getaway bucket lists, and for good reason. Over 1,000 islands make up the Indian Ocean country, many of which are home to just one or two upscale resorts. It is a destination famous for its beaches, lodges on stilts and water sports, but it is also celebrated by those who like to drink sumptuous cocktails over the water.

Restrictions related to Covid:

Travelers must have a negative Covid-19 PCR test prior to departure not older than 72 hours. Travelers who have received a vaccination approved by the World Health Organization at least two weeks previously do not need to self-quarantine. Unvaccinated adults can be accommodated in “tourist guest houses” on islands that meet specific criteria.

Getting There :

Several airlines fly between Johannesburg and the Maldives, with at least one stopover. The cheapest and most convenient options tend to be with Singapore Airlines, Emirates, or Qatar Airways.

Where to stay:

Choosing a place to stay in the Maldives is likely to be closely tied to the type of trip you want. While budget accommodation is an oxymoron in the Maldives, Finolhu offers good value for money all inclusive. Six Senses Laamu and Baros have the highest online ratings for resorts in the archipelago.

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