It’s more than a year since travel got complicated, but if an international foray is your heart’s desire, there are a few spots currently open to us. There might be no better time than now, while much of the world is still in hiding and there are brilliant bargains to be bagged. None of the destinations here require quarantines, though you will need a negative PCR test before you leave and before you head back home. The window period differs from country to country. Unless otherwise specified, all of the wish-list lodgings mentioned will do the PCR test for your return in-house.
1. THE ISLANDS OF TANZANIA
The main island in the Tanzanian archipelago, Zanzibar is known for its idyllic beaches, tropical waters, and brilliant marine life. For something more exclusive, though, try Pemba island to Zanzibar’s north or Mnemba island, a speedboat dash away off Zanzibar’s northeast coast.
1. Kwanini The Manta Resort on Pemba: Reopening on 1 June, this already luxe resort stands out mainly for its Underwater Room — a three-floor suite that floats in the sea, with a submerged bedroom so you can sleep with the fishes (and not in a Godfather sort of way). There are also on-land villas and personal butlers. The exit PCR test has to be done in Mfikiwa, a 90-minute drive. Turn this into an adventure with side trips to an ancient rainforest and a spice farm.
2. andBeyond Mnemba Island Lodge: Just 10, well-spaced, sea-facing guest cottages promise perfect privacy and are also available for exclusive use. The island is a protected nesting place for green turtles, so they’re commonly encountered in the waters.
• TANZANIA PCR TEST: Not older than 72 hours from the time of boarding
2. THE MALDIVES
This chain of 26 atolls adrift in the Indian Ocean is synonymous with exclusive luxury. It’s plethora of islands means a cornucopia of private resorts to choose from, most of which boast that iconic Maldivian holiday dream: the over-water villa. It will take some stamina to get there from South Africa, but your rewards will be the incandescent ocean and unparalleled private-island serenity.
1. Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas: On a private island in the Baa Atoll in a Unesco biosphere reserve, it has those coveted over-water villas, as well as what it calls “the Maldives’ only over-water observatory”. The showstopper, though, is under water: in this case a submerged restaurant where you can dine with the fishes.
2. Velaa Private Island: A 45-minute seaplane ride north of Malé in Noonu Atoll, this was named the World’s Leading Luxury Private Island Resort at the 2020 Travel Awards. Expect private pools, personal butlers, exquisite dining, plus tennis, golf, and a spa.
• MALDIVES PCR TEST: Obtained not more than 48 hours before date of arrival
If you’re in a pandemic panic, perhaps pondering an ancient civilization will put things in perspective. Lockdowns and alcohol bans will fizzle to nothingness when you’re standing in front of the Pyramids or marvelling at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. If you prefer a beach break, there are myriad resorts alongside that divers’ Shangri-La, the Red Sea.
1. SS Sphinx: Boutique river-cruise company Uniworld has the River Tosca sailing the Nile, and will debut its new SS Sphinx in September. The latter will offer four nights in Cairo and seven nights on the Nile, with guided excursions to all of the river’s incredible temples.
2. The Oberoi Beach Resort Sahl Hasheesh: On the Red Sea coast, this five-star hotel features a private beach and opulent suites inspired by traditional Arabian architecture.
• EGYPT PCR TEST: Take it no more than 72 hours before departure. South Africans also need a visa
Fancy pretending you and your loved ones are the sole survivors of the apocalypse? Extreme social distancers (aren’t we all now?) won’t beat Namibia’s dramatic dunescapes, wide-open wilderness, wild coastlines, and ubiquitous sense of solitude.
1. Shipwreck Lodge: The fog-shrouded beaches of the Skeleton Coast National Park are speckled with shipwrecks and whale skeletons. The only one inside the park, this lodge gives guests 16,845km2 of sprawling solitude. The 10 cabins — with views of the Atlantic — are designed to look like very fancy shipwrecks too.
2. Wolwedans Dunes Lodge: One for stargazers, Wolwedans is in the NamibRand Nature Reserve, an official International Dark Sky Reserve. Its nine tent-liked chalets perch on a dune plateau, and you can roll back the canvas ceiling to sleep literally under the stars. You will need to overnight in Windhoek or Swakopmund/ Walvis Bay for the PCR test for your return.
• NAMIBIA PCR TEST: Not older than 72 hours from the time of boarding
It is truly one of life’s greatest experiences to soak in the skyward spray of the staggering “Smoke that Thunders”. If you are especially Covid-weary, know that the government is so keen to jumpstart tourism here that they’ve vaccinated the entire town. PCR tests for your return home must be done in town, though both properties mentioned here are close by and will assist.
1. Victoria Falls River Lodge: This five-star sanctuary is on the banks of the Zambezi National Park. The main lodge offers tented suites and treehouses, but the ultimate indulgence is its six Island Treehouse suites on Kandahar Island, a short boat ride from the lodge with personal butler service.
2. Tsowa Safari Island: On a tiny island in the Zambezi National Park, it has just six luxury tents among the jackalberry trees, where you can sit and watch the river go by, or join game drives, guided walks, cruising or fishing.
• ZIMBABWE PCR TEST: Not older than 72 hours from the time of boarding
• From the May edition of Wanted, 2021.