Africa's lesser-known islands

2013-02-28 10:34

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There are the well-known islands of Africa and then there are these delightful treasure troves of sun kissed heaven. Take a look at these lesser-known islands for an alternative spin on your island break.

1. Reunion Island

With an active volcano along its south coast, the interesting 63km long Reunion Island is the lesser-visited cousin of Mauritius, but with its very own authentic tropical break to offer. The adventurous holidaymaker can fill up on sun-tanning, hiking and scuba diving amongst other things. Hiking is especially popular on the island, with more than 1 000 kilometres of hiking trails allowing you to see part of it only reached by foot. Check out the Cirque de Mafate, a caldera formed through a collapsed volcano. Don’t’ have the energy to hot foot it up there? Opt for a spectacular helicopter trip view then. Otherwise check out the island's largest city which is also its capital - Saint Denis. Besides authentic architecture explore the seafront park, Le Barachois along with the Leon Dierx Museum and art gallery.


(Shutterstock)

Recommended Stay: The 3-star Le Juliette Dodu is quaint but comes highly recommended on Tripadvisor.com. Located in a monument-protected building with beautifully decorated facades its features include an outdoor pool, hot tub and a library with seating areas.

Getting there: 

The main airport is Roland Garros International Airport located near Saint-Denis. The vast majority of intercontinental flights arriving at Reunion come from France, with a handful of other airports through the Indian Ocean. Direct flights to Reunion from South Africa are through Air Austral. Airlines such as British Airways, South African Airways, Air Mauritius, Kenya Airways, and Emirates offer indirect flights to Reunion with one or two connections. Most airlines fly via Mauritius, though some fly via Antananarivo.


2. Comoros Island
If you’re looking for somewhere remote, the Comoros islands would be that place. While most review of the island aren’t glowing due to its political history and the odd coup, this is island paradise at it base-form best. If lazy days on the beach and the simple pleasure of being tweak your interest,  head to Grande Comore, officially called Ngazidja and the largest island in the Comoros nation.  It is dominated by a large active volcano, Mount Karthala and worth exploring is the charming town of Moroni with its narrow winding streets and a host of beautiful mosques.

Recommended Stay: Located in the capital town, Retaj Moroni Hotel is by the ocean and close to Old Friday Mosque. The 3-star property has is close to Chomoni beach but also has an outdoor pool and a children's pool. Complimentary high-speed (wired) Internet access is available in public areas along with a complimentary airport shuttle (available on request).

Getting there: Flights from South Africa to Comoros are available with several airlines and you can choose a one or two stop flight. Comoros airport is located near the capital city, Moroni, and is called Prince Said Ibrahim International Airport. From Johannesburg one stop flights are with Air Austral via St. Denis or Kenya Airways via Nairobi. Other flight options include South African Airways and Air Mauritius via Mauritius and St. Denis, Egyptair via Cairo and Sanaa or Qatar Airways via Doha and Sanaa.

3. Praslin, Seychelles

The 115 pristine islands of the Seychelles archipelago are a unique destination and one of the world’s greatest treasures. Just 45kms from Mahe, the Seychelles' more popular island, is where you will find Praslin. Described as ideal for birders who will be able spot rare species such as the Seychelles bulbul and the black parrot or diving enthusiasts can spend their time taking in the ancient coral reefs off Praslin's shores. Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette are the better known beaches. Be sure to check out the beautiful Vallée de Mai Nature Preserve, known for the unique coco de mer and vanilla orchids.


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Recommended Stay: Le Coco de Mer is a friendly family-run and very comfortable hotel in Praslin, designed in contemporary Seychellois style, and nestled between the sea and the famous Vallee de Mai. Described as a  modern four-star hotel, it is situated in the midst of over 200 acres of the rare Coco De Mer Palm tree.

Getting there: 
International flights to Seychelles land in the Mahe Island International Airport. From there it is a further 15 minute flight to Praslin or a 45-minute speed boat ride. Direct flights to Seychelles from South Africa are offered by Air Seychelles, or indirect flights with one connection to the Seychelles are available with airlines such as South African Airways, Air France, Air Seychelles, and Emirates.


4. Lamu Islands

For an authentic slice of Kenya, visit Lamu Island found in the Lamu Archipelago off its east coast. Lamu Old Town, the most populated part of the island, is one of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber it an architectural deligh characterized by simplistic inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors. Taking a dhow trip amongst the mangroves is almost obligatory and a visit to the Lamu Museum is an excellent introduction to the culture and history of the island.


(Shutterstock)

Recommended Stay: Check out Lamu.org for its list of secure luxury accommodation in the area.

Getting there: Lamu town on Lamu island is best reached by air either directly from Nairobi (Fly 540 from Kenyatta airport, Safarilink and Air Kenya fly from Wilson Airport, Nairobi) or from Mombasa or Malindi to the south (operators include Mombasa Safari Air from Mombasa, which does not fly every day, and Fly 540 from Malindi). The airport is on an island opposite the main village necessitating a short boat/ferry ride. Tourists are generally charged a premium price for the short trip.

5  Pemba Island, Tanzania
Often overshadowed by Zanzibar, Pemba Island or The Green Island in Arabic is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, situated about 50 kilometres to the north of the Unguja. Considered to be the diving jewels of the east of Africa, with highlights including extensive plate coral gardens on the west coast which make for a world class drift dive. An ideal time to visit is definitely with the annual humpback whale migration in July and August.

Recommended Stay:
Fundu Lagoon is a remote and peaceful resort, only accessible by boat.  Set on a beautiful beach in the south west of Pemba Island, it is privately owned and run with a love for the natural environment that surrounds it;  the epitome of shabby chic - stylish, cosseting and totally relaxed.

Getting there: There is an airport just outside of Chake Chake with daily flights to and from Zanzibar (Unguja) and Dar es Salaam. A cheaper alternative is a direct ferry from Dar es Salaam, although it leaves only twice a week and may not be suitable for strict schedules. Confirm a reputable operator if you choose this option.
For those travelling from South Africa  Airlink offers a non-stop flight from Johannesburg to Pemba Airport or LAM Mozambique offers a flight from Johannesburg to Pemba Airport via Maputo

Sources:
www.southafrica.to
www.saflights.co.za
wikitravel.org
lonelyplanet.com
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