African East Coast: Popular islands

2013-01-28 08:52

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The east coast of Africa has some spectacular options for South Africans looking to plan an island escape. Here is the first installment of its popular islands. Keep an eye out for the next feature detailing the Lesser-known islands found along the east coast of the continent.

1. Nosy Be, Madagascar

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world at 1 580km long. Here luxury has to do with the seclusion of nature and is not necessarily about electricity and urban creature comforts. Nature-lovers will delight in the fact that ninety percent of its wildlife cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Nosy Be is its biggest tourist attraction, making all the obvious pros and cons a factor. For a more budget experience you can head further into the mainland. For breathtaking beaches head as far north as possible.

Recommended Stay: 
Check out Sakatia Lodge – known as an intimate and relaxed escape since it only accommodates 20 guests. Found on the most beautiful and accessible parts of the big Red Island is the small island of Nosy Sakatia, a boat ride away from lively Nosy Be and a place with no roads, only footpaths. 

Getting there:
SAA Airlink offers daily flights from Johannesburg to Antananarivo. Air Madagascar flies direct from Johannesburg to Nosy Be on Saturdays.

2. Mauritius

Mauritius as an island escape is a firm favourite with South Africans, some would even go so far as to label it honeymooner's heaven. But one thing is for sure, this island is a vibrant hub of Creole culture and every beach bums dream come try – even in the winter season. Undoubtedly, Grand Baie is the most popular beach on the island. It’s great for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, and water skiing. It’s ideally situated, being only 20 kilometers away from Port-Louis. After hitting the beach, check out Grand Baie’s many clothing and craft shops, restaurants and trendy night clubs.

Recommended Stay:  One & Only Le Saint Geran has recently launched Harmonia - a new holistic Wellbeing Journey - offering guests the opportunity to detox and re-balance. It entails  Eastern healing modalities and herbs, a personalized diet based on Chinese Medicine's basic classifications of deficiency or excess.

Getting there: Direct flights from Johannesburg to Mauritius are available with South African Airways and Air Mauritius. Air Seychelles or Emirates offer a one stop flight flying via Mahe or Dubai. Flights from Cape Town to Mauritius are available with British Airways, South African Airways and Air Mauritius, all with one stop.

3. Mahe, Seychelles

This is the Seychelles largest and main island, out of an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. It is home to the capital Victoria, the main international airport, some 3 000-foot mountains and a 28km coastline with scores of gorgeous beaches. Many plants, including the so-called Jellyfish Tree and several rare orchids are indigenous to Mahe's shores. The majority of the country's population live on this island (about 70 000 people - 90% of the nation's total) ensuring a culturally rich experience. Be sure to check out The Seychelles Natural History Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Codevar Craft Centre.

Recommended Stay: Check out the 4-star Kempinski Seychelles Resort. Nestled in a beautiful bay teeming with aquatic life, this large resort is newly built and offers amazing value.

Getting there: Direct flights to Seychelles from South Africa are offered by Air Seychelles. Airlines that service with one connection to the Seychelles are South African Airways, Air France, Air Seychelles, and Emirates. Flights to the Seychelles from South Africa with two stops are offered by airlines such as Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, and Qatar Airways.

4. Maldives

This might be slightly far-flung but it is worth it. You can expect all-year sunshine as you dive and snorkel some of its stunning reefs. Described as an exciting hub of development, you will have ample luxury accommodation choice. Since it is not exactly the cheapest island to visit – plan on making this that big-break escape where you afford yourself the time and money to take in all it has to offer.

Recommended Stay: A top rated spot in the Maldives is the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, on the South Male Atoll, with its lagoon views & some rooms have pools on their terraces. If you select a deluxe lagoon villa (directly over the water) choose an odd-numbered unit which is not facing Male. Do go snorkelling & jet skiing.

Getting there: There are no direct flights to the Maldives. Airlines that fly there from South Africa include Emirates, Qatar Airways, South African Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, all with one stop. Maldivian charter airline, Mega Maldives, is slated to launch a direct service between Male and Johannesburg in March 2013.

5. Zanzibar Island

Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets. It is located in the Indian Ocean, about 25 miles from the Tanzanian coast. It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs, and the magic of historic Stone Town - said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa. With such beautiful architecture and variety of possible activities, the 96km long Zanzibar Island is one of Tanzania’s biggest tourist hubs. Enjoy scuba diving, boat cruises and spice tours. Don’t count on seeing large wild animals in its forested areas but there is an abundance of birdlife, and a large number of butterflies in rural areas.

Recommended Stay: Take a look at Swalibo Hotel is three-star boutique hotel located just a few steps from the Hermitage beach, on the west coast of Reunion Island. Otherwise consider the Le Récif Hotel set in three sweet hectares of tropical gardens bursting with flowers and shady trees, bordering spectacular Hermitage Lagoon.  Close to the shopping and bustling nightlife of St Gilles, think Creole villas decked in cheerful colours, peaceful sandy beaches and a choice of swimming pools.  

Getting there: Airlines that fly from South Africa to Zanzibar include Kenya Airways, Precision Air and Ethiopian Airlines have regular flights to Zanzibar. Dar es Salaam is also served by them, as well as Air Zimbabwe, Egypt Air, Air Malawi, South African Airways,  British Airways and others. Domestic Flights are through Precision Air and Coastal Aviation offer a range of scheduled flights between Zanzibar and Tanzania's main cities.
Read more on:    travel south africa  |  travel international

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