“Everyone says they want to be stuck on a tropical island, until you’re actually stuck. It only sounds good because you know you can leave.”
Olivia and Raul De Freitas are newlyweds. The South African couple married last month then jetted to the Maldives on March 22, planning a six-day stay at the Cinnamon Velifushi Maldives, a private island resort.
Aware of COVID-19 restrictions prior to departure, the couple were assured by their travel agent that they would be able to return to South Africa without issue.
But last Wednesday evening the De Freitas received word that South Africa airports would shut down…on Thursday. Noting the impossibility of taking a boat to Malé, a Qatar Airways flight to Doha, and then a connection to Johannesburg, the couple shrugged and decided to stay put.
Soon, they had the entire resort to themselves. For the first few days, it was bliss. Dining on demand, romantic strolls on the beach, nine waiters and a personal chef made for a lovely experience. But as the days rolled on, the costs began adding up and a sense of dread set in.
They reached out to the South African Embassy and were informed if they wanted to get home, they could charter a jet…for $100,000. Apparently there are 40 South Africans currently stuck in the Maldives. Even if each split the cost, that’s still $2,500 per ticket…and at least 20 made clear they had no intention of incurring that cost.
So they stayed. The entire hotel staff did as well. Under Maldivian law, staff must quarantine for 14 days before returning from a resort island…but cannot start that quarantine until after the last guest leaves.
On Sunday, with one hour’s notice via WhatsApp, the South African embassy told them it was time to go. They packed their bags and took a boat to an unspecified “five star” resort. They have been united with about 20 other South Africans and are awaiting transport back to South Africa on a subsidized flight.
The travel date? Unknown at this time…
You can read their full story in the New York Times
All Photographs by Olivia and Raul De Freitas