The UK FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) decided to relax travel restrictions to/from the Canary Islands on 03-July-2020. Consequently, this presented the opportunity to experience Covid-19 tourism abroad, and on this occasion the destination was Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Indeed, situated just over 1,000 miles off the southwest coast of mainland Spain in the Atlantic Ocean, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and arguably the most appealing for the adventure minded traveller. Its golden sand beaches and turquoise infused blue sea represents just a teaser of what the island has to offer to travellers.
Our journey into Tenerife from Madrid ran very smoothly and we came to find out that the aircraft is equipped with HEPA filters that kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in recirculated air. It is important to note that the culture of wearing a face masks to protect each other from Covid-19 appears to be fully engrained into Spanish culture and it has had a positive knock-on effect on incoming travellers complying with such rules. Indeed, this was evident throughout the island, be it indoors or outdoors. Unless you are one and half metres separated from another person, then you should wear your mask. Mainland Spain was severely hit during the peak of its Covid-19 pandemic, and the lockdown entailed a strict protocol (where you were only allowed out of the house to the supermarket, pharmacy or absolute emergency reasons). Therefore, now gradually coming out of lockdown and opening up their country once more to its most storied and precious industry (tourism), Spain and the Canary Islands will not undo all the sacrifices made to contain the spread of Covid-19. Completion of forms for contact tracing purposes and taking of temperatures are commonplace. Furthermore, it is not something that is frowned upon, but rather viewed as an overriding priority in reopening the country.
Upon arrival in Tenerife on 8th July 2020, we checked-in to the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel, located on the north of the island. In the hotel reception, we were greeted by an immaculate process in how to ensure the safety of guests. Immediate sanitisers were available, and all staff and guests embraced the use of the mask where necessary.
The ocean views from the hotel room balcony were majestic. Restaurant menus are no longer in circulation and instead its all paperless in the form of QR Codes put on dining tables. A quick scan and your menu is ready for viewing. For dinner, they served a signatory Canary Island salad, that contained a plethora of sumptuously presented avocado and honey vinaigrette. Lest we not forget the truly glorious, salt smothered Canary Potatoes.
Upon checkout, we stopped by Hotel GF Victoria, where they demonstrated to us their implementations for managing Covid-19. Guests or no guests, they were certainly operating continuous cleaning, socially distanced seating arrangements and an overall burning desire to bring customers through their doors with safety and luxury meeting in a positive light. The pool and room balconies looked in pristine condition, and the mini breakfast buffet served comprised of delicious salmon cocktail sandwiches and chocolate & cream filled desserts.
Thereafter, it was time to witness the Covid safe environment created within the Siam Shopping Mall. Again, the appreciation for wearing face coverings is religiously respected by locals and this appeared to rub off on tourists as well. Indeed, a plethora of colourful masks were worn to give it that sense of ‘the new normal fashion’. Customers may not be hurling into stores in the masses, but it is clear to see that shopping is still popular in these neck of the woods, and the store staff buy into the concept of serving customers behind a mask.
Prior to lunch, there was a visit to Casas Bioclimáticas ITER (bioclimatic accommodation) that dubs itself as ‘holidays off the main tourist track’. The open-space layout and feel of this sustainable bubble environment was evident. The view of Montana Pelada (a volcanic cone formed from an underwater eruption) were met with a pleasant bird whistling sound of the wind.
Las Vistas beach was the setting for a Canope Lunch under a gazebo. Once again, the Covid conscious environment meant that the public toilets more closely resembled the comfort that one would experience in their home toilet. Furthermore, the care for cleanliness by the beach jovial characters was evident. There was sufficient social distancing on the golden sand beach that was still able to generate a bustling atmosphere, without the suffocation of overbearing crowd numbers.
Exploration of sea life was next on the agenda, on-board the White Tenerife Catamaran in Puerto de Los Cristianos. We were accompanied by a biologist, who demonstrated the precision work undertaken in tending to a turtle’s damaged flipper, and thereafter restoring it back to their natural sea habitat. Elsewhere, dolphins occasionally popped up above the seabed to create a a momentary ‘catch me if your eyes can’ sensation.
The evenings in Tenerife present the chance to look upwards and star gaze. The destination for this was El Parador, where the most famous rock of the island, Roque Cinched resides. Not only has the rock defied the laws of gravity, it has the appearance of a vain face knowing that passers-by are certainly stopping to take selfies with it side by side. The star gazing experience was complemented by a clear sky and calm winds. Whilst it can get a little on the cool side in Tenerife post sunset, you will be too distracted by marvelling at Galileo identifications and plenty more that the night vision of the island attracts.
For those that enjoy gathering bags of culinary delights, the Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África is the island’s haven for such gastronomy. Indeed, a plethora of sumptuous fruits, vegetables and seafood is prevalent.
One should definitely visit the Museo de Naturaleza y Arqueología that houses the skeletal remains and architecture produced by the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, The Guanche. Lunch took us to El Patio de las Palmeras, where we were greeted by a jolly orchestra quartet. The signatory Red Mojo sauce formed part of the starter dish with Cheese and Mange Tu.
The setting for the evening was the the northern town of La Laguna, with its fascinating colour variant buildings, narrow streets and plethora of Tapas restaurants. The La Laguna Gran Hotel has the feeling of a boutique establishment and is dubbed the crossroads of history and luxury.
A further ascendancy from La Laguna led us to Sendero de los Sentidos. This hiking path brings you very close to the local nature, not least the artistically crafted spider webs intricately designed to be the centrepiece of various tree leafs. Further along the trail were panoramic vantage points that were arguably home to clearer skies than ever before, with a significant reduction in air traffic during the preceding four months.
A trip to Tenerife is incomplete without visiting some of its most storied vineyards. Indeed, this resulted in a visit to La Casa del Vino and la Casa de la Miel. Here, we witnessed a demonstration of making two of its finest wine sauces, both of which had a spicy pepper kick! Thereafter, it was time to produce your own version of the sauces, accompanied by bread and the vineyard’s signature House Wine. Interestingly, the tour guide stated that the USA was their biggest customer, but sales to the region have declined since a certain Donald Trump increased import taxes on wine to 25%!
The sound and splendours of Tenerife’s wildlife was next on the agenda, with a visit to Loro Parque. The entrance is decorated with Thai architecture that provide an idyllic setting for its inhabitants. One of the highlights of the park experience has got to be the Penguinarium, with Antarctic Emperor Penguins taking the limelight. Penguin’s eggs are laid here, so that they grow and develop in an environment befitting of the Antarctic. There was even a moment to capture two tortoises piggybacking! The dolphin and sea lion shows were running immaculately, and the social distancing aspect in the spectators area demonstrated that one can continue to watch in comfort, with no hinderance to the entertainment provided.
The setting for dinner was La Cofradía de Pescadores restaurant, where seafood was savoured on a balcony where a lovely blanket of cloud made the backdrop volcanoes look sizzling!
The final day of the trip provided the opportunity to explore the backroads of Tenerife (Punta de Teno), and experience the backpackers trail, storied lighthouses, local crafts, culture and singing. Part of the trail involved inadvertently walking past a wedding ceremony. Suffice to say, the wedding was also conducted with a Covid-19 compliant manner.
The evening concluded with dinner at El Lago Martianez, a huge open air pool area, with a restaurant area providing further oceanic backdrop views. The dishes included decorative Ceviche, Salmon and fruitful gelato ice cream.
In summary, the Canary Islands has implemented as meticulous measures as possible to create a Covid-19 safe environment, whilst not neglecting the importance of a pleasurable tourist experience. Eighteen workstations have been created to analyse and redesign all elements of the tourist trade. Sanitisers and the wearing of face masks are commonplace, be it indoors or outdoors.
All of the above does not hinder the tourist experience too negatively. Although wearing a mask in 30 or more Celsius heat feels like an add-on to the outside air temperature, there are sufficient distractions in scenery and history that take precedence.
If tourists travelling to the Canary Islands can unite with the locals in compliance with the new health and safety measures, they can be sure to enjoy all the island has to offer with peace of mind.