So grateful to be home

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
Sunè Van Zyl on the plane back to Perth after being stuck in South Africa for the last six months.
Camera IconSunè Van Zyl on the plane back to Perth after being stuck in South Africa for the last six months.

It took Bunbury resident Sunè Van Zyl six months, three flights and about $10,000 to return to Perth after being stuck in South Africa due to the global pandemic.

But last Friday, the 22-year-old touched down in Perth and is looking forward to reuniting with her family after she finishes her two-week quarantine.

“At the end of February I went to South Africa to visit my family for what was meant to be a month-long trip,” she said.

“On March 15 South Africa had their first COVID-19 patient test positive and the government said people needed to get home.”

Ms van Zyl had her return flight home to leave South Africa on March 25, but unfortunately it was one day too late.

“On March 23 Australia closed their borders which meant my flight got cancelled,” she said.

“Over the next few months I booked four flights back and lost the money and tickets each time.

“It had been three months since I entered South Africa and my visa expired; if I was caught I would have gone to jail.”

It took eight tickets to get Ms van Zyl back home.

After having eight flights cancelled on me, I was torn apart. I spent hours outside the Qatar embassy begging for a ticket and offering more money,

she said.

“Last Tuesday I was lucky enough to be contacted by someone who had read my story which I posted on a social media page and said he no longer needed his ticket and that I could have his seat.”

But when Ms van Zyl got to the check-in, she faced another hurdle.

“The supervisor was being difficult and abusing his power and telling me I wasn’t allowed to be on the flight,” she said.

“There was a lot of running around trying to get confirmation from the connecting flight airlines until we were finally boarded onto the plane just in time for take-off.

“It has been an emotional and extremely difficult past few months, the experience itself really messes with your mind and I experienced severe panic attacks and anxiety because of it.”

After spending months in South Africa, Ms van Zyl is most looking forward to her freedom.

“Of course I am looking forward to getting back to my family, but I also can’t wait to be able to drive my car again,” she laughed.

“South Africa is not a safe place, your mindset is always “will I be alive tomorrow?”

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails