(CNN) — When Mick Sturla left for vacation to South Africa, he had no idea his eight-day stay at a safari lodge would turn into a mad dash to get back home to the United Kingdom and involve sleeping in a rental car underneath an airport terminal due to new and evolving restrictions tied to the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Mick, 73, and his wife Jan, 73, flew 11 hours from Heathrow Airport November 21 directly to O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg with the intention of returning home the same way on Monday, until British Airways canceled their flight last Thursday.

The new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa has prompted a fresh round of travel restrictions across the world and raised concern about what may be next in the pandemic. Scientists in South Africa were the first to identify the new variant, but it’s unclear whether it started there or brought there from another country.

Hours after the South African health authorities announced the discovery of the variant, travelers found themselves stranded without a warning.

Despite the bans, the new variant has already been found in at least a dozen countries. Most of the cases detected have been in travelers returning from the region.

Sleeping underneath the airport terminal

After arriving in Johannesburg The Sturlas drove 4.5 hours to Graskop, stayed overnight and drove another 4 hours to their final destination at a game lodge near Kruger National Park.

«We had three fantastic days of game drives before stuff hit the fan,» Mick told CNN.

Jan and Mick Sturla at Elephant Plains Safari Lodge in the Sabi Sand area of Kruger National Parkduring their last trip.

Jan and Mick Sturla at Elephant Plains Safari Lodge in the Sabi Sand area of Kruger National Parkduring their last trip.

Courtesy Mick Sturla

The Sturlas made the trek back another 8 hours to O.R. Tambo International Airport Sunday in hopes of completing their required PCR tests and getting on a new flight they booked to Mauritius. After taking their PCR tests required to travel, the couple slept in their rental car underneath the airport terminal in the downtime before their flight.

At the last minute, their flight was canceled because Mauritius joined the list of countries imposing restrictions on flights and travelers from southern African nations. Mick hired a new car and hit the road again 2.5 hours away to a bed and breakfast where the couple will stay until December 7, the earliest departure date they have been given.

«We were both worried we would miss Christmas with the grandchildren, and we still are as we are not out of the woods yet,» Mick said. «My wife was really in bits and me not far behind, but we are a more relaxed now.»

A travel visa expiring in two days

Like The Sturlas, Movin Jain and his family also anticipated some rest and relaxation during a 10-day vacation to South Africa from Bangalore, India.

Jain, his wife, sister and brother-in-law arrived in Johannesburg from Bangalore via Doha November 19 and were scheduled to go back home Monday on Qatar Airlines.

«We have not received any direct communication from the airline, but saw in the news two days back that Qatar had stopped taking passengers from South Africa,» Jain told CNN. «There is no direct flight from South Africa to…


Read More: These travelers are stranded over restrictions tied to the Omicron variant

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