Top African Safari Destinations for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Cape Town, South Africa (August 6 2022): Go2Africa’s award-winning Africa Safari Experts have been curating tailor-made African safaris since 1998 and have been featured on Condé Nast Traveler's expert list for LGBTQ+ travel. The question still lingers, ‘Is Africa, LGBTQ+ community friendly and safe?’ While there is still much to be done in terms of legislation and the fight for equal rights, in terms of safety, there is little to fear in most of Africa’s safari destinations. Travelers will always receive unbiased advice based solely on first-hand experience from Go2Africa where safety is a top priority, surpassed only by having an incredible time.
Below are the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Africa.
South Africa is an accepting country and a shining beacon for gay travel in Africa. Some of the best experiences, gay-friendly accommodation, bars, and hotels are found in the country’s Mother City of Cape Town. South Africa’s 1996 Constitution specifically protects full and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community and all forms of anti-gay discrimination are banned. In 2006, the rainbow nation legalized same-sex marriages, the first country in Africa and the fifth in the world to do so. South Africa is one of the safest countries for LGBTQ+ travelers. In fact, it’s a shining beacon for the community in comparison to the rest of Africa. Cape Town, in particular, has earned its nickname Africa’s ‘gay capital’, ranking consistently among the world’s top gay cities – Elton John is rumored to have a few favorite spots in the Mother City. South Africa is an accepting country, and with so many reasons to visit, some of the best experiences are found at the safari bigwig, the Kruger National Park, and its surrounding private concessions. Mala Mala and Sabi Sand Nature Reserve offer slightly more upscale gay African safari tours, with plenty of leopards to see. A major drawcard is being able to pair the best of both worlds, bronzing on white sand beaches, and then traversing untouched wilderness in Big 5 country – a perfect bush and beach combination.
Jerry Mpufane, President of South African Tourism North America stated, "We look forward to continuing our work with the travel trade to make sure that when LGBTQ+ travelers think of travel to the African continent, that they think of South Africa. We will continue flying our rainbow flag proudly as we show the many rich, authentic experiences that our beautiful country has to offer."
Although they have only recently changed their regulations, Botswana is consistently welcoming towards the LGBTQ+ community and is certainly one of the safest countries for LGBTQ+ travelers. You can’t quite compare Botswana with anywhere else on Earth. Safari aficionados will tell you that if you ever consider a safari sojourn, go to Botswana– it’s packed with wildlife and sparse with people. In June 2019, Botswana abolished its laws against same-sex relations, and despite an appeal by the government in November 2021, the ruling was upheld. The LGBTQ+ community also enjoys some legal protections, and the constitution has protected the right to change legal gender since 2017. Botswana is a tapestry of landscapes and one of Africa’s premier travel destinations. From the meandering waterways of the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, to the starkly beautiful Makgadikgadi Pans. Botswana is where Mother Nature inspires with her endless creativity, and you can have profound encounters with massive herds of elephants, and Africa’s ‘painted wolves’, the endangered wild dog – reveling in the most isolated parts of the globe.
Namibia is one of the best countries for gay African safari tours. Namibia’s law against male same-sex relations is not enforced, and legislation to repeal has been proposed. Female same-sex relations have never been criminalized, and the right to change legal gender has been protected since 1963. The country is dominated by the Namib Desert (whose Nama name means ‘Vast Place’), and it enthralls with its immense landscapes, wildlife, and ancient rock art. It’s also one of the most thinly inhabited countries in the world – there are about two million people in a country almost as large as France and Italy combined. Some favorite regions within Namibia include the towering sand dunes and desert wildlife of the Namib Desert and Sossusvlei, the coastal German-influenced holiday town of Swakopmund, and the Etosha National Park – where you can enjoy classic game viewing of some of Africa’s greatest predators. For an atmosphere of complete isolation, you could fly into the Kaokoveld, with only a handful of lodges it is an exclusive getaway to one of southern Africa’s truly untouched wilderness areas.
Celebrity and LGBTQ+ community member Ellen DeGeneres has shone the limelight on this African destination, as well as her commitment to conservation work, opening the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. It is one of the safest countries for LGBTQ+ travelers looking to go on a life-changing gorilla safari and actively contribute to the preservation of endangered mountain gorillas. No laws have ever existed against same-sex relations in Rwanda, but there are no legal protections or gender identity protections either, and same-sex marriage remains constitutionally banned. In Rwanda, you can experience something most only dream about, gorilla trekking in mystically misted verdant jungles. Coming face-to-face with the rarest animals on Earth is both a humbling and soul-stirring experience, as well as encounters with the mischievous Sykes monkey and the boisterous chimpanzee.
“I always tell my clients that East Africa is more conservative than other safari destinations and it’s best to be aware of that, but this applies to everyone. I would just as easily tell a honeymoon couple to watch their public displays of affection as I would the LGBTQ+ community. Within the lodges and resorts, you can be more relaxed about it. I’ve never had any type of issues from any lodge or camp that any of my clients have visited – not once in my 14 years of planning these kinds of trips. Kenya is a safe destination for the LGBTQ+ community, go adventure!” shares Lauren Johansson, Africa Safari Expert