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Advice and information for LGBT Travellers to Safari Africa

At Yellow Zebra, we’ve sent countless LGBT couples to Safari Africa. However, just like planning any international trip, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the local laws and customs.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are very limited compared with LGBT rights in Europe and the US. Some parts of Africa are more welcoming of LGBT tourists than others and unfortunately, some still have less progressive stances towards LGBT rights. 

With the exception of South Africa, same-sex marriage in Africa is not recognised, and it’s not even legal. Modern-day laws and regulations stem from thousands of years of heritage and history, and of course, tribal culture plays a huge role in making African countries so unique. However, because African culture is very conservative, especially in the Islamic regions, displays of affection between couples are often considered offensive, regardless of the couples’ sexual orientation. On a side note, hand-holding between male friends is quite common, so you will witness this throughout Safari Africa.

If you’re aware of the laws and regulations concerning same-sex relationships before travelling, and you’re prepared to adhere to them, you’re unlikely to encounter any problems. So as long as you’re willing to avoid making public displays of affection, we wouldn’t advise against visiting any destination that we offer.

If you have any questions or concerns about any aspects of travelling to a safari destination, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts here, to have a chat about your safari options.

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“Many LGBT couples are pretty nervous when it comes to travel, but I have had a plenty travel with us. The big thing is to make them aware that same-sex relationships are accepted in some African countries, while in other countries, they are very against it (i.e. Uganda). However, it is still possible to travel as a couple and just be sensitive to the local cultures. So no PDAs.”
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Emma Sales Manager

Why be cautious if you are an LGBT traveller?

Apart from in South Africa, same-sex marriage in Africa is not legal. Even if same-sex relationships are legally allowed in a destination, the local society can be intolerant. There are some countries where same-sex relationships are illegal but where the law is not strictly enforced. And then there are certain destinations where it is illegal and it’s a punishable offence.

Although anti-LGBT behaviour is unlikely to be directed at tourists, we provide a few recommendations for LGBT travel below:

1. Top LGBT-friendly safari destinations

LGBT travel to South Africa

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South Africa is the all-glittering, all-shining destination for LGBT travellers to Africa. Actively welcoming all types of travellers to Cape Town, the country really is at the forefront of liberal travel on the continent. With a strong gay community, the Mother City hosts several annual festivals, has a wealth of gay-friendly bars and restaurants, and is superbly hassle-free. South Africa has a reputation for having a liberal constitution because same-sex marriage is legal (SA was the first country in Africa to legalise it) and the local laws cover gay and lesbian rights – according to these rights, it’s illegal to discriminate against any LGBT person.

However, we do have a cautionary note. As open as Cape Town is to LGBT culture, we advise that travellers avoid excessive and overt displays of affection and try to be respectful of local customs. The political standpoint hasn’t translated to full public acceptance, especially within the more rural areas – studies show that 61 per cent of locals believe that homosexuality should not be accepted.

“In South Africa, LGBT travel is such a non-issue and so commonplace that we wouldn’t even make a note for the hotel or lodge staff. YZ’s favourite properties are members of IGTLA [the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association], such as La Residence Franschhoek in The Winelands, Royal Madikwe in Thornybush, Birkenhead in Hermanus, Londolozi in the Sabi Sands, and Ellerman House in Cape Town. De Waterkant in Cape Town is potentially worth a mention, as it has a large gay community, gay-owned restaurants, and all the gay clubs – it is for the younger party scene so it’s well known for its nightlife."
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Angela South Africa Safari Specialist

LGBT travel to Rwanda

Although homosexuality is considered a taboo topic, homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda. In sharp contrast to its neighbours, such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi, Rwanda is actually considered a leader in East Africa for its progressive steps towards LGBT rights. In 2011, Rwanda was a signatory of the United Nations joint statement condemning violence against LGBT people. Also, as it’s the only destination in the area without anti-LGBT laws, the country is starting to become a haven for those alienated from their homes. However, though being gay is not illegal, that doesn’t mean people here don’t face significant prejudice. As always, we recommend being respectful and avoiding any obvious acts of affection towards a partner.

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“Compared to Uganda, Rwanda is a much better LGBT-friendly option for gorilla tracking! It is a favourite of Ellen DeGeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi, who have started The Ellen Fund, so it is becoming a hot new destination both for luxury and for LGBT travel.”
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Linda Rwanda Safari Specialist

LGBT travel to Indian Ocean

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For LGBT travellers to Mauritius and the Seychelles, there is very little to worry about on these paradise islands. Although it is still best to avoid public displays of affection outside your hotel, the islands’ properties and resorts are very well catered towards LGBT couples and honeymooners. Relations between men were decriminalised in the Seychelles in 2016; and although homosexuality is still officially banned by the law in Mauritius, LGBT people are protected by law from discrimination. If you are looking for a beach break after your safari to South Africa, either Mauritius or the Seychelles is a fantastic extension.

 

2. Destinations where caution is advised for LGBT travellers

When it comes to the popular East Africa destinations or the more traditional Southern African countries, we recommend a bit more caution for LGBT travellers.

Again, for travel to Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana, we advise that you avoid public displays of affection. However, with these destinations, there are stronger laws and regulations against same-sex relationships, and it’s a good idea to be aware of these. Sodomy and homosexuality practices in general are illegal, and some governments within these countries continue to prosecute members of the local LGBT community. Visitors to these destinations are typically not troubled – for example, no Yellow Zebra client has encountered issues relating to homophobia. However, it’s important to understand that there is a higher chance of an issue arising, and potentially the worst outcome could be that you are refused entry into the destination.

“LGBT travel to these destinations can be a really sensitive topic for some clients. I’d say the best way to have peace of mind is to chat to our consultants openly about any questions or concerns. That way we can figure out which is the best destination for you, while not restricting you from what Safari Africa has to offer.”
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Kirsten Safari Specialist

3. Destinations with strict LGBT restrictions

Uganda is the one country on our list that requires a particular mention. This destination is notorious for having some of the harshest anti-LGBT laws – being homosexual in Uganda is punishable by life in prison. There’s a strong outcry to reduce the strict regulations that are imposed on the estimated 500,000 LGBT people in the country, but the local communities are still forced to remain underground. As a tourist, there’s no need to be overly worried, as visitors rarely encounter issues. However, as always, discretion is advised; and in certain lodgings and situations, we might even recommend twin-bed rooms as a precaution.

 

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