Tips for LGBTQ + Travel to Africa

Why Namibia and Botswana should be on your radar, and what LGBTQ + travelers can experience on a trip to Africa.

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EEurope borders could reopen to American travelers, but another continent is also quietly welcoming Americans again: Africa. Kenya opened to Americans last summer, citing the importance of tourism in employing 2 million people nationwide; South Africa, which has one of Africa’s largest tourism industries, opened last fall. Most of Africa’s dream destinations are open and business-ready, and they really need.

“We operate in 17 destinations in Africa, and of those 17, 15 are open, only Madagascar and Mauritius are not,” said Sherwin Banda, president of African Travel, Inc., a travel agency specializing in travel planning. trips to Africa. “People have upped Africa on their bucket list and bookings are on the rise.”

To celebrate Pride Month, AFAR caught up with Banda, an LGBTQ + travel expert and native of South Africa who currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and nine-year-old son, to find out what LGBTQ + travelers can experience. while traveling in Africa.

African Travel is aimed specifically at LGBTQ + customers with these 2021/2022 itineraries and plan any personalized travel you want.

Sherwin Banda, President of African Travel, Inc.

Do you actively promote LGBTQ + travel as an area you specialize in?

100 per cent. You know it’s personal to me, having grown up in Africa and going through some of its most horrific times. Being LGBTQ + during Apartheid meant having to hide who we are. One of the biggest struggles for this community is the fear of — is that for sure? My homeland is now safe for this community.

Each of our team members was born in Africa, lived in Africa or traveled several times in Africa. We say ‘We know Africa’ and you can count on us to match the right Africa with the right client, such as LGBTQ + travelers.

Most people are surprised to learn that South Africa legalized same-sex marriage in 2006, before it was legal in the United States.

Wow, I didn’t know that. On the other hand, you have some African countries like Kenya which is not at all included. The continent is not a monolith, of course.

Absolutely! South Africa is a safe destination for our LGBTQ + community, but beyond that, all of our teams in our camps, hotels and experiences across the continent in our destinations are trained to meet the needs of our LGBTQ + travelers.

So even in a place like Kenya where the government is not aligned, you have the resources and the training to make someone feel 100% comfortable. What are some of the things that you have trained people on?

Our training focuses on three important outcomes: knowledge, attitude and behavior, so that our team members understand the service expectations that our LGBTQ + clients require. For example, we can make sure the guest has an LGBTQ + guide to go with them.

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For me personally, we travel with our young son and the language becomes even more important because I don’t want my child to be prejudiced or asked where his mother is.

Have you seen any big changes across the continent over the past 10 years, in terms of acceptance and change?

It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come on a trip. LGBTQ + guests can travel safely to some of Africa’s most remote areas. It is a great success for the destination. LGBTQ + customers are greeted warmly with a genuine sense of hospitality.

African Travel is a long established safari operator that really focuses on giving back to the destination. How to create this kind of experiences?

For the preservation of culture, one of our favorite hotels is a Red Carnation hotel called the Oyster Box in Durban, South Africa. It has been ranked as the number one hotel in all of Africa. Besides the amazing kitchen and the property itself, we are really proud of our partnership with Ardmore Design Studio, a collective of local artists that create bold and beautiful things.

Art inspires us, but people and stories inspire us [more]. The experience is very stimulating, especially when the guests learn how local artisans from very poor backgrounds now manage to provide for themselves and their families.

For the conservation of fauna, an example is in Shamwari Private Game Reserve. In fact, it is close to the region where Nelson Mandela was born. To better understand South African history and the beginnings of our democracy, it is best to visit the areas of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg which tell different parts of Mandela’s legacy.

But here you will also experience incredible game viewing at one of South Africa’s largest private game reserves. Shamwari has always been at the forefront of wildlife conservation. They have a wildlife rehabilitation center, where rescued injured rhinos and other wildlife are treated to full health before being released back into the wild.

Shamwari is also home to the Big Cat Sanctuary whose mission is to rescue the big cats held in captivity and release them to an area of ​​the reserve cordoned off for their safety as they never learned to hunt. Some of these cats have never felt a blade of grass on their paws a day in their life.

One of the things we always ask people to do is turn off the GPS feature on their devices, as it has built-in software that may inadvertently help poachers troll the internet at night and find the animals’ locations. most threatened in Africa.

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And for the environment, we are actively working to have carbon neutral safaris by 2022, which will be an incredible achievement. [The Travel Corporation has pledged to be totally carbon neutral across all 42 of its brands by 2030.]

You have nine days Luxury train travel in Namibia on Rovos Rail which takes travelers through the austere desert landscape and red sand dunes for which Namibia is known, as well as the Fish River Canyon, similar to the Grand Canyon. A train trip is not what I think of first when I travel to Africa.

Train travel was the only mode of transportation when people first came to Africa. And Africa has some of those wonderful Old World train journeys that give you a different take on the destination.

One of my favorite properties, slocated at the entrance gate to Namib Naukluft Park, is Lodge Sossusvlei, which offers direct access to the towering red sand dunes, the famous Sossusvlei pan, the burnt black trees of Dead Vlei and the remarkable depths of the Sesriem Canyon.

If someone is going to Africa for the first time, where would you send them?

This is such a difficult question to answer. That being said, South Africa offers the greatest diversity of experiences. For our LGBTQ + travelers, there’s also what we call the Pink Light District, De Waterkant, located in the heart of Cape Town. And of course, the wildlife experiences speak for themselves.

Botswana is home to a “secret” migration that most people do not know about, the mass migration of zebras, which occurs in twice a year as the zebra herds move first from north to south, then from south to north. They change with the seasons and rainfall, always in search of fresh pastures. While not Africa’s largest migration, it is southern Africa’s largest.

Speaking of Botswana, your sister company Red Carnation Hotels recently opened the Xigera Lodge, which is 100% solar powered, and it has caused quite a stir. See a lot of bookings?

Yes! There is nothing like it anywhere in Africa. Xigera is located along the water canals of the Okavango Delta. When the delta is flooded after the rains, the Kalahari Desert literally comes to life. And because of its water channels, you see wildlife from a different perspective on a mokoro or boat, rather than the traditional Land Rover experience. It’s so quiet because you don’t have the car engine drone. Watching the activity of predators and prey when animals come to drink water reminds us of the fragility of life.

You decide on the schedule of experiences you want. If you want to get up at dawn to go on a safari it’s your choice or if you want to sleep and leave later this is also OK.

In Botswana you have fewer people and fewer camps. I like to talk about Botswana as a high traffic, low volume destination.

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