29 May 2014 by Daphney Mngomeni

​Pink tourism in South Africa

Pink tourism is a niche tourism market aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travellers.

Vibrancy and colour: come experience South Africa's pink tourism. Image courtesy of Diricia de Wet

South Africa is a welcoming, hospitable and open-minded country and has various festivals and destinations dedicated to the LGBT community – supported by the country’s post-apartheid Constitution, the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Cape Town is considered the gay capital of Africa and is the most popular South African destination for LGBT tourists.

The gay flag of South Africa was launched in December 2010 at the annual MCQP party. Image courtesy of Samantha Marx

De Waterkant Village is known as Cape Town’s ‘pink quarter’. It is steeped in history and its restored cottages and cobbled streets and sidewalks add to its historical allure.

De Waterkant has a high concentration of guest houses, hotels, pubs and clubs, and is the epicentre of Cape Town’s Gay Pride festival.

The Pink Route, which was set up by Our Way Travel and Safaris, is a collection of gay-owned, gay-friendly as well as exclusively gay lodges, guest houses and hotels that place large emphasis on providing excellent service, attention to detail and unforgettable accommodation experiences.

The route starts in Cape Town, travels through the picturesque Garden Route all the way to Johannesburg, and further up into the Kruger National Park.

Gauteng also boasts a diverse gay culture, and its vibrant social scene includes clubs and bars specially dedicated to men and women of the LGBT community.

Simply Blue Bar and Nightclub at 36 Rogers Street in Johannesburg is one of the leading gay bars in the province. The club has a cigar lounge, restaurant, outdoor chilling area, private bar and dance floor.

Or try Beefcakes in Illovo, Johannesburg, for a 1950s-inspired feel and a setting that’s reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach. Beefcakes serves some of the best burgers in town and offers great live entertainment.

Visit Babylon The Club in Centurion for clubbing on another level. Babylon has become well known in the gay community and has a smaller, more intimate version in Johannesburg.

Visitors can also go on the Queer Johannesburg Tour and take in all of gay Jozi’s famous landmarks. The tour takes visitors through events relating to the city’s gay and lesbian community – from the earliest days of the apartheid struggle, into the 1990s and Africa’s first Gay Pride march in Johannesburg.

'Africa's biggest queer bash' – the MCQP. Image courtesy of Joe Black

Events not to miss

  • The annual Cape Town and Johannesburg Gay Pride marches have grown in popularity over the years. The events are colourful, musical and the overall atmosphere is hard to beat.
  • Cape Town’s Mother City Queer Project, also known as MCQP, has in the past two decades grown to become South Africa’s biggest dress-to-theme costume party. A large proportion of the partygoers are foreign visitors who specifically visit Cape Town for the event. MCQP is a great way to end the year, as it traditionally takes place in mid-December.
  • The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras is a celebration that’s marked on gay event calendars worldwide. Set in one the of Garden Route’s most scenic towns, Knysna, this event brings flamboyance, glamour and entertainment to the usually tranquil coastal town.

Category: Attractions, Events

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