South Africa, Victoria Falls (Zambia) and Botswana

Mad for it in Southern Africa
Mad for it in Southern Africa
By John Lowe
Instinct Magazine
November 2001
Volume 5 Issue 9


What is a vacation all about?  Boys, beasts and beaches, right?  And the place to encounter all three is South Africa, a burgeoning and isolated paradise-especially for the gay guy looking to escape from his whirlwind life back home.

Aside from the high standards, numerous opportunities to interact with rare wildlife and, of course, herds of hot men, South Africa can gloat about another claim to fame: it's constitution.  The South African Constitution is the only one in the world that protects sexual orientation (among many other civil rights).  What better way to support our queer counterparts on the tip of Africa than to book a flight and let them show you a little hospitality.  Me?  I'm all about making international "connections," and I made more than a few this past July on a perfectly arranged V.I.P. trip from DavidTours [DavidTravel].

Before I give you a rundown of what, where and who I did, there are a few things you've got to know.  First, the guys are friendly and are always excited to meet and greet Americans-but, watch out, they fall in love easily.  Second, everybody I met spoke English and, more importantly, had nice teeth (which, if you travel a lot internationally, you recognize this as a great asset).  Third, with the current exchange rate, the average gay boy is rich in comparison to most South Africans.  Hmm, maybe that explains why they fall in love so readily.


DavidTours [DavidTravel] started us in Cape Town.  Many of the guys I met called it "The Gay Capitol of Africa." I agree with one Afrikaner (Dutch descent) hunk-who lured me in with his radiant blue eyes-when he said, "Cape Town rivals the three 'Ss'---Sydney, San Francisco and San Diego---with its natural beauty." He gets my vote.

Tourist "must sees" include traveling to the top of Table Mountain where you get the best views of the city and sea.  It's by far the most prominent landmark in Cape Town; you see it from almost everywhere.  Another must (but more specifically for the queer tourist) is Clifton #3, a gay beach with the hottest men, by far.  The nude beach, Sandy Bay, is beautiful, but the crowd usually isn't, nor are they that friendly.

Since you are on vacation, it's probably a good idea for you to relax some.  An ideal place to hang (and let it all hang out) is the stunning ocean view sun deck at
The Hothouse Steam & Leisure, the local bathhouse.  But, don't limit your exploration to the sun deck.  (Also, just in case, lock valuables in the front desk safe, not your locker.)

After midday at the beach and late afternoon at Hothouse, step outside and you're in the middle of the very quaint gay village.  Stop by Café Manhattan for cocktails, a decent dinner and a diverse crowd. Then, maybe after a disco nap, check out the great late-night scene at Bronx and dancing at Club 55.  And, just around the corner, there is an excellent massage and escort service called
Knights ( or [27] 21 434 0428).  With the exchange rate, services are inexpensive.  In fact, at Hothouse I met a fella who occasionally works at Knights, but I got to appreciate their merchandise for free.  Lots of rich L.A. queens I know would hire this guy without skipping a beat.

Plus, who could ask for more luxurious rooms than ours at The Table Bay Hotel, a Leading Hotel of The World, with views of (you guessed it) Table Mountain?  One of our fellow travelers had connected with a guy on the Internet before the tour using the chatroom.  The Table Bay Hotel guest relations desk was totally cool: "Tell us what you need and we will organize it." They arranged for a car and driver to pick the fellow up and transfer him to and from the hotel.  Talk about room service!

Be sure to also visit the
penguin beach, Boulders Coastal Park, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens along the Cape Peninsula.  When our tour director said we were going to go check out penguins on the southern tip of Africa I assumed he must've been spending to much time with Tina.  But, I was wrong-and they are the cutest jackass (hey, that's what they're called) penguins.

Our group also enjoyed some private wine tasting at Merlust Winery. They even produce very fine grappa.  The dark chocolate candies generously filled with grappa were a big hit after lots of wine tasting.) This was followed by an exceptional luncheon at one of the finest restaurants in South Africa, Haute Cabriere

Also, our visit to the black
Township of Langa was inspirational.  The people were kind and proud, while all struggle to build the country as the post apartheid "Rainbow" nation.  The gay guys I met from the Townships said they feel free and accepted, generally.  The hardest issue for them within the gay community they said was not color, but the economic divide that they are striving to change.

A few more gay scene tips: If you like a leather, rubber, jeans bar, Cape Town has The Company Bar.  Most people I know have not been impressed; they wished the hot stud painted on the exterior resembled the crowd inside, but the place is friendly.  [The Company Bar is now closed...we hope is wasn't our review that marked its decline.]  If you'd like to see a very local, festive club with a very popular drag show and an older crowd on Sunday evenings, check out Brunswick Theatre Bar


Chapter two of my Southern Africa journey was an awesome visit to one of the Seven Wonders of The World, Victoria Falls.  We set up camp on the Zambian side, in the new colonial-style, high five-star Royal Livingstone Hotel.  This place is to die for.  The general manager and the staff were lined up and at attention to greet us upon arrival. This row of uniformed staff and the unobstructed view of the Zambezi River took everyone's breath away.  Plus, I really dug having a butler to unpack for me.

The next day at Victoria Falls was pure magic.  One tour member commented, "I could not have dreamed of a more perfect day." All 20 of us agreed.  DavidTours [DavidTravel] then whisked us through the countryside for an adrenaline-pumping, hair-raising, high-speed jet boat trip in the rapids of the mighty Zambezi River.  We all screamed and enjoyed it, especially at the end when they brought us gourmet lunches down by the riverside.

Then, as if out of a 007 movie, a sleek helicopter landed near our picnic area and flew us, five at a time, over the Victoria Falls. where we witnessed the incredible landmark from a bird's-eye view. Upon landing, we headed off into the sunset on a classic luxury riverboat, the
African Queen (go figure), where we were served by a gracious (and attractive) staff.  I told one of the guys that I would give him 20 bucks for his uniform cap, a white sailor hat embroidered with a dancing black woman (the African Queen).  I was crushed when he declined, but understood; I wouldn't want to part with it, either.


For the third installment we headed back to South Africa for a wild Saturday night in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa.  We parked it at The Grace Hotel in a ritzy suburb called Rosebank.  I dug the hotel for its understated elegance, exceptional service and its attentive staff.  When we arrived, we all left the fragile African crafts we'd purchased with the front desk.  While most of us were sleeping, at six a.m., the hotel staff was busy bubble wrapping all of our breakable items.  (I know this for a fact because I stumbled in on them after a long, hard night of partying.)

Oh, I forgot to mention: the shopping for objects d'art is out of this world.  An amazing craft market was a three minute walk from our hotel and, if you can bargain effectively, rather cheap.  Furthermore, the nearby luxury shopping mall has trendy shops with wonderful South African fashions.

In Johannesburg, the gay-owned Singing Fig restaurant is a friendly scene with delicious food.  [Although still quite good and gay popular, the Singing Fig is no longer gay owned.]  The clubbing center is an area called The Heartland.  By cruising from one venue to the next, check out Therapy (love the name), C-Men, Club Cruise, Reload, and Venom.  Therapy brought back fond memories of Probe in L.A.  Many of the men there rival any circuit party crowd and, once again, they LOVE meeting foreigners.  The best strategy is to just open your mouth and start chatting with whoever you have in your sights.  He'll know you're an American and he'll be all yours.

A new and very upscale cocktail bar called Statement has opened in the bohemian and trendy area of Melville in Johannesburg.

One of our fellow travelers, who shall remain nameless, gave a complete blow-by-blow account of Jeb's Leather Bar a "check your close at the door" club at the top of a building with floor-to-ceiling windows providing fantastic city views.  But, this is obviously an action bar, so the town below will be the last thing you'll want to be scoping out.  [Jeb's Leather Bar has closed. Check the current Johannesburg gay publications for the details of its most current replacement as this seems to change regularly.]

Also, for you more discrete types, Highwaymen ([27] 11 463 0623) came highly recommended.  A stunning guy I met said he and his partner like the service because there are no strings attached.  But, he also said to spell out exactly what you want. [Based on current reports, it seems Highwaymen is no longer in business.  Instead, for male escorts, Boyz in the Hood ([27] 11 788 6502) has been recommended in Johannesburg.  See also the Saturday classified section of the Johannesburg Saturday Star or the Pretoria News, under the Massage Services section, section 708]


Next, we left South Africa behind again or a photo safari experience in
Botswana.  DavidTours [DavidTravel] used a chartered DC-3 to avoid any long transfers, so we soon landed on the largest piece of private land in Africa, the award-winning Mashatu Private Game Reserve.  Within minutes of getting on the jeeps, the game drive began.  That evening we saw a leopard moments after she attacked an impala.  It was nature untamed, and I'll never forget it.

As a team, your ranger and tracker spot the game, explain the flora and fauna and make sure you're not the leopard's next meal.  Plus, every night we threw back sundowner cocktails in the bush.  After four days and six game drives, we had checked off almost the entire list of animals we could see, including lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras and countless magnificent birds.  I'll never have to go to the zoo again.


The last stop on this unforgettable adventure was
The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City, South Africa.  This was the perfect conclusion to the trip, with a three-night stay.  I must admit that my favorite part of about staying at the palace were the daily massages I booked and enjoyed in my huge, plush room.  We also had another great photo safari experience with a game drive in the nearby Pilanesberg National Game Park.

Back in Los Angeles, I have fond memories of the new friends I made, places I visited and the wondrous sites I experienced.  My interior designer friends are even jealous of my new purchases, especially since I picked them up at a fraction of what they would cost here.  I also appreciate the fact that I found DavidTours [DavidTravel], who made sure that I got to experience the culture and countries-but at a pace that felt more like a vacation rather than a tour.