GAY DETOURS THROUGH SOUTH AFRICA

 

Africa had eluded us for sometime, until we learnt about the Detours Gay Adventure Travel itinerary to South Africa which included Cape Town, the Winelands and Kruger National Park. The fact that Detours is a gay company was all the better and this would be their fifth time in South Africa since starting their tours there in early 2017.

 

 

Cape Town is a favoured destination for international gay tourists. Additionally, South Africa has protections from discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation enshrined in its post-apartheid constitution and, in 2006, same sex marriage became legal. All this was a winning formula for us and the group of fifteen strangers who would soon become best travel buddies for the next twelve days.

 

Windsurfing is a popular sport on the extensive windy coastline stretching from Cape Town to the Cape Of Good Hope.

 

Our group’s first meeting in the bar of our hotel was an adrenaline rush, especially anticipating the dynamics of our new companions. However, Canadian all-round great guy and tour leader Dan put our minds at rest with his confident charm and disarming enthusiasm. He had done this all before and, right from the ‘get go’, pointed out the predicted pitfalls and the prospective highlights.

 

Our first meeting at Rockwell All Suites Hotel.

 

Our initial meet up was at the Rockwell All Suites and Apartments right in the centre of De Waterkant, Cape Town’s gay village, where we all stayed for the first four nights of our tour. After handshakes, hometowns and hospitable banter were exchanged we prepared for our first group outing, and it was all off to a brilliant start.

 

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with Table Mountain in the background, covered with a cloud tablecloth.

 

There were fifteen men in the group, the max for a Detours’ adventure and this included a majority from the USA, a few from Canada and ourselves from Australia. At our orientation meeting, Dan outlined the activities for the twelve day journey.

 

 

We soon learnt from fellow traveller Stanley, a veteran Detour devotee who had completed all the available itineraries, this travel package came ‘with options’ which we discovered was one of its best features. If we wanted to participate in planned activities like day excursions, dinner each evening and visits to bars, all well and good.

 

Stunning Houts Bay

 

However, if we wanted to do something different, Dan offered his help by suggesting, researching and planning an alternative activity so we all achieved maximum enjoyment. Or we could opt to do nothing at all and relax in the comfort of the hotel.

 

Beware the mischievous baboons at The Cape.

 

The tour price included all accommodation, most transportation, breakfasts, wine tastings, some evening meals and entry to Kruger National Park. Extra costs were the optional tours to places like the Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, wildlife rescue centres, some fabulous lunches and most evening meals. At this point we need to say, prices in South Africa are more than reasonable and sometimes ultra cheap which made eating, travelling and indulging very reasonable throughout our tour.

 

Beautiful Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles

 

CAPE TOWN

Cape Town is a stunning city backed by glorious Table Mountain, fringed with fine sandy beaches, magnificent waterfront bays, as well as the excellent food and beverage prices which put a smile on everyone’s face. For most, the highlight of Cape Town was the full day tour to the Cape of Good Hope.

 

Looking back to the pristine coastline from the top of Table Mountain.

 

It started with a drive following the pristine coastline, a stop at tranquil Houts Bay, then onto the Cape with panoramic views of the most southern point of the African continent, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans collide. On our return, the African penguins won the ‘cute factor’ award for the entire trip.

 

 

Not everyone chose to do this tour as some had arrived early in Cape Town and made their own arrangements prior to joining the group but it was definitely a great day out and a brilliant orientation to this famous part of the vast continent.

 

These cute little fellas won our hearts.

 

Everyone who made the journey to the top of Table Mountain via the revolving cable car had a ‘pinch me’ moment taking in the views of the Twelve Apostles, Lion’s Head Peak, Cape Town itself and the breathtaking coastline.

 

Don’t worry about getting the best view in the cable car, the cabin revolves to let everyone enjoy the spectacular views.

 

Other optional daytime activities included visits to the Victorian and Alfred Waterfront, spilling over with modern restaurants and good shopping. Also this is the place to catch the ferry to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held captive for many years. The new Zeitz Museum, an architectural masterpiece in its own right, with several floors of modern African art, is also located on the waterfront and another ‘must see’.

 

Made it to the top of Table Mountain

 

Most of us visited District 6 Museum and some continued onto the city’s central Company’s Garden, both important historical settings for early settlement and political and social transition. Included in our schedule was a fascinating early evening walk through the unique streets of Bo-Kaap with its historic museum and many bright, candy-coloured houses.

 

Candy-coloured houses are the trademark of Bo Kaap

 

This walking tour was conducted by an extremely knowledgeable local guide called Sheree and was a real insight into the everyday life and history of this famous area of the city. This was followed by an enjoyable meal with a local family who now open their home to tourists to let them sample local African food and hospitality.

 

 

We took time out from the group to explore Clifton 3, Cape Town’s best ‘gay beach’, where the boys are cute, the sand is soft and clean and the water of the Atlantic is absolutely freezing. A quick dip is all we could manage to preserve some remnants of our masculine dignity.

 

Clifton 3 is the preferred beach for the local gay crowd.

 

The evenings were entertaining and varied with dinner restaurants like Gold, an African theatre restaurant where the waiters applied tribal paint to guests’ faces, performed traditional dances and songs and served mouthwatering local delicacies.

 

Gold combines thoroughly enjoyable live performances with traditional food for a great cultural immersion.

 

However, the standout for the group was our night at the restaurant and bar called Beefcakes where we were in the draw for Bitchy Bingo. The muscle boys, beef burgers and drag queen/MC, Ms Princess Pop, were just a perfect combination for a thoroughly entertaining and fun evening.

 

You can’t beat a bit of Beefcake.

 

The prize for winning bingo was a ‘lick shot’ off a gorgeous, semi-naked hunk’s torso. Winners are grinners and John from GayMenOnHoliday.com was the winner of the lickin’ good time. It was a luscious evening all round and the bare chested bar boys gave us their most welcome and undivided attention.

 

John sucking it up at Beefcakes.

 

The gay scene is alive and well in Cape Town with several gay bars including Versatile, Crew Bar and Café Manhattan concentrated in and around the De Waterkant area. Versatile was the favourite with our group and locals alike. The bar has a unique feature. On Wednesday to Saturday at around 11pm, patrons are asked to leave and re-enter the bar for ‘bag and tag’ at a cost of 70 Rand.

 

Finishing the night with a few drinks at Crew Bar.

 

Everyone is issued with a garbage bag into which one deposits one’s clothes and the whole bar gets naked. Underwear is allowed for the more modest but we don’t remember seeing many of them. Upstairs has some interesting playrooms, some sizzling video presentations and these nights are highly popular, attracting a very good looking crowd.

 

Primitive art at Versatile Bar.

 

THE WINELANDS

We had three nights in the Winelands of the Western Cape, famed for wineries dating back to the 1600’s and featuring over 200 hundred vineyards, stunning food and gorgeous quaint towns like Franschhoek.

 

 

The first day we visited Fairview Winery . Wow! what an introduction to South Africa’s wine region. Their tasting room was a real treat combining a selection of their best cheeses with their delicious range of wines, all in a stunning setting. We finished with a superb al fresco meal at their Goatshed Restaurant under the shade of the grape vines.

 

Lunch in the vineyards at the Goatshed Restaurant, Fairview Winery.

 

Our accommodation for three nights was just outside Paarl and it gave us the feeling we were nobility as we checked into Cascade Country Manor . This grand mansion was the former residence of the Duke of Bedford. The pool was very popular for lazing in the sun after a hard morning of travel and lunch in the winery.

 

Cascade Country Manor was once the home of the Duke Of Bedford.

 

In the evening a stylish dinner was served on the grand terrace overlooking the sweeping lawns, and we were all suitably impressed with this choice and level of accommodation.

 

Wine Tram, Franschhoek

 

Our second day in the wineries gave us an opportunity to try out the well known Wine Tram and visit two more wineries. Grande Provence, part of  The Huka Retreats Group, is an elegant winery with a magnificent garden, incorporating blue native agapanthus, old shady eucalyptus trees and just a hint of lavender.

 

Some incredible sculptures are scattered throughout the superb gardens of the Grande Provence Winery.

 

In the garden, under the filtered light of the African summer sun, we sampled their variety of wines. A standout for us was the Angel Tears Rosé, accompanied by the freshly shucked oysters. Yes, this was another superb choice for a perfect tasting under the trees.

 

Let’s try this one. Cheers!

 

Smaller family run Eikehof Winery  was another delightful stop. Winemaker Francois Malherbe explained the winery has been operating since the mid nineteenth century. Looking out over the flourishing grapevines created the perfect ambiance while sipping the locally made wines, accompanied by a variety of cheeses and cured meats. Francois’ wines were distinctive and the Merlot was one of the best we sampled in South Africa.

 

The quaint little town of Franschhoek.

 

The third day was full of options, either to do more wine tasting, go on a hike, lie by the pool or visit a lion sanctuary. We chose the latter and made our way to Drakenstein Lion Park . We were just in time for feeding and the lions were active, well looked after and majestic looking creatures.

 

His Majesty, the king of the jungle.

 

We found it very hard to drag ourselves away from the lion sanctuary, especially after learning so much about each of the lion families which had been rescued from cruel, human mistreatment in zoos, circuses and pet prisons. The white lions and their offspring were the true celebrities in this collection. However, we needed to get back to prepare for another enjoyable group dinner on the deck at the Manor, and it was getting close to wine o’clock.

 

Discovering more about the political landscape of South Africa at the prison which held Nelson Mandela before his final freedom was granted.

 

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger was what most people had travelled to South Africa to experience. We flew into Nelspruit Airport from Cape Town via Johannesburg and stayed at the Sabi River Sun Resort a few kilometres outside Kruger National Park.

 

Impala, the snack food of the jungle carnivore crowd.

 

The next morning we were in our Jeep by five am with a pre-packed breakfast for our dawn safari on which we hoped to see the ‘big five’. Our first spotting was the plentiful impalas, medium-sized antelopes described to us as the “goats of the park” and the main food source for the carnivores. They look so innocent and bright eyed in the early morning, lightly grazing on the savannah grasses. We couldn’t help but think of Bambi.

 

 

The giants of Kruger, the African Elephants, were abundant. Even though we had been warned about shouting out, yells of, “Elephant to the right!” were clearly heard when a huge elephant appeared with long curled ivory tusks, giving itself an early morning rub against a tree. The elephant then slowly inched frighteningly closer to our vehicle, making our hearts race, especially when our driver explained it was best to give the elephant his space.

 

 

As we slipped deeper into Kruger National Park, the Zebras, all looking well fed, showed off their black and beige stripes. Grey Wilder Beasts with their shaggy black manes and gigantic, imposing horns roamed aimlessly among the other animals with heads down and tails swatting at flies.

 

 

We were lucky to spot the Cape Buffalo with its massive horns and powerful body, one of the most dangerous animals in the park and capable of killing a lion.

 

 

To our delight a group of elegant giraffes were grazing on high tree top leaves and there were also monkeys, tortoises, sleepy hippos, but alas no leopards nor cheetah. However, we did spot a sleeping lion in some high rocks but unfortunately the only thing we saw move was an outstretched paw which, we learned from our guide, was probably protecting some newborn cubs. Our morning safari was a fabulous experience and well worth the early start.

 

 

The next evening we took a sunset safari in Kruger and saw many more animals including the rare black rhino. The notoriously shy black rhino is an awesome animal in the wild, with a massive horn and powerful body.

 

 

We couldn’t believe it was so near to us and our guide said he hadn’t seen one up so close for a few years. How was that for luck? Everything paled into comparison to this extraordinary and rare experience but we did find a herd of white rhino drinking at the waterhole on our return journey and they were pretty sensational too.

 

 

At sunset the spotlights came out to search for the ‘red eyes’ of the nocturnal hunters, the cats. Although we saw a few owls there were still no big felines to be found. Fortunately, earlier in the day we had visited the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Forest Camp to see lions, cheetah and leopards.

 

 

Up close the lions exude a powerful presence, the agile leopards were more playful and climbed trees, while the cheetah, with their sleek, lean torsos, oozed wild charisma and were ready for action. The wildlife centre has many rescued large birds, African wild dogs, hyena and the famed, ferocious meat-eating honey badger, all fascinating and protected in this natural sanctuary.

 

 

Our Detours adventure ended with a long bus ride back to Johannesburg which took us through some of the most stunning countryside on the planet and gave us an even greater insight into the vast plains of South Africa. We stayed for our final night and farewell dinner together at the Peermont Metcourt Hotel.

 

Nearly time to say good-bye to this delightful group.

 

Inevitably and regrettably, the next day we said our final good-byes and went our separate ways. However, nine guys in our group decided to extend their stay a few days and take the optional Victoria Falls additional package.

 

 

The photos they shared with us looked amazing and their zip-lining adventures and up close engagement with the legendary falls make us wonder why we didn’t include this additional package on our journey. Oh well, something for our next African adventure. Would we do another Detours adventure? Absolutely! We’re already planning our next destination.

 

Nine intrepid travellers take on Victoria Falls.

 

Is Detours a Trip For You?

YES

  • You want to discover South Africa (some well planned structure with options)
  • You’d like to leave the organisation and thinking to others
  • If you’re looking for mild rather than extreme adventure
  • If being with an all gay group appeals
  • You’re interested in scenery, wild animals and socialising.

NO

  • You’re the independent traveller type who prefers your own arrangements
  • You’re looking for an outrageous gay party time
  • You prefer a more intimate and in depth experience
  • If big cities are your thing
  • You’re not really the animal safari type of person

 

Zip-lining near the Falls.

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • It is summer in January and February in South Africa, pack mostly shorts, tee shirts, one pair long pants and one warm pullover. The dress code is very casual.
  • You will need to check visa requirements for your country of origin.
  • You need to consider vaccination requirements.
  • Make sure you pack tropical strength mosquito repellent or malaria medication (or both).
  • The South African Rand is weak against US dollar so most purchases, including meals and drinks, are very reasonable.
  • You will need a special South Africa three point power plug for recharging. We bought ours at the super market across from the Rockwell Hotel.