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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel to Namibia

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel to Namibia

LGBT travel in Namibia

We are sometimes asked "Is Namibia gay-friendly" - or "What's Namibia like for LGBT travellers?" Here we'll explain what we know.

We've been sending travellers to Namibia since 1994 and booked trips for many LGBT travellers in that time. We have never heard of any problems experienced on their travels due to their sexuality, and many have come back to us for regular repeat trips.

This reflects our opinion that the vast majority of people in Namibia are friendly to visitors, irrespective of the gender and sexual orientation of the visitor. So in our experience, LBGT travel here is usually fine and uneventful.

That said, it's important to be aware of both the law and the current climate of opinion. So read on and do please check your government's latest travel advice before you go.

The legal framework for LGBT travellers in Namibia

The precise legal situation varies country-by country across Africa. At one end of the spectrum, South Africa is a beacon: it has enshrined equal treatment of the LGBT community in law, and it also recognises same-sex marriage.

In Namibia, the legal situation is more nuanced. Namibia prohibits some sexual relations between men, according to an old law inherited from the time of South African occupation. We understand that this law has never been enforced by prosecutions. There are no such laws against same-sex relations between women. Even so, we would always advise all of our travellers to tread with caution.

You may read of some strong homophobic statements by Namibia’s first president, Sam Nujoma, when he was in power (from Independence, in 1990, to 2005). Towards the end of his presidency, these became particularly strong. In 2011 Expert Africa was so concerned about this that we made enquiries through unofficial channels. Eventually a private message came through to us from one of Namibia’s highest-ranking civil servants: he said that whilst nobody could stop Sam expressing his views, Namibia’s constitution was well-drafted and very liberal, and the civil servants running the country were not at all likely to actually implement any of Sam’s threats. And none were.

In contrast, some African countries have a very poor record of tolerance. Examples include the Ugandan authorities, who have been vociferously anti-LGBT on occasions; and Zimbabwe's ex-president, Robert Mugabe, who is known for his homophobic rants.

This said, we know of very few occasions where such laws have actually affected travellers. The one that does spring to mind is a single incident when a married, gay couple (not travelling with Expert Africa) with the same surname on their passports were asked what their relationship was. When they answered truthfully, they were refused entry to Tanzania and swiftly deported. So, whilst incidents of LGBT travellers falling foul of the law in Africa do happen, they are exceptionally rare.

Namibian attitudes towards LGBT travellers

Most people in traditional, rural communities across the world have very conservative attitudes, and the people of Namibia are no exception. Many believe that people are born heterosexual, and that other sexual behaviour is somehow learned, or perhaps 'copied' - usually from the West. Often people take the view that 'Africans don't behave like this', despite historical evidence to the contrary.

In such conservative societies, public displays of affection or overtly sexual behaviour between any couples, whether heterosexual or LGBT, are strongly frowned upon. Any indication of an LGBT relationship would certainly be regarded as taboo in such an environment. And while same-sex friends in these areas will often wander around hand-in-hand without a second thought, be aware that such behaviour has no sexual or relationship connotations.

In Namibia's larger towns and cities, including Swakopmund and Windhoek, you'll still find strands of this conservative thinking. But there are also many people here with more liberal views; both cities have seen small Pride marches in recent years.

As a sign of an increasingly more liberal approach amongst the population, in 2011 the Mr Gay Namibia pageant was started. By September 2018, the latest of these events is scheduled to take place in October at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre. Namibia's mainstream paper, "The Namibian", ran a positive piece interviewing 11 of the 12 contestants, and discussing a little about them.

Certainly our team member based in Windhoek comments that in the last five or ten years, there are more openly gay Namibians living in Windhoek, and that the LGBT community is more visible, and more accepted, than it used to be.

In the tourism industry, and especially in Namibia's more remote camps, lodges and hotels, staff have been dealing with a wide range of guests, from different countries and backgrounds, for many years. It's notable that rooms are almost universally configured with double or single beds, as requested, without fuss.

It's exceedingly rare for us to hear of any staff member who isn't relaxed and tolerant in their outlook, even if some retain personal views that are relatively conservative.

We'd advise all our travellers, gay or straight, to avoid overt displays of affection or sexual behaviour, as these could offend people. Other than that, a 'don't ask, don't tell' approach is a good passport to a trouble-free Africa trip for our LGBT travellers.

Further sources of advice for LGBT Travellers

A few of the most obvious sources of advice for LGBT Travellers to Namibia are:

Our top picks for holidays to Namibia

We'll always tailor-make your Town for you. Here are some of our favourites to inspire you.

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Chongololo Self-drive Safari

21 days • 11 locations

This self-drive safari focuses on the best walking experiences in Namibia. Get your boots ready for the apricot dunes of the Namib Desert and the ancient hills of Damaraland.

US$7,470 - US$10,050 per person

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Hartebeest Self-drive Safari

16 days • 8 locations

This self-drive safari focuses on the best cultural experiences in Namibia. Visit a Himba village and enjoy three days living with the San Bushmen interspersed with some excellent wildlife watching.

US$3,570 - US$4,380 per person

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Rock Hare Self-drive Safari

20 days • 12 locations

An in-depth look at Namibia from the Namib Desert to the Caprivi, with additional stops in Botswana and Victoria Falls. This three-week adventure includes an unrivalled mix of environments and is great value.

US$5,280 - US$7,510 per person

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Caracal Self-drive Safari

14 days • 8 locations

The quintessential Namibian self-drive adventure exploring the highlights from Sossusvlei and the Namib Desert to Damaraland’s wilderness and a safari in Etosha. A great mix of accommodation and excellent value.

US$2,740 - US$4,180 per person

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Dune Lark Fly & Drive Safari

14 days • 8 locations

A combination fly-in self-drive exploration of Namibia, with quick, easy and scenic flights in and out of Sossusvlei before a classic road trip adventure of the country’s rugged north.

US$4,780 - US$5,840 per person

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Brown Hyena Self-drive

14 days • 8 locations

The perfect trip for those who want to mix the adventure and freedom of a self-drive with some of our favourite luxury camps in Namibia and a great mix of activities.

US$7,950 - US$10,030 per person

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Quiver Tree Self-drive Safari

14 days • 7 locations

An offbeat Namibian self-drive adventure exploring the epic Fish River Canyon and fascinating Kolmanskop ghost town in the south, before turning north via the classic highlights of Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and Damaraland.

US$2,410 - US$3,330 per person

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Black Wildebeest Self-drive Safari

19 days • 10 locations

Journey from South Africa’s cosmopolitan Cape Town to central Namibia’s Okonjima Nature Reserve during this self-driven safari. The route passes through a stunning variety of landscapes, offering access to this beautiful continent’s rich diversity.

US$3,350 - US$3,850 per person

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Cape Fox Guided Safari

13 days • 7 locations

A classic clockwise circuit around Namibia’s northern highlights with a private guide and vehicle. We can’t think of a better way to see more in this timeframe.

US$8,520 - US$10,850 per person

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Black-faced Impala Guided Safari

13 days • 6 locations

A unique mix of luxury and adventure in our original, and perhaps most varied, destination on a privately guided Namibian overland safari. Perfect for families, friends or couples travelling together.

US$4,950 - US$6,520 per person

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