Safari expert Sherwin Banda shares his vision — and advice — for more inclusive wilderness trips.
Born and raised in Cape Town during apartheid, Sherwin Banda has seen his share of African history. In spite of the difficulties he faced growing up, he found his calling in hospitality: it was his work in hotels around Cape Town that introduced him to people who, much to his surprise, seemed just as interested in his culture as he was in theirs. Since then, Banda’s career has taken him from South Africa to the United Kingdom to Los Angeles, where he’s been president of African Travel, Inc., since 2015. T+L caught up with him as he was planning his next adventure with his husband and their 11-year-old son to learn a bit more about how the safari industry can be more welcoming. “I happen to be a gay man who also happens to be Black and Jewish,” Banda says. “Inclusivity is something that I’m really, really passionate about. It’s very much the lens through which I look at my life.”
Do you find that safari destinations in Africa have done enough to welcome LGBTQ people?
I think we can do better. At African Travel, we require our African partners to complete a sensitivity-training module that accounts for gender bias and pronouns—a lot of things that would be perhaps different from the norm in Africa. At the same time, it’s a fact that Africa is still lagging behind the rest of the world.
What advice would you give to travelers who are hesitant about going to Africa?
The cultural struggles we’re having here in the U.S. are creating sensitivity to this topic. Whenever I travel, I learn something new that impacts me and stays with me for the rest of my life. The people who opt to go, who embrace the travel experience, they’re opening themselves to a meaningful, life-affirming journey.
What are some places you think of as particularly welcoming?
As a destination, South Africa leads the way, particularly for the LGBTQ community: the country legalized gay marriage in 2006. Mozambique decriminalized same-sex relationships in 2015; the Seychelles, 2016. Even in places that still have draconian laws on the books, local communities have started to advocate for change.
A version of this story first appeared in the September 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "A Broader Welcome."
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