by Last updated: 8:00 PM ET, Mon January 1, 2024
Much of Africa is off the radar for LGBTQ travelers, as so much of the continent is outwardly hostile to the community. But one of the African countries with legal protections for queer travelers is The Seychelles, an island nation off the continent’s east coast. A four-hour flight south from Dubai gets you to Victoria on the island of Male, where my husband and I started our tour of the archipelago.
We relied on Mason’s Travel, a complete tour company that arranges everything from transportation to guided tours to pick us up from the airport and deliver us to our cruise ship. They also booked us in the stunning Eden Bleu Hotel for our last night on the islands before returning home. When arriving, our driver kindly drove us up to a harbor and city overlook, as we had plenty of time to spare. This was our introduction to the constant parade of unforgettable views of colorful waters, as well as hospitable locals who were all genuinely welcoming.
Our home for the next week was the Pegasos, a ship that can accommodate 44 passengers along with 18 crew members. We had a roomy and comfortable cabin with a king bed on the bow end of the second deck. The ship has a lovely dining room, large sitting area, two bars (including one on the top deck), and even a small area on the bottommost deck for massages and spa treatments.
The experience felt almost akin to renting our own yacht with a bunch of friends; each day, we’d rise for a casual buffet breakfast with the others. Then it was off to a short excursion on a nearby island. We’d either have a BBQ lunch on the beach or return for lunch al fresco on the boat. Then it was usually a short afternoon adventure—swimming off the back of the boat or tendering into a stunning beach for a few hours of relaxing or snorkeling in the blue-green waters.
The tropical paradise of Cote D’Or beach, Seychelles. (Photo Credit: Paul J. Heney)
We had a mix of queer and straight travelers on our sailing, and the cruise line is known for being supportive of the LGBTQ community. This Seychelles cruise was a soft launch of sorts for the line’s planned series of LGBTQ themed cruises. Constantine Venetopoulos, an out gay man and part of the current generation of Variety’s family leadership, intends to organize a 2024 LGBTQ cruise (he prefers the cheeky “straight-friendly” description) in French Polynesia, another stronghold for the company. Eventually, he hopes that Variety will offer an annual LGBTQ cruise for every one of the in each of the company’s destinations, such as Greece, the Cape Verde Islands, and Egypt.
“What was interesting for me is that with this ‘straight friendly’ version, we had a lot of passengers who were excited to join—for example, older ladies from England, who when they found out it was a gay cruise, they still wanted to join. I think that’s a very exciting way for a cruise company to operate and merge people and create this. For me, it’ about the people on the boat, the community you build,” said Venetopoulos.
The author’s husband lounges on Cote D’Or beach in Praslin. (Photo Credit: Paul J. Heney)
Ángelo Louise Rios, one of the travelers on our cruise, came from New York City with his partner. He said it was important for them to choose an LGBTQ friendly cruise and cruise line.
“I think for queer people in general, there’s not always safe spaces that we feel comfortable traveling around in—especially in different parts of the world. There are countries that we don’t dare go to. We have certain spaces that we dare not go to, for fear of not being accepted, or for fear of prosecution for being queer. It’s important to have those spaces where we feel safe and we feel free to be ourselves, and to be able to hold hands with our partners and to kiss our partners in public,” said Rios. “Variety does a lot to support the LGBTQ community. When you’re choosing a company to travel with, we all should be willing to support companies that support us and our communities.”
The Seychelles is unique in being the only mid-oceanic granitic island group on Earth. Instead of being comprised of coral or having been created by past volcanic activity, these 115 or so islands are remnants of a past supercontinent. The spectacular granite formations all over the islands, as well as along the picture postcard beaches, make this a truly unique destination. Here were a few of our favorite stops:
La Digue was my favorite island of all of our stops, and it left me with a distinct South Pacific vibe. Bicycles here seem more prevalent than cars and the beaches are known as some of the world’s loveliest. After touring a coconut factory and visiting an old Creole home that’s been lovingly maintained, we spent a few hours at Anse Source d’Argent, a beach that seemed too beautiful to be real. In addition to the before-mentioned granite formations, you could walk out for what seemed like a mile before the water was more than waist high.
At Curieuse giant tortoises, we visited and interacted with the 250 or so that live on this sanctuary, part of the country’s Marine Park. We also hiked over the top of the island to a beach on the far side, where we enjoyed a lovely swim, beachside lunch, and an incredible beach yoga class run by master instructor @elykmada876 (one of our fellow passengers, who kindly volunteered!) before tendering back to the ship.
The author and his husband at Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue island, Seychelles. (Photo Credit: Paul J. Heney)
Praslin boasts an impressive world heritage site in the ValleeDe Mai Nature Reserve, home of the legendary coco de mer, the world’s largest seed. It’s the nut of one of the local palm trees, and it is famed for very much looking like a woman’s buttocks on one side and thighs/belly on the other. (We thought the locals were exaggerating until we saw several for ourselves!) Here, too, we got our beach time, this day at the Cote D’Or beach, another one with incredible soft sand, calm waters, and insanely colored waters that have remained in our dreams ever since.
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