When you think of "Gay Travel" certainly gay cruises, circuit parties, or clothing-optional guesthouses come to mind. But what about the ancient city of Varanasi? The Zambezi or Victoria Falls in the heart of Africa? Or a spiritual retreat high in the mountains of Tibet? Newly launched Wilde Travels is set out to change that – and offer a 10 percent savings to first-time customers through August 31, 2012.
Following the Miami-based company's soft-launch in April, owner Jacob Marek – a former marketing manager for the Kenya Tourist board and a Patagonian tour company – officially pressed the "Go" button on the luxury tour operations with an emphasis on gay and gay-friendly guides, boutique accommodations, and above all customization. No gay group tours here (for now).
- 15-day Search for Enlightenment in China and Tibet features stops in Beijing, Lhasa, Shanghai, and Chengdu (baby pandas!), with options for river raft and bike excursions. $5,900 per person based on double occupancy; note the Chinese government restricts groups to five or more.
- 13-day South Africa's Best hits up Johannesburg, hikes and safaris in two private game/nature reserves (Shamwari and Grootbos), resort time in Knysna, winery visits, and plenty of cosmopolitan Cape Town time. $6,400 per person based on double occupancy, $8,865 for singles.
- 15-day India's Southern Secrets explores the softer side of the sub-continent (plus some palaces) with backwater tours from Cochin in Kerala, tea plantation hill stations of Coonoor, luxe train rides, and time exploring the French colonial splendor of Pondicherry – sometimes on an elephant. $2,750 per person for double occupancy, $4,785 for singles.
All tours include VIP escorts and amenities, full escorts, and private transfers. Flights, international and domestic in destination, are extra.
The goal, Marek says, is to "bring the world to GLBT travelers in a safe, accepting, and authentic way," noting his company's emphasis on gay or gay-friendly guides as one example. Rooting out safe, luxurious spaces is another. "Above all, our hotel partners and tour guides must instill a sense of pride in what they do and, most importantly, create an environment for our guests to be proud to be themselves."
And yes, the entire shebang is inspired by the joie de vivre of Oscar Wilde. What was that he said about resisting temptation?