Few countries in the world have experienced a greater turnaround when it comes to attitudes toward and rights granted to gays and lesbians than South Africa, which has shifted from institutionally homophobic to remarkably tolerant and progressive over the past two decades. Not surprisingly, the changes came with the end of Apartheid government, as the nation became the first in the world in 1996 to expressly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the national constitution. The country became the first in Africa to legalize gay marriage in 2006.
To be sure, gays and lesbians are still often subject to negative attitudes, if outright hostility, in many rural parts of the country (such is the case in much of the world), but in larger cities, you'll encounter active and highly visible gay scenes. The picturesque, vibrant city of Cape Town (population 2.5 million), at the nation's southern tip, is generally regarded as the epicenter of gay culture in South Africa. The city abounds with gay-popular accommodations, restaurants, and bars, and in neighborhoods like De Waterkant and Green Point, you'll encounter especially dynamic gay scenes. Cape Town also celebrates one of the biggest and most exciting gay pride events in the Southern Hemisphere - Pride Cape Town takes place over about 10 days in late February and early March. The dates of Cape Town Gay Pride this year are February 22 through March 2, 2013.
Cape Town Pride comprises a variety of cultural and arts events, parties, and other gatherings - typical fare includes film screenings, relationship workshops, pool parties, a Mr. and Mrs. Pride Cape Town Pride pageant, an interfaith service, a beach picnic, a book fair, discussions led by the Institute for Humanities in Africa, a "pink ball," a Pride hike, and more.
The main event at Cape Town Pride is the Pride Parade, which takes place on the final Saturday of the festival. It typically begins at 11 am and commences by Cape Town Stadium before continuing along Beach Road, passing along Sea Point's Main Road, and ending back at the stadium for a large celebration featuring a number of music acts and performers.
Of course, additionally, numerous gay bars as well as gay-popular restaurants, hotels, and shops have special events and parties throughout the week. Check local gay papers and websites, such as Exit, the Pink Tongue, GayCapeTown4U.com, and Capetown.TV - the Western Cape Gay Portal, for details. Also take a look at the excellent travel site produced by the city's official tourism organization, Cape Town Tourism, on which you'll find a number of resources and stories about the local gay scene. Also helpful if you're planning travel throughout the country is the South Africa Tourism official web page, which has loads of great information on the entire country.