Have you ever felt that an African safari is something you wouldn't ever be able to experience due to your own physical limitations? A trip to Africa, complete with a full safari experience, tops the bucket lists of many people; yet for those who have physical challenges, that dream can seem out of reach.
Often a safari is portrayed as a very active endeavor, but the truth is that there are many styles of safari and not all safaris have a high physical demand. Many companies now exist that cater to the special needs market and focus specifically on making a safari possible for those who are not able-bodied. These companies sell safaris that are tailored to the special needs traveler such as the mobility challenged but also for those with vision and hearing disabilities and other health issues. An advantage of booking through a tour operator is that you will have in-county support and assistance should anything not go as expected.
Special safari vehicles are equipped with hydraulic lifts and locking systems to easily deal with chair transport and assist anyone with mobility issues. Accomodations are also made for accessible hotel rooms and bathrooms while on safari. Lodging options vary from tented camping to remote rustic lodges to modern bush hotels. When making your choice in where to lodge, ask questions that will help you be sure your needs are covered- how high are the beds, is there power through the night (tented camps may have generators only during the day hours), what are the bathrooms like?
Because not everyone's needs are the same, it is important that you are clear at all times about what you require for your disability and comfort. While your tour operator will convey the information to ground suppliers, always assume you may need to further explain your issues to all personnel you encounter.
Bring any equipment and supplies along and do not expect them to be available in Africa. Be aware that medical services may not be nearby in Africa and may not be to the level that they are at home. If you do require a certain proximity to medical services, this is something to discuss with the tour operator when making your plans so they can take that into account in setting up your arrangements. Always being the right electrical adapaters for any neccesary equipment. Bring copies of your prescriptions and any special instructions from your doctor. Always pack medications and necessary supplies in your carryon bag and not your checked luggage. Be aware that not everything operates on Western schedules in Africa and carry what you need on your person.
Days on safari start and end early. You'll want to be up for the dawn game drive after which there will be a hearty meal and an afternoon rest period. Evening will bring another game drive, and it's usually 'lights out' as soon as it's fully dark. Being prepared for this schedule can assist you in both your enjoyment of the safari experience as well as your comfort.
There are many additional resources on the the internet that relate to African travel and safaris for disabled travellers:
Able Travel - http://www.able-travel.com/index.php Able Travel has specific information for Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, as well as general disabled travel tips and first-hand accounts from those who have gone on safaris as disabled travelers.
Disabled World – African Safari Travel Tips http://www.disabled-world.com/travel/africa/african-safari-tips.php This site contains general travel tips as well as traveller stories and a list of tour operators.
East Africa Shuttles – Kenya Wildlife Wheelchair Safari http://www.eastafricashuttles.com/kenyasafaridisabled/handicappedsafaris.htm Here you can find a sample African safari itinerary and description of accommodations.
Emerging Horizons. http://emerginghorizons.com/ This site features travel tips relating to accessibility around the world.
Endeavor Safaris. http://www.endeavour-safaris.com/safari-bus.html Endeavor Safaris is a leader in disabled safaris for many types of special needs.
Gimp on the Go. http://www.gimponthego.com/index.htm Gimp on the Go is disabled travel publication and forum.
Mobility International USA. http://www.miusa.org/ncde/tipsheets/powerchairs This is a guide for all things electrical for international travel.
Victoria Safaris – Disability Tours. http://www.victoriasafaris.com/africa/disabilitytours.htm This site includes general information and links to their own tours.
World on Wheelz. http://worldonwheelz.com/ World on Wheelz has both group and independent travel options. Find sample itineraries here for Africa and beyond.