Taking a disability on safari

by Neil Raffan
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Boehm's bee-eater, Kasanka, Zambia
Boehm's bee-eater, Kasanka, Zambia
  • Physical limitations do not mean African safaris cannot be enjoyed to their fullest.
  • Know your restrictions and ask for assistance when needed.
  • A small stool can help with getting into and out of vehicles.
  • Ask for rooms near the main lodge and make note of any rough terrain between your room and the main area.

An African safari for those with limitations

This is a huge subject. Not meant to be as an inane opener as it reads. To my mind not aided by internet shopping.  In the old days, note not necessarily good old days, you and your travel agent met across a desk…but even then had they actually experienced the sort of safari holiday you were after first hand

Introductions. I am Neil Andrews. Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita is my condition…disability.  Sixty-one years old with a lot of attitude, most of it good, with a smile. And a naughty sense of humour. Had to be British with the word naughty and the erroneous u!

It was 1996 when I went on my first African safari holiday and have been back at least once every year since, with two already booked for 2016.  If you are mobile, that is can generally move without or with limited assistance, and neither visually nor orally impaired then, from my personal experience, your disability is of marginal consideration for a traditional ‘bum on seat’ safari.

Vehicle seating on safari

The toughest element of the day will be climbing aboard and disembarking the safari vehicle.  If a 4x4 the camp will often have steps as well as personnel on hand to help you.  Brilliant.  Except at one camp where the last row of seats of the vehicle was particularly high off the ground the steps did not travel with us, so therefore descending for pit stops/sundowners was not so easy…Kasanka in Zambia a case in point…and I had my sundowner on board.

Boarding and disembarking boats and mokoros (i.e. canoes) can be challenging for, apart from perhaps simply wishing to keep one’s feet dry, the stepping in to the vessel may not be that easy. Experience has taught me to ask for assistance and explain what the issue or level of disability restricts you from doing.

Know where your cabin/tent/room is in relation to the main building

Not all safari camp sites are on the flat therefore on of the keys things is to ensure that your agent has requested that your tent/room/chalet is the nearest to the boma/main building … if that means the shortest distance on the flat (not always the case). In daylight ensure that you know of small rises, rough edges that even with a torch may not be so visible after dark.

Hopefully those of us with a disability have extra common sense. Hopefully.

Next time – how do you and your internet agent judge your physical capabilities?

Have your own recommendations / tips for travelers? Please emails us!

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