Have you ever dreamed about taking an African safari, but put it out of your mind because you just assumed safaris were not wheelchair-accessible? Well, pack your bags and get ready for an adventure, because believe it or not, there are a large number of safari operators who actually specialize in wheelchair-accessible safaris.
Many of these operators have vehicles that you can roll-on to, and luxury tent accommodations with roll-in showers. Some operators specialize in Kenya and Tanzania while others focus entirely on South Africa. Additionally some private reserves even have accessible accommodations and safari vehicles. Prices and itineraries vary, but the good news is, there are many providers to choose from. Here’s a roundup of companies that offer accessible safari options.
Eco-Adventure International is a US-based adventure travel company that works with a number of African safari outfitters to provide accessible safari adventures in South Africa and Tanzania. The safaris are operated in lift-equipped vehicles. Safaris in South Africa feature accommodations ranging from small bungalows to portable safari tents which feature level access and roll-in showers. The lodgings in Tanzania are a bit more rugged, not totally accessible but do-able with assistance for many manual wheelchair-users.
Southern Cross Safaris was established in 1957, however they only recently began providing accessible Kenya safaris. In fact this African-based outfitter modified their existing facilities and vehicles to accommodate a wheeler guest. As a result they now have two ramped safari vehicles and accessible accommodations at their tented safari camp in Tsavo East.
Green Leopard Safaris specializes in accessible Kenya safaris. This local outfitter can provide everything from oxygen and hospital beds to attendant care and medical supplies on their customized safaris. They have two lift-equipped safari vehicles and wheelchair-users can either transfer to a seat or remain in their own wheelchair for game drives. Overnight accommodations are provided in a modified tent camp which features accessible tents with private bathrooms and roll-in showers.
Endeavour Safaris provides accessible safaris in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa. Game drives are conducted in a ramped Toyota Landcruiser. Wheelchair-users can stay in their own wheelchair or transfer to a vehicle seat. Overnight accommodations are provided in accessible tents with ensuite bathrooms (toilets). The tents have level access, plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair and wheelchair-height beds. Overnight accommodations are also available at hotels and lodges, but the tent camp is the most accessible option. Attendant care services are also available.
Epic Enabled provides accessible safaris in South Africa in their lift-equipped Mercedes Benz overland truck. Group participation is encouraged (meaning that everyone lends a hand with camp chores) and as a result Epic Enabled passes on the cost savings to their customers. A combination of tented camps, cottages and bungalows are used while on safari, all of which are accessible.
Flamingo Tours offers a variety of accessible South African tours to the Western Cape, Namaqualand, the Garden Route and Kruger National Park. Their customized safari tours feature accessible accommodations in hotels, lodges and private game reserves. They can also arrange for medical equipment rental while on safari.
And last but not least, there’s Mala Mala Game Reserve, a private game reserve which shares a common border with Kruger National Park. Overnight accommodations are available in an accessible suite complete with ramps, wide doorways, wheelchair-height furniture and a bathroom with a roll-in shower. Game drives are conducted in open 4-wheel drive vehicles. Wheelchair-users can either transfer to the front seat or remain in their own wheelchair in the back of the vehicle. The accessible facilities at Mala Mala Game Reserve were designed with the assistance of the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa.
A recognized expert on accessible travel, Candy is the editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of Barrier-Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She also shares insights, information and industry updates about accessible travel on her Barrier Free Travels blog. Candy can be contacted at Candy at EmergingHorizons dot com.