African Safaris for the Disabled and People with special needs

When we talk about a safari in Africa what crosses many people’s minds has to tick a number of items off their ‘to-do’ things on their adventure buck list. It seems to be something that can only be done by able bodied people interested in outdoor adventure. Well, this is not true!! I am glad to inform you that across Africa, safaris to explore the various adventure sites and wildlife parks or reserves for people with mobility challenges or the disabled have become very popular. In case you are a holidaymaker with special needs, or traveling with a family member, friend or spouse with special needs, there are a couple of issues you should put into consideration as you plan your safari.

disabled safari

These include:

Assessing the Special Needs

One thing you should have at the back of your mind is that different disabled people as well as those with special needs have different needs. Therefore each such person should be handled uniquely with special attention on their accommodation, travel plans and type of safari. Persons with mobility challenges will not have similar requirements as those who are visually impaired or deaf. Today several tour operators across the African continent organize trips to different destinations for special need people and the disabled, and they tailored then so that they can be satisfactory to the guests.

Dealing with someone with mobility challenges and related disabilities

Also holidaymakers with mobility challenges as well as those with similar disabilities, worry not for there are several tour operators who have mastered and acquired the experience of organizing trips for you as well, irrespective of whether you are confined in a permanent power wheel chair, or using a manual wheel chair, or a walker or a walking stick. during your safari,, you will be availed with an easy to access safari vehicle and in fact a number of safari vehicles used today come with hydraulic lifts that are very helpful not only to those in wheel chairs but also people with mobility challenges. Furthermore a number of safari vehicles offered by tour operators have a locking system for wheel chairs which enables holidaymakers using wheel chairs to remain in their chair other than transferring to the car seat. Some operators go an extra mile of offering powered wheel chair, commodes (in case need arises) and personal caretakers for holidaymakers with more particular medical needs.

When it comes to people who have extreme mobility issues, we highly advise that you pay special attention to your needs in terms of sleeping, hygiene and sitting. One of the biggest challenges that special need persons face when they travel is bathing, and not all safari accommodations especially within the national parks and game reserves have bathrooms that can be accessed by someone in a wheel chair, so we recommend that you be flexible. I know adjusting from the modern western facilities to the African ones may seem rather primitive, however for you to best enjoy your adventure, be opening minded. The options that may be availed for you could be a bucket or bed bath, therefore, it’s better to always travel with someone you feel comfortable to assist you. There are also guests who have pressure wound. in such instances we advice that you pay special attention on the quality of bedding you are provided with at your accommodation; some offer inflatable mattresses while others offer cushion mattresses.

Dealing with persons with visual impairment

Because an ordinary African safari is mainly visual oriented; persons with visual impairment will certainly need special attention. While operators are catering to persons with such disability, they usually focus on using the person’s other senses to reconstruct features of the experience that the person would have missed – in fact such safaris are very different from the ordinary safaris. The tour operators try to interpret the entire experience as precisely as possible through using detailed accounts to paint a representation of the surrounding the holidaymaker is in especially when it comes to exploring the wildlife sanctuaries. During such specialized tours, the holidaymakers are offered an opportunity to step out of the safari vehicle to touch and smell some things as a way of enhancing their experience out in the wild. However this is only done in areas where it’s safe to get out of the car. Amazingly some people conclude that the visually impaired get a more holistic experience of the
African wilderness compared to those without that defect

Can I use a guide Dog in the game parks?

Well according to the enacted rules and regulations governing the pack, it is not allowed to bring any pet it be guide dogs in the park. This is so to avoid spread of diseases between people and the animals in the park. These animals normally act as a huge danger attracting various predators and more to that a number of tourists are not comfortable with subjecting their pets to the long fights down to Africa.

Deal with persons who are deaf

Another common yet important category we have to look at is the deaf persons and those with related hearing disabilities. Although a tour operator can organize for you to get a sign language interpreter, this comes at a very high cost considering the fact that such services are not easily available. I recommend that unless you are traveling alone, use a friend or family member who is part of the traveling team to cut down on the cost of acquiring a local interpreter.

How about accommodation, is there special accommodation available in Africa?

I advise anyone with any special needs that may require any kind of unique accommodation facilities to inform their tour agent or tour operator earlier to enable them make all the necessary arrangement. Different accommodation facilities can organize special accommodation where need be. Even in instances where one would require an oxygen tank by their bed side, or someone undertaking kidney dialysis, special arrangements can be made with prior communication with your tour operator.

Can I get in-country assistance or a local guide in Africa?

Yes, many holidaymakers irrespective of whether they are disabled or not need some kind of in-country help or assistance whether on holiday alone or with someone having special needs as a family member or friend. It is of great importance to have a local person to assist you with making arrangement for in-country travel as well as other technical issues and in case you are traveling to a country where English or your language is not commonly spoken, then this local guide will actually serve as your translator. This part of your trip should be well coordinated prior to your date of travel; at times there could be a number of shortcoming such as not knowing so much about your guide. so it is relevant that you keep in constant communication for a long time with your guide so that you can have an idea of what to expect from them. Nonetheless, is you use a tour operator, they will coordinate a gouud guide for you to lead you on your safari – these types of guides are very professional, reliable and have good experience. Fortunately the cost of hiring a guide is actually very cheap so it would be a better option considering that this cost will be included in the safari cost the tour operator will give you

Inform all your handlers your special needs

Another important thing is to ensure that whoever you will work with on your safari is aware of your special needs beginning from the airline to the safari handler (tour operator). This is very important especially for travelers with impaired mobility especially while using international connecting flights. Definitely you will want to bring along all the equipment you will require while on your safari among which could be wheel chair tools, medical supplies for persons using catheters; with prior information this will ease procedures especially while at airports and other boarder points. Ensure that all medication is well labeled with your name and all accompanying relevant information plus a copy of your prescription. It is also a good idea to carry them in your smaller language so that in-case your luggage is misplaced, your medication is safe with you.

During the course of organizing your safari, get time and properly evaluate your individual health needs, think about the concerned that are common among most disabled travelers going to foreign countries such as airport transfers with wheelchair accessibility, accommodation and vehicle convenience. Always look into availability of professional personnel to handle your special needs or those of your friend or family member. Do not forget to get as much information as possible about every place of interest you would love to visit on you Africa safari especially easy of accessibility.

The Safari Experience for a disabled person or one with special needs

Considering that you now have an idea of what to expect on safari in Africa for a disabled holidaymaker is, now the next question to think about is ‘What is the actual safari experience like’? Irrespective of the cost of your safari, or the type of traveler you may be, majority of the safaris follow a comparable set-up so as to maximize the experience of each holidaymaker.

Day one of the Safari

Normally, the first day of your safari involves traveling to the national park or game reserve you will be exploring first.  it may also involve the safari guide who in most cases doubles as your driver briefing you about what you will be doing and what to expect in the coming days of your expedition, and on arrival majority of the travelers prefer a relaxed evening and good night’s rest as they prepare to begin the adventure the following day.

the type of accommodation you will use, along with the meals you will have will depend on your preference, however if you are traveling with a tour operator or sleeping at the accommodation facilities provided by the park, you will have three (3) meals each day. Always keep in mind that there are a number of accommodations (especially those in the parks / reserves) that offer a limit on the time when everyone should be in their accommodation – some sort of curfew. in case that is the case where you will be lodging, we advise that you effectively respect it because there are normally reasons for this – some of these facilities run on generator which is not only costly but also works against the ‘go-green’ experience preferred by most holidaymakers.

The following days of the safari

In case there is a specific time for ‘lights out’, we advise that you complete most of your night’s routine before hand, and this is very important for persons with special needs or the disabled to remember. Furthermore, because the animals in part freely move, and a number of them are active at night, the curfew may work as a safety precaution. In fact, there are some accommodations where animals have been known to sleep on the verandahs of the cabins or cottages.

The following days of your safari will begin quite early basing on your itinerary. the majority of them include early morning drives that begin at around 6:00am to 6:30am which may require you to be u pretty early and prepare appropriately based on your needs. Breakfast will be served usually before the early game drive, whereas lunch will be served later on. the game drives are this early because at that is the best time to since the various animals since they are very active in the early morning, while the temperatures are conducive as well before the hot  African sun heats up the ground. You will have lunch and in the afternoon head out for another game drive which may go towards sunset. The game drives are arranged this way to avoid being out there during the peak hot hours. Most parks and reserves require that all game drives end before sunset.

What is described above assumes when you are exploring just on park, however, some itineraries will take you to several destinations. So you will begin with a morning game drive, and in the afternoon after lunch transfer to another destination. It is also very possible to enjoy a game drive on your way to the next destination you will be exploring.

The final day of the safari

Generally, this begins with a nice breakfast, and depending on your itinerary, you may have a final game drive in the morning, or a boat ride, or simply begin the journey back to the airport for your outbound flight. There will be an option of dropping you off at any hotel of your preference as well considering that it is close to the safari ending point.

How to Choose your Safari Accommodation

An important aspect while planning your safari to a foreign country is choosing the accommodation you will be staying. Each and every holidaymaker has their own expectations and desires it for that reason that you look for something that will be able to carter to all your requirements and needs with easy accessibility being one of the key factors. When we talk about accommodation in Africa, there are so many options offer. These include staying in a cottage, or a bungalow constructed lodge or a tented camp, hotels and even dormitories – they vary depending on the super luxury facilities, mid-range priced facilities as well as the budget facilities; there is also ‘fly; as one of the high-end options which will involve you flying from one accommodation to another. Sometimes, you might which for a rustic African experience; however as a disabled person or one with special needs, it’s fundamental that you recognize that you will be limited in one way or the other, so the top two priorities you should consider when choosing accommodation is accessibility –easy movement of the wheel chair, and the height of the bed. Please comprehensively make inquiries about these two aspects. You can even go ahead and call the accommodation management – fortunately most of them have websites with clear contact information.

Can I charge electronic equipment like power wheel chairs on an Africa Safari?

Yes you can. For those of you using power chairs as well as well as electronic medical gadgets, you will get an opportunity to charge the batteries since most of the accommodation facilities run on generators, however we advise you to carry along a voltage adaptor or plug compatible to the equipment to be charged. You can inquire through your tour operator the electric voltages as well as the nature of adaptors commonly used in the destination you will be traveling to.

Are there special washroom facilities for disabled holidaymakers?

Well, for most disabled travelers, this is another major aspect that should be looked at as it can make or ruin your safari experience. In case you opt to go camping in Africa, expect a bucket shower and a chemical toilet as the bathroom options; however these should be available in your tent such that you do not have to go out in the dark night. The safari lodges on the other hand normally have the customary amenities such as a flash toilet and an overhead shower with running hot and cold water. with an increase in disabled persons’ safaris across the African continent, many hotels and lodges have tailor a number of their suits or cottage to ease the mobility and usage of their facilities by disabled persons especially in the bathroom. So simply make a comprehensive online search and inquire through your tour operator to get these facilities.

Travel tip for your equipment while on Safari

Basing on ones special needs or disability, the list of equipment you will require on your safari will greatly vary. Please bring only equipment that you will be comfortable to use and that are familiar to you. In case you are going to use equipment that your tour operator or you accommodation will provide, please take and properly inspect the m and don’t just rely on the info they provide on their websites.

Other useful things to bring on your safari for disabled travelers

Travel Pouch:   this pup-pouch has been designed for travelers with disabilities. it comes with largesse easy to access compartments with zippers where you can keep you passports, other useful documents and money.

Portable handle: this will help you stand and sit. Please don’t forget to inquire with your accommodation if these handles can attach well on the wall surfaces at the lodge.

Portable wheel chair: in case you will not be taking your wheel chair to your travel destination, you can acquire a portable wheel chair. These are readily available although they come with a limitation of weight – (maximum weight of 250 pounds).  These can be transported in a bag over the shoulders and weigh less than your actual everyday wheel chair.

Portable waterproof showering chair: these chairs are use when showering and making use of other bathroom facilities.  Because most of the bathroom facilities offered while on safari is primeval, it may be challenging to use them the way they are. So having a portable chair will offer you a more comfortable experience as you use the bathroom and the showers on your safari. These come in different designs to take time and check through the various websites and get a design that will be comfortable and easy to use.

Local and International Support for travelers with special needs and disabled

When traveling to a foreign country it is good practice to know your rights as well as what is expected of you there. You have to respect and adhere to the accepted behavioral and cultural standards in the country as well as the governing laws. In case you need external assistance, your lifeline will be the embassy or consulate of your home country which in certain instances may not be in position to help. Ensure that before you traveling you have searched about the location of your country’s embassy / consulate, have it written in a number of places and have numerous copies of your passport kept in different parts of your luggage and with you. In instances that you misplace it, this photocopy will enable you get an emergency-passport from your consulate. also copies of boarding passes should be made before beginning your safari.

this should not discourage in any anyway however it is important that you keep in mind that in most developing countries except may be in south Africa (where a little help may be rendered) you will not get as much assistance from the embassy. So the best protection you can offer yourself is doing as much research about your destination as you can. Also always use tour operators who have a good reputation, nice reviews and good online presence. There are also tour companies in your home countries which operate or have travel agents in the destinations you are going to. These can inform the embassy / consulate of your home country and can easily link back to your people back home in case need arises.  Nonetheless, in-country tour operator may similarly offer repatriation back to the country you are coming from. There are also several Non-governmental organizations that may offer assistance to travelers abroad but you will need to search for them. Therefore, we recommend that you make a personal comprehensive search on the destination you will be visiting regarding health, culture, food, people and safety.