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Accessible Safaris

Many safari travellers visit both East and Southern Africa but not many have done it confined to a wheelchair. But Tineke Dirks from the Netherlands has, and is happy to prove that it is completely possible.

These are big journeys in any event – international flights, transfers, different accommodations, game drives and local tours – but all Tineke asked for is that they be accessible safaris. People in the same situation as Tineke feel the same: use the term ‘disability’ or ‘wheelchair friendly’ if you want but put the focus on accessibility to the African experience.

Safari activities in the Makgadikgadi

Tineke prepares to watch wildebeest crossing a river during the Masai Mara migration.

It starts with the booking process. A good travel consultant will know what is possible, rather than what is not possible. And there is plenty possible: genuinely accessible safaris are available in Africa’s most exciting travel destinations including Kenya’s Masai Mara, Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Kalahari as well as South Africa’s Cape Town. Modern safari operators use wheelchair-adapted boats and vehicles; their lodges and camps have fully-accessible suites, complete with adapted bathrooms.

A Salt Pan Sleep out

In the Masai Mara, Tineke stayed at Rekero Camp where she could get around fairly easily. And there is always a helping hand if needed.

Tineke knew she needed these safaris tailor-made to her requirements and indeed her expectations. She wanted to see the destinations at their best, for example, but not if that meant heavy rain or baking temperatures. Details matter when booking a trip like this and local knowledge is key: a travel expert can put together the right itinerary for the time of year and deal with any potential issues upfront: Tineke wanted to know, for example, if she could bring along her hand-bike to attach to her wheelchair. Turns out it’s no problem on international flights but it can cause issues on local flights where there is limited space on smaller aeroplanes.

A Salt Pan Sleep out

A lightweight, collapsible wheelchair made things easy from a logistical point of view.

A thorough, detailed booking process got Tineke what she was hoping for. Her Kenyan safari opened in the Masai Mara where she stayed at two different tented camps and enjoyed game drives and local cultural tours, including a visit to a Maasai village. Tineke was happy with the front seat during her game drives but nowadays there are safari vehicles so well designed for wheelchairs that even the pop-up roof is accessible.

Back at camp, she found that staff went out of their way to help her and come up with practical solutions, especially when there was an unforeseen snag. A dedicated caregiver was on hand for all the assistance she needed while preserving her independence, and she felt safe and looked after throughout.

A Salt Pan Sleep out

Tineke watched wildlife from the front seat but other vehicles can accommodate wheelchairs.

She saw a lot of wildlife in the Masai Mara – lions, elephant, hippo and cheetah as well as thousands of wildebeest crossing a crocodile-infested river – and enjoyed star-lit dinners and conversations around the camp fire – the complete safari experience. She wondered if South Africa could provide the same level of accessibility.

Well, it does – and more. On her next trip, Tineke discovered that South Africa is the best destination on the continent for accessible travel. Airports, hotels and the country’s top destinations have all incorporated accessibility into their design and there are dedicated tours for the hearing- and visually-impaired as well as mobility-impaired seniors and of course, travellers in wheelchairs.

A Salt Pan Sleep out

Cape Town’s Big Red Sightseeing Bus is just one of the city’s activities with wheelchair access.

Tineke found she could easily access the entire Cape Town experience, ranging from Robben Island and Kirstenbosch Gardens to Cape Point and the Boulders Beach penguins. Nearly all the museums and galleries in Cape Town are wheelchair-friendly – including the famous Zeitz MOCCA at the V&A Waterfront –and there’s even a special service for wheelchair visitors on the Table Mountain cableway, ensuring everyone who wants a view from the top of the famous mountain can get it.

A Salt Pan Sleep out

The view from Table Mountain was made easy, care of the cable car & priority wheelchair access.

Two successful holidays, thanks to good forward planning and the right operators. And with Botswana now on the map for accessible safaris as well as opportunities in Tanzania and Uganda, it seems that even more of Africa is becoming accessible.

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Reviews

Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

Karina was absolutely instrumental to our safari success.

Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
Very helpful good suggestions for holiday ideas always available for questions good organising

Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

Safari Online understood our needs and was able to present us with sensible options to choose from. It was evident that this tour operator has knowledgable and experienced agents who can arrange a seemless tour. We were provided with a professional online itinary which was comprehensive and easy to use, knew exactely what to expect, and encountered no stumble blocks along the way.

Gwen (AU)
Professional, patient, efficient and responsive. Met all our travel needs and requirements spot on

Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

Neena
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
Safari Online were extremely efficient and absolutely charming to work with.

Our 28-day itinerary took us to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. A magnificent and unforgettable adventure. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently from the flights, transfers, rides, connections, etc. Absolutely wonderful! Can’t thank them enough!

Ann and Mario (Canada)