Exploring Africa for the Less Able-Bodied

When we contemplate a safari, our minds usually drift to a  khaki-clad, David Attenborough-esque figure marching across rugged plains in a far from what one might call accessible safaris.

For more senior guests or those with physical challenges, this image can be wholly dissuading, making the notion of an African safari far from an attainable exploit. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

While trekking the slopes of Volcanoes National Park to visit its resident gorilla or summiting the imposing terracotta dunes of Namibia may not be an option, there are many accessible safaris and less taxing adventures that are achievable for travellers of all capabilities.

As is the Rothschild way, we endeavour to cater to all necessities. From dietary requirements to wheelchair access, we ensure that every need is taken care of, and this extends to those who might find mobility a little more troublesome. From our first communication, we will learn all we can of our clients, including their needs for a more accessible safari. 

Accessible Safari

If a more senior client is unable to walk very far, we will arrange venues that don’t require extensive hikes, where everything is within reach and game drive transportation is readily available. If a guest requires a wheelchair, this will be factored into every stage of their itinerary, from airport assistance and a transfer car with plenty of trunk space to lodges, villas and camps with convenient, level walkways that provide passage to every location within the property. Rooms and villas will be booked closer to communal areas, including swimming pools and dining lodges, and we will ensure that vehicles are adequately equipped for easy access and comfortable journeys across the grasslands. Selected camps even allow for wheelchair users by removing seats from vehicles, avoiding those awkward transfers from wheelchair to elevated car seat and back again.

With personal knowledge of each of our partner venues, we have carefully assessed their appropriateness for a diversity of clients. We know which destinations are best suited to a more accessible safari, which ones may be challenging… and which have too many stairs!

While some venues can be adapted to accommodate those with certain physical requirements, many are already exceptionally well equipped to host a wide variety of guests. Here are some of our favourite lodges, camps and destinations to offer you an accessible safari, no matter your circumstances.

Lewa Conservancy, Kenya

Set in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lewa Conservancy, Lewa House offers luxurious modern comfort in a traditionally-inspired setting. The property resides on a single even level, all properties only one floor and each with expansive private verandas from which to enjoy the impeccable views. Clustered around the central lodge, each cottage is wonderfully private yet always within easy reach of the venue’s many facilities.

Accessible Safari
Easily accessible yet wonderfully intimate. Private cottage, Lewa House.

Bringing the safari to you, Lewa House has a spectacular outlook, with wildlife viewable from each verandah. But for more immersive, yet completely accessible safaris, a fleet of four-wheel drives and even a helicopter are available to whisk you off into the wilderness easily and comfortably.

The Maasai Mara, Kenya

One of the continent’s most frequented destinations, it might come as no surprise that it offers accessible safaris, but these are also often busy and marred by crowds and tour buses. Accessible, yes; enjoyable, not so much.

The Maasai Mara the Rothschild way is no less accessible, but far more wonderfully private. Taking you within the Mara Triangle – a southwestern region managed by the Mara Conservancy – we will provide you with swift access to the reserve’s many spectacles, including the plains, the Big 5 and the dynamic Mara river crossing of the Great Migration.

Accessible Safari
Plenty of space & verandah areas at Governor’s Il Moran Camp.

Providing the quintessential African safari camp atmosphere, Il Moran and Rekero camps make a tented safari experience completely achievable, the few trails through the camp are both brief and well maintained, providing easy access to your private tented lodgings and the dining tent. So even if your desire is to evoke the spirit of early colonial adventurers, these venues can more than adequately accommodate all your needs.

Accessible Safari

The Serengeti, Tanzania

The Serengeti is vast, covering some 5,700 square miles (14,765 km²) of rugged terrain. Its expanse will often mean long walks and drives, and a landscape that is far from ideal for wheelchairs and other mobility assistance.

Yet as with much of Africa, it isn’t where you go, but how you go there that matters. We specifically select tented safari camps to suit our clients’ needs and means. As with the Maasai Mara, we will choose camps close to the exciting river crossings of the Great Migration, or venues that immerse you as much the seclusion of the wilderness as possible while preserving the convenience of an accessible safari.

Accessible safaris

These mobile camps are also smaller in size, reducing the area you will need to move between your private tent, the game vehicles and camp facilities.

Moreover, there is always plenty of staff on hand, so as much as your independence is paramount, should the need for assistance arise, it is never far from hand.

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

Indicative of the camps available throughout Tanzania is Swala Camp. A wonderfully luxurious contemporary camp, its crisp white sails of canvas evoke a more colonial era, while furnishings are modern Bohemian with iconically African inspiration.

Polished hardwood flooring throughout creates a stable, even surface for unsteady feet and avoids the rucks of fabric and the irregularities of a more natural floor, the bane of the wheeled traveller.

This is not limited to your private tent, with large verandahs, dining areas and the expansive communal fire pit terrace all providing direct and easy access for the less able-bodied guest.

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Communal verandahs overlooking pure wilderness | Swala Camp

One of the wonderful benefits of Swala camp is its more social nature. The private tents are intimately secluded, and yet the facilities afford guests of all abilities the space and opportunity to come together, discuss their day’s adventures and socialise over sundowners. Needless to say, if privacy is your chief desire, then this too can be adequately achieved.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater is a spectacular Garden of Eden and home to a wealth of wildlife, including the endangered black rhino and black-maned lion. The extinct volcano caldera forms a natural protective barrier, and the UNESCO World Heritage site provides the perfect sanctuary. With tourist numbers limited, it rarely becomes crowded, and smaller conservancies and properties within the reserve create even more exclusivity.

With so much nature contained within the crater, you have Africa’s greatest attractions right on your doorstep at Plantation Lodge.

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Colonial-style luxury and convenience at Plantation Lodge

The colonial-style homestead is ideal for those seeking greater comfort and a more established accommodation without foregoing the joys of an African adventure.

Accessible safaris abound at Plantation Lodge, and simply residing within the 10 acres of the landscaped property provides a wonderful taste of Africa. However, with Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks within easy reach, numerous game drives and explorations are only ever a short and comfortable drive away.

The Okavango Delta, Botswana

By its very nature, the Okavango Delta provides highly accessible safaris for everyone. The waterways and wetlands require specialised transportation options, so regardless of physical ability, guests are transported throughout the region in comfort. Some walks can be a little more challenging, but boat excursions, drives and even traditional mokoro canoe journeys can be enjoyed by all visitors to the region.

There are also alternative modes of transport that open the Okavango to you. Helicopter Horizons offers magical flights across the Delta, with champagne breakfasts, sundowners on a private island and, for the extra-adventurous, an exclusive overnight camp.

For experienced horse riders, a horseback safari is a wonderfully dynamic way to experience the Okavango. Though not appropriate for novices, for the less able-bodied rider, this creates stunning accessible safaris and an incredible oneness with nature.

South Africa, From North to South

South Africa encompasses so much of what it is to go on safari, and so much more. The wonderfully cosmopolitan Cape Town, the world-renowned winelands, oceanic nature watching, the iconic Kruger National Park and the periphery of the Southern Kalahari offer a vast amount of diversity and, when done correctly, highly accessible safaris.

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The Kruger and its surrounding reserves, parks and conservancies are teeming with life, and the region’s popularity also has encouraged and allowed for premium-level, fully accessible and highly accommodating luxury safari camps.

Londolozi’s portfolio of accommodation alone has an abundance of choice. Luxury means convenience and, for the greater part, Londolozi is convenient for every traveller. Though their boutique tree camp may be a little out of reach for the less mobile, a range of suites and lodges more than compensates.

Lion Sands too, on the southern borders of the Kruger, provides luxurious established lodges in the heart of the abundant reserve, yet completely viable for every level of mobility, including wheelchairs.

This is only a glimpse of all that is available for accessible safaris. With your travel designer acutely aware of your every need, Africa is a completely viable vacation destination for travellers of all abilities.

So, regardless of what you think you can accomplish as a less able-bodied traveller, talk to us today about refining the perfect, handcrafted accessible safari just for you.

Header image: Rekero Camp