People with mobility limitations will not have an easy time in Southern Africa. Even though there are more disabled people per head of population here than in the West, facilities are few. South Africa stands out from its neighbours with regard to its disabled organisations.
For the imaginative, Zambezi raft trips, mokoro (dugout canoe) trips in the Okavango Delta (where at least one mobility-disabled person works as a mokoro poler), wildlife drives and cruises, lie-down sandboarding in the Namib dunes (if you can reach the top on a quad bike), and other activities won’t be inaccessible. In almost all cases, safari companies – including budget operators – are happy to accommodate travellers with special needs, but they're usually relying more on goodwill than any expertise or infrastructure.
In South Africa, the South African National Parks’ website (www.sanparks.org) has a detailed and inspirational overview of accommodation and trail accessibility for the mobility impaired at all its parks, including Kruger.
Most wheelchair users find travel easier with an able-bodied companion, and happily, travel in Southern Africa does offer a few advantages compared with other parts of the developing world:
- footpaths and public areas are often surfaced with tar or concrete, rather than with sand, mud or gravel;
- many buildings (including safari lodges and national park cabins) are single storey, and assistance is usually available on domestic and regional flights;
- vehicle hire is easy in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana and, with permission, vehicles can be taken to neighbouring countries.
For more information and advice, download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) In the US, it advises disabled travellers on mobility issues; it primarily runs educational exchange programs, and some include African travel.
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org) In the US; offers assistance and advice.
Access-Able Travel Source (www.access-able.com) Another US-based site providing information on disabled-friendly tours and hotels.
Accessible Travel & Leisure (www.accessibletravel.co.uk) Claims to be the biggest UK travel agent dealing with travel for people with a disability, and encourages independent travel.