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Dear <<First Name>>,

Today, 26 July, is the anniversary of President George H.W. Bush signing into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. However, no matter where in the world you or your clients live, at the end of the day, what it comes down to is having an awareness that everyone should be enabled to travel and to experience the wonders of the world in a respectful, honorable and caring way.

Brooke had the incredible joy of bringing her mother to Tswlau in November 2019. They’ve traveled across three continents during the past three decades and several times as a three-generation daughter-mother-grandmother trio, even more memorable now as her Gran passed away last year. While her mother is healthy, strong, and able to pretty much do anything right now, we still have conversations about what it means to travel anywhere, at any time, at any age. And regardless of age, there are countless travelers who need something extra to make their journey possible: travelers with mobility limitations, sight and sound assistance requirements, conditions or illnesses that warrant privacy.
    
Our mission today, and always, is to make Africa accessible to all, and yet we realize some places are better set up to cater to travelers with more personal needs than others. Every destination we work in will of course welcome your guests and make a plan with enough advanced notice, and we also want to highlight some choices that are especially geared to care for guests who have specific requirements. 

Several examples that really moved us were when we traveled within Botswana and shared a flight with a woman who was a quadriplegic (“nothing will stop me from seeing the world”); Brooke being asked to help with numerous bookings for families with children who have autism as private villas, vehicles, and charters cater especially well to these guests; and also a group tour to Ghana to donate wheelchairs to an orphanage, which included a participant who is also a paraplegic in a wheelchair himself. We have both been very touched working on this newsletter as we have received some incredible stories, and are so happy to be able to share them with you for inspiration of what is possible for everyone wanting to discover Africa.

With that, we hope you find valuable information in this newsletter, and, want to say that we worked hard to convey every situation and story with honor and respect; Brooke is especially sensitive to this and wanted to relay the various success stories that came in when we posed questions to our partners. If any wording or description, for whatever reason, doesn’t come across that way, please know it was unintentional. This is also not 100% comprehensive, but shares with you the information we received.

Regards,


Johann & Brooke

Johann and Far Country Collection:
Uganda: The Uganda Safari Company, Wildplaces Africa
Kenya: Scenic Air Safaris, Campi ya Kanzi
Zambia: Zambian Ground Handlers, Sausage Tree Camp, Green Safaris & Tongabezi
Madagascar: Madagascar Classic Collection


Brooke and Karoo Consulting:
South Africa: Tswalu Kalahari 
Kenya: Ol Jogi, Cottar's Safaris

West Africa: TransAfrica (DMC operating in multiple countries)
Sometimes getting around Africa feels like the biggest hurdle, and Scenic Air Safaris has been able to transport guests with wheelchairs seamlessly. The flight team and pilots are all trained and prepared to assist, and the Grand Caravans are specifically set up to adjust to any guests’ requests. The team has a specific SOP for when passengers are traveling with a wheelchair, which involves the use of the extra-large cargo door (on the other side of this photo) to lift the person while still seated into the aircraft during boarding and disembarking. As for the actual flight, the seating onboard the Grand Caravans can be swiveled to configure all guests with front-facing positions.

Also, for guests who have sight limitations of any magnitude, one of the many beauties of flying with Scenic Air Safaris is that all pilots are trained as guides, and every seat has a head set, so while guests enjoy low level flying to see more of the landscape and game from a different perspective, they are also hearing descriptions of what they are seeing, bringing to life the land, the animal activity, and the experience.
Of course one of the prime reasons for visiting Uganda is to see the mountain gorillas, and people with mobility challenges or disabilities needn’t be excluded from this bucket-list activity. At Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge we work with the local porters to provide a palanquin, or sedan chair, for our guests who require assistance. This service has been used by many clients and has become a highlight of the trip! Some guests who do not specifically need extra care have booked this service just in case they feel they may need assistance during the tracking.

Further, we have had a number of guests traveling to all our lodges with CPAP machines, which is easy to organize: where we don’t have 24-hour electricity we have battery or inverter backup. Where the backup is not permanent, we have organized a solution for the guest. We have sourced distilled water for the machines, and arranged for other lodges to be prepared as well.

The safari guides and the staff at our lodges are always ready to help, and with enough notice we can arrange almost anything. While not specifically designed to be wheelchair accessible, most rooms, whether cottage, tent or banda are on one level and with some small tweaks can be adapted as and when required. Showers are open and easily accessed. Private game viewing vehicles can be arranged with prior notice, and the seat configuration can also be adapted to accommodate special needs.
At Tongabezi, there is a CPAP machine on property available upon request, and when it comes to a CPAP machine, similarly to many properties in Southern Africa, certainty comes with caution. Tongabezi has 24-hour electricity, and if it happens that the main grid goes out our standby generators will kick on and provide electricity within a five-minute interval.

We recently had a guest with a sight impairment and allocated a private guide who was extremely seasoned with bird calls so that with each bird they came across he could whistle the bird’s song. We also hosted a family from the UK on their second safari to Africa, and they were so moved by the experience that they wrote this article for the Telegraph; part of what makes it so impactful is that they mention traveling with their children, one of whom has autism.

Each of the other Green Safaris properties has specific guest units designated for people with reduced mobility, and based upon the minimum number of rooms booked and availably private vehicles can be  booked. All properties also have various solutions for individuals with reduced mobility to access vehicles, however not all properties can offer boat access so please do check ahead. CPAP machines can be brought to any property as they all have  24-hour power in the rooms. Other specific examples of how privacy can be achieved are that Kaya Maya has Ndomo House and Tongabezi has Tandala House. And of course, we happily take guidance from the family or friends of the traveler who needs extra assistance and do our best to make their stay a memorable one. We are most excited to share that the new Chisa Camp has one bird's nest unit with an elevator, so again, accessible to all.
Our newly designed tents at Sausage Tree Camp are all one level, and we would happily add a ramp to get from the ground to the room, for guests wanting to stay here, however we feel that Potato Bush Camp is the one to focus on here as it was designed specifically so that guests were above the gravel paths.

Potato Bush Camp is the perfect choice for travelers with mobility limitations as the entire camp is connected via raised timber walkways. From the vehicle platform through the main front of house area and leading to tents one never has to “touch the ground”. We have ramps that can be added for the small step down from the guest tents onto the front verandah area. All tents and rooms are accessible, and with a private vehicle and guide for every booking, safari here is tailored to each traveler. Our vehicle platform allows easy access into and out of the game viewing vehicles as well.

We have hosted many guests previously with mobility issues, and everything we offer is possible with a bit of advanced notice so that we have everything in place for a smooth and seamless safari. We have often assisted guests to the boat jetty as well so that our water activities like fishing, canoeing, river cruising, and lunches in the river are all still enjoyed. Similarity we can arrange touch stations for any guest who is sight impaired. We have many guests travel with CPAP machines and it isn’t an issue at all; we just need to be notified if guests require anything such as extension cords and other items. 
When we asked the Zambian Ground Handlers team, Dani shared a personal experience: “My Grandpa came out to visit and went to the Lower Zambezi – he really struggles walking distances but Royal Air wheeled him out and assisted him on to the flight, they had people help carry him on to the flight. I’d spoken with both Royal Air and Tours Africa before my grandparents got to the airport, and Tours Africa was waiting outside with a wheelchair to wheel my Grandpa in, and help my Gran with the bags and then took him to the Royal Air check-in for his luggage and wheeled him to the café before taking him outside to board the plane.”

And when we asked ProCharter for more info, they shared the following: For charter flights, on a case by case basis depending on the extent of the request (if a passenger is traveling with their own wheelchair or not, if the destination is equipped to offload the traveler, how many people are on the charter, what the routing is) we are able to accommodate passengers with wheelchairs. We can be very flexible with charter flights and can send our own ground staff with the charter to assist at the destination with boarding/disembarking. Most of our charter aircraft can accommodate wheelchairs with the exception of the Baron where access is over the wing and therefore not recommended for persons with limited mobility. We have a specific manifest for any passenger with a special need, which we classify as either “self-reliant” or “non-self-reliant”, which contains information on anything from unaccompanied minors to pregnant women to guests with a physical or sensory impairment.

There are so many lodges in Zamiba that are great choices for various extra-special requirements that Brooke is going to write a separate feature for Travel Leisure Zambia + Zimbabwe. Since that won't be published until early 2022, let us know if you want more information on some of those who will be feautred: South Luangwa - Mfuwe Lodge, Chinzombo; in Lower Zambezi - Anabezi; at Victoria Falls - The River Club, The Royal Livingstone, Thorntree Lodge, Chundukwa, Baines River Camp; and others. Here are two examples that really stood out:

Shenton Safaris
When needed, for any guest with a sensory impairment or illness, we can have a camp manager accompany them on an activity to ensure a highly personalized way of translating the experience. This, together with our Family Chalet which offers a private vehicle so that safari is at the pace of the individual, we have hosted a wide array of guests who need a little extra TLC. We have a repeat guest with a very severe case of MS, whom we created a walker and support for her use in the rooms and around camp, along with a seat in the shower. We’ve welcomed families with children who have severe ADHD, down syndrome, and autism. We also have an annual repeat guest who suffers from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. Having a private experience, softly spoken managers/guides, a no rush policy, and catering to private meal times assists with all of the above. 

Flatdogs
We have had guests with mobile walkers (like Zimmer frames and electric wheelchairs) successfully stay in our tents, and also feel the chalet rooms are the best for guests in a wheelchair. We have hosted the famous Australian who golfs with his mouth in a frame (he’s paraplegic) in our standard tent, which is closest to the main areas. We have a ramp into the restaurant for those who struggle with steps and have made smaller, shallower steps for those with walkers and canes. When we have guests in a wheelchair, we just offer a helper as there is a step into the bathroom rather than a ramp. Private vehicles can be reserved, and if guests need assistance we can lift them into the front seat. Con Mackay stayed with us for two weeks of non-safari activity after he was wheelchair bound with MS. For guests with a CPAP machine, which happens often, we have 24-hour electricity. We have hosted guests who are blind, and in addition to taking them on a walking safari where the sounds of the bush come alive, we have a small museum area in our inside bar where guests are welcome to touch and feel different feathers, skulls, snake skins, etc. We have hosted families with children who are autistic in the Treehouse and they loved the privacy there and on game drives. And we have also looked after guests with various conditions including colostomy bags.


Here are highlights from Brooke.

For more information on
Tswalu Kalahari, Ol Jogi,
Cottar's Safaris, or TransAfrica-WestAfrica DMC
 contact Brooke@KarooConsulting.com.

Tswalu was very conscious of all travelers’ needs when looking at the redesign of Motse, and are happy to share that one of our suites is fully accessible to guests with a wheelchair. We added a second, fully accessible bathroom to one of the suites, tucked away behind separate door, which is hidden by a floor-to-ceiling mirror when guests don’t need it, and set up for when guests do. In addition, guaranteeing a private vehicle for every booking is at the core of our offering each booking an experience based upon their timing, wants and needs.

 

We have hosted numerous guests with restricted mobility. We have wooden steps for the vehicles, a wheelchair on property, smooth stone paths connecting most of the suites to the main house (and a ramp to access the pool, spa and garden suites), some accessible suites with chairs available if needed, and more. As we’ve been asked about this, there is a loo at our private airstrip, with running water, and we set up chic bush loos for every activity. We have a golf cart on property to get guests around if needed. We have often hosted guests with CPAP machines. In the end, due to our total exclusivity, we can welcome guests under any circumstances and make a plan.
Our team has assisted travelers with mobility limitations in various ways, such as helping a guest who was a double amputee into one of the canvas baths with a canvas chair as well. We had a terminally ill guest whose last wish was to be on safari, and at one point, they simply sat at the spring for a while, which is a very healing space. The Bush Villa is perfect for families with children who are autistic, and one of their favorite activities is the e-bikes. We’ve hosted guests with hearing impairments, which are some of the most memorable interfaces between what our guides do and the wildlife, such as one time when out with a guest who could see yet not hear, a lion started to roar and the guest put his hands on the glass of the car and feel the vibration.
West Africa surely is a developing tourism destination, and while the modern city hotels follow more international regulations and standards, the majority of rich cultural experiences are deep in each country where this is less common. To be honest, while we are currently not set up to exceed expectations for guests with mobility concerns, we have actaully done so. In addition to recently putting together a large group tour that included a person in a wheelchair, we also had a past experience where a guest in a wheelchair got a flat tire, and at least we were able to get it fixed quickly and inexpensively. 
Uganda
Guinea-Bissau & Senegal
Zambia
Ghana, Togo & Benin
South Africa
Kenya
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