Going on safari in Africa is a lifelong dream for many people, wheelchair users included. A number of companies across the continent are making these experiences accessible to people with disabilities, and I recently had the pleasure of exploring Kenya thanks to GoAfrica Safaris, the leader in wheelchair accessible African safaris.
While my trip was limited to Kenya, GoAfrica can also set up accessible tours in Uganda and Tanzania, giving you the ultimate East Africa safari experience.
Recounting my safari is too much for one blog post, so I'll be breaking it up into multiple articles. Here's the table of contents outlining all that I plan to write:
Introduction: Planning A Wheelchair Accessible Kenya Safari
Tipping Etiquette: Guide to Tipping on an African Safari
Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do in Nairobi, Kenya
Wheelchair Accessible Places to Stay on a Kenya Safari
Exploring Kenya's Lake Nakuru National Park in a Wheelchair
Spotting the Big 5 on a Wheelchair Accessible Tour of Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve
Lake Naivasha: The Perfect Pit-stop on a Kenya Safari
In this article, I'd like to lay out the framework for planning an accessible safari, important things you'll want to consider, what an accessible safari costs and some tips for getting the most out of your safari experience.
Am I too disabled to go on safari?
Like most adventurous activities, safaris are physically demanding and exhausting. But the GoAfrica Safaris team puts a lot of work into creating unique experiences tailored to the physical abilities of each guest.
No matter your limitations, GoAfrica is prepared to make your safari the accessible trip of a lifetime. They can connect you with local personnel care attendants or you can hire a PCA to travel with you. All of GoAfrica's safari vehicles are wheelchair accessible with securement straps and you can remain in your wheelchair throughout the journey. Breaks and pit-stops are important for wheelchair users like me, and building those into the itinerary is important. Safari game drives can be split in two with a lunch break/return to camp, or you can go exploring for the full day. GoAfrica has audited camps and lodges for accessibility, and I will review many of them in an upcoming article. Any adaptive equipment you need can be rented.
GoAfrica has helped people with all sorts of disabilities explore Kenya. If you have questions about how they can adapt the safari to meet your needs, reach out to them with your questions using the contact information at the end of this article.
How long should my safari last?
Whether you spend a week or a month on safari, it won't seem long enough. No two days are the same, and you'll never grow tired of being in the midst of a natural world that you can't control.
When we travel to cities, we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. Food, drinks, a show or an activity - it's all at our fingertips, on-demand. Not so on safari, where the world does not revolve around human beings. The lion will decide when it wants to eat, the rhinoceros will decide when it wants to appear and the leopard may never be seen.
I spent a week on safari and wasn't ready to leave when the time came. As the plane took off to my next destination, I mouthed the words "I'll be back." And as so many Kenyans told me, "Everyone who visits this place promises to return." I hope to keep that promise.
Building the perfect accessible safari itinerary
My weeklong safari began in Nairobi and included stops at Lake Nakuru National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve and Lake Naivasha. It was the trip of a lifetime.
The distances between these places are something to consider when building your itinerary.
- Nairobi to Lake Naivasha — 2.5 hours
- Nairobi to Lake Nakuru — 4 hours
- Nairobi to Masai Mara — 6 hours
- Lake Nakuru to Lake Naivasha — 2 hours
- Lake Nakuru to Masai Mara — 7 hours
- Lake Naivasha to Masai Mara — 5.5 hours
Here's my recommendation for the perfect 7 night safari itinerary:
2 nights — Nairobi, Kenya
1 night — Lake Nakuru National Park
1 night — Lake Naivasha
3 nights — Masai Mara National Reserve
Because it's a long trip to Kenya, I suggest spending two nights in Nairobi after you arrive. This will give you a chance to adjust to the new time zone, rest and recover from your flight and explore Kenya's capital city.
After Nairobi, you'll travel to Lake Nakuru National Park for your first game drives. The park has four of the Big 5 (except elephant) and is a great introduction to safari. The park is small but abundant with animals, and you'll be able to get extremely close to antelope, buffalo, baboon, zebra and—if you're lucky—the lion. 1 night in Nakuru is sufficient, but you would also enjoy 2.
Safari is tiring and after exploring Nakuru, you may want a break. Stop over for a night at Lake Naivasha, a freshwater lake on the route between Nakuru and the Masai Mara. You'll see giraffes and hippos from your room at the lodge, enjoy great food, a massage if you like and rest.
Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve borders Tanzania's Serengeti and is home to the full complement of safari animals. With luck, you'll see all of the Big 5, but probably not all on the same day. I recommend spending 3 nights in the Mara so you'll be able to discover all of the park's unique landscapes.
After Masai Mara and depending on your flight's departure time, you may want or need to spend another night in Nairobi. My flight was late at night, so I went straight to the airport, bypassing Nairobi city's busy traffic entirely. The trip was a whirlwind to be sure, but it far exceeded every expectation I had set.
What does a wheelchair accessible safari cost?
The cost of the sample safari I've described above varies according to the season, and includes the following:
- Airport transfers
- Accommodation in Nairobi (including breakfast)
- Accommodation during the safari (full board)
- Safari in adapted 4x4 vehicle with driver-guide
- Drinking water in the vehicle
- Registration with Amref Health Africa (Emergency Evacuation coverage)
GoAfrica's 2019 rates for this safari are provided below and based on 1, 2 and 4 people in the safari vehicle:
Price valid for travel in April - June 2019
Safari — $3,195/person (1), $2,050/pp (2), $1,530/pp (4)
Park Fees — $545/pp
Total — $3,740/pp (1), $2,595/pp (2), $2,075/pp (4)
Price valid for travel in July - September 2019
Safari — $4,500/person (1), $2,700/pp (2), $2,175/pp (4)
Park Fees — $545/pp
Total — $5,045/pp (1), $3,245/pp (2), $2,720/pp (4)
Price valid for travel in October 2019
Safari — $3,900/person (1), $2,700/pp (2), $2,175/pp (4)
Park Fees — $545/pp
Total — $4,445/pp (1), $3,245/pp (2), $2,720/pp (4)
Price valid for travel in November - mid-December 2019
Safari — $3,700/person (1), $2,200/pp (2), $1,670/pp (4)
Park Fees — $545/pp
Total — $4,245/pp (1), $2,745/pp (2), $2,215/pp (4)
The single room supplement is included in the 1 person price, while the per-person price for 2 and 4 travelers is based on sharing.
Your trip can be extended to include visits to other national parks or destinations for an additional fee.
How to book your accessible Kenya safari
You've read this article, which means you've already taken the first step in making your dream of an accessible safari possible. Future articles in this blog series will shed some more light on the experience and what to expect, but you don't need to wait on those to make your trip happen.
The months of June through October are the best for safaris in Kenya, and you should plan your trip early. To get started, reach out to the GoAfrica Safaris team with your questions. Here's how to get in touch and get a free quote:
You can also post any questions you have about my safari experience in the comments below, and I will be happy to respond. If you do decide to go on a safari, I hope your trip proves to be as enjoyable as mine!