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The accessible African safari.

We stood in our pop-top safari vehicle, searching for gazelle and leopards. Paula Katz asked the driver to turn off the engine.

We closed our eyes, trying to experience the place as Paula, blind since childhood, did. Two birds called to each other--or was it the chirping of cheetahs? Wind moved audibly through the tall grass. We could feel it on our necks.

Light and heat in Kenya

To image Kenya, take all the splendor of the U.S.--the oceans, plains, mountains, valleys, and deserts--and pack it into an area the size of Texas. The light is indescribable, but the heat is dry. Nairobi and many of the game regions are at high altitudes, and the climate is generally pleasant. July and August are the cooler months. While most places don't have air conditioning, it's generally not necessary.

Access and visibility

At Lake Nakuru Lodge, 100 miles northwest of Nairobi, we met 15-year-old Mark Cooper, who has used a wheelchair for 7 years. On game drives, Mark rode next to the driver because it was the only belted seat. "You can get a perfectly good view sitting down," said Mark.

"The safari is quite easy," he added, "because a lot of people want to help."

Accommodations

Oddly, we met another Mark using a wheelchair at the escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley. Mark and Penny Butler of England were honeymooning. This Mark has a mission: to encourage safari companies and lodges to cater more to travelers with disabilities.

"What you get out of a trip like this is just unbelievable--like seeing lions three feet from your vehicle," Mark said.

But it's not always smooth going. "The people at the Nairobi airport wouldn't bring my chair to the door of the plane."

To avoid difficulties, always contact the airline to confirm everything.

Tenting at Sweetwaters

Butler had chosen to stay at lodges, but found that the tent camps sometimes offered greater accessibility.

Sweetwaters Tented Camp is right on the equator, with Mt. Kenya as a backdrop. The camp is on flat land and a paved path winds throughout, connecting the spacious tents with the reception hall, dining room, lounge, bar, and swimming pool. On the other side of a deep trench (which conceals an electric fence) is a watering hole and a salt lick. On our first evening 15 elegant giraffes loped in for refreshment.

Green Leopard

Green Leopard Ltd. plans to offer traditional luxury camping for guests with disabilities in 2002.

"Impeccable planning takes the highest priority," said Green Leopard's co-director.

More information

Kenya Tourist Board P.O. Box 30630 Nairobi, Kenya, Africa E-mail: info@kenyatourism.org <www.kenyatourism.org>

Green Leopard P.O. Box 15347 Nairobi, Kenya, Africa E-mail: safaris@greenleopard.com

Kenya Wildlife Trails <www.wildlifetrails.com>

United Touring Company <www.unitedtour.com>

Trailfinders <www.trailfinders.com>

Have Meds, Will Travel

* Bring enough to last your trip--and extras.

* Pack your meds in a carry-on bag--can luggage can stray or get lost.

* Keep all meds in original containers or a well-labeled substitute.

* Carry a safe used-needle container.

* Make a list of what you take, and why, with brand and generic names; make a copy and pack one copy separately from you carry-on.

* Make accommodations for refrigeration of your meds.

* Bring your insurance I.D. card, plus instructions for accessing a physician where you're going.

* Take your doctor's name and contact information, in case of emergency.

* For foreign travel, see "The Doctor Weighs In" on page 24.

Lyn Dobrin is a food and travel writer.
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Multiple Sclerosis Society
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Author:Nobrin, Lyn
Publication:Inside MS
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Jun 22, 2001
Words:586
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