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South African Safari

If you ever have the opportunity to go on safari in Africa…GO! This trip was a Maggie bucket list item, but Abe was equally excited. It took us some time to figure out where in Africa we wanted to go, when we wanted to visit, save up the money needed, and decide if we wanted to be part of a tour or do a self-drive as we did in Ireland. We decided to go the group tour route for many reasons, including cost, safety, and accessibility.

During our research, we stumbled across Epic Enabled. Epic Enabled specializes in accessible safaris and tours for individuals with and without disabilities in South Africa. They have scheduled monthly departure dates for their standard trips, including their 12-Day Kruger and Cape Town Tour, Five-Day Garden Route Tour, and 8-Day Kruger Tour. They also offer private, tailor-made tours and vacations that can accommodate special requests. Tours are open to individuals, families, friends, carers, and groups! We did the 8-Day Kruger Safari.

Maggie and Abe with rhinos in the background

This post could’ve easily just been a series of videos and photos! But, even that wouldn’t have done it justice. We’ve added some context (and videos for fun) below to help you get a better idea of this fantastic adventure! Also, here are some of our better pics! Reliving this as we write makes us want to go back!

Johannesburg

From the Washington, D.C area, we flew down to Atlanta and then had a 15-hour flight to Johannesburg. Abe was not a happy camper but survived. We spent two nights at a hotel a short distance from the airport, which was nice because it helped us recover from the long travel and adjust a little to the timezone switch. As a tour group, we made a trip to a local mall. This was an opportunity to get any supplies we forgot or thought we would need, and it was nice to meet our fellow travelers before heading into the bush!

Tshukudu Bush Camp

Departing Johannesburg, we made our way to the first stop on our safari, Tshukudu Bush Camp in Hoedspruit, just outside Kruger National Park.

Starting at 7:00 AM for the six-hour drive, we stopped at a one-of-a-kind rest stop, which featured numerous species on the surrounding lands, including rhinoceros, ostrich, and antelope among others. We then drove through the beautiful Drakensberg Escarpment. We arrived at Tshukudu Bush Camp, a private game reserve, just in time to enjoy our first evening game drive. We stayed at Tshukudu three nights and had morning and evening game drives most days. Game drives follow this format because that’s when the animals are most active! Game drives were done in open, off-road vehicles provided by the lodge. Though tall and not accessible themselves, a ramp and transfer assistance into the vehicles was provided. Our wheelchairs stayed at the camp while out on game drives.

Our accommodation at the bush camp was a traditional hut with two single beds, a full bathroom, air conditioning, and a covered patio looking out into the African bush. Here, and in all of our accommodations during the tour, Epic Enabled provided handheld showerheads and shower chairs if needed. It is best to keep your hut’s windows and doors fully closed when not around to keep out the local wildlife, including vervet monkeys, lizards, and GIANT AFRICAN MILLIPEDES (yes, this mistake was made)! This self-serve camp was mostly wheelchair friendly due to a long-standing relationship between Tshukudu and Epic Enabled. Meals were provided communal style in a traditional boma setting by our tour staff.

Kruger National Park – Satara Rest Camp

The next leg of our safari consisted of two nights at Satara Rest Camp, run by Kruger National Park. The camp boasted creature comforts such as a camp store, restaurants, a pool, and laundry facilities. The camp was spacious and was surrounded by a chainlink fence and gates that closed at sunset and opened again at sunrise, as though it was the animals that wanted to keep the humans contained. Along the fence, there were sitting areas where guests could sip drinks, watch the sunrise/sunset and see wildlife stroll by, such as the hyena that would patrol the fence in the evenings and was no more than 3 feet from us! While in Kruger National Park, our game drives were provided by Epic Enabled, and vehicles had to stay on the roads.

Kruger National Park – Skukuza Rest Camp

The last two nights of our safari were spent at Skukuza Rest Camp, also run by Kruger National Park and laid out very much like Satara, just more compact and hilly. On our last night, we opted to take a park-run night game drive in their open vehicle, and assistance was provided by Epic Enabled staff to get in and out of the large vehicle. Between the game drives on our last full day, we took the time to stock up on gifts to take home and relax with our fellow travelers. We discovered the most delicious South African beverage, Aamarula (think Bailey’s Irish Cream), “on the rocks.”

Tips/Lessons Learned

Interested in taking this tour or one like it? Here are a few tips:

  • For this trip or any international destination, think about their seasons. We went to South Africa in early September. By all accounts, that was an ideal time to go! It was the end of the dry season, so wildlife was easy to spot and often congregated around what waterholes there were. Temperatures were manageable, and bugs, especially mosquitos, were few and far between (but still take your malaria meds!).
  • Bring layers! The weather could get hot during the day, but during evening game drives, Maggie wore a jacket or fleece pullover.
  • Even though Wifi is available at specific hotspots, don’t expect to be able to access it. Use a trip like this to disconnect! Just make sure you’ve done as much planning ahead of time (including emergencies) as possible.
  • Travel to South Africa was long. Plan layovers, sleep on/off the plane, etc. as needed. Wear compression socks and try to stretch as much as possible!

In Conclusion

Can we go back now? The whole experience was terrific, from the wildlife (where we saw four out of five of the African Big Five multiple times. The leopard is ever elusive.) to the incredible and attentive Epic Enabled staff, and our fun fellow travelers. We couldn’t recommend a South African tour with Epic Enabled enough! Hopefully, this blog makes you want to book a trip now. If you do, let us know, we’ll be right there!

Until next time,

Abe & Maggie


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