Tips for older travellers with physical limitations

Soft safaris for seniors

Of course you can travel Africa with physical limitations. Just because you’ve hit your golden years doesn’t mean it’s time to stop discovering the world. It just means – depending on your age and level of physical fitness – that travel might now pose a few challenges, and so you’ll have to approach it differently. 

If you’re travelling to Africa for a safari adventure, the most important thing you can do is carefully plan your itinerary. With the right preparations and the right help from experts (like us!), you’ll be able to enjoy a breathtaking safari holiday, no matter your age or level of mobility. 


Here are a few things to consider…


Be honest

When it comes to the planning process, honesty is the best policy.

You need to be honest with us so that we can understand your individual wishes, requirements and limitations.

This includes everything from your travel dreams and bucket-list activities, to any health issues you might have and your level of fitness (this is where you’ll need to be honest with yourself!).

Armed with this information, we can create the perfect itinerary for you, and ensure all of your needs are properly met and you’re able to fully enjoy all of the extraordinary experiences we line up for you.

Work out where to go

The list of captivating holiday destinations in Africa is endless, but if you have special requirements or physical limitations, there are definitely some destinations that will suit you better than others. Places like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia are usually good choices, as they boast fantastic infrastructures, accessible and well-established routes, and great accommodation options that can cater for people with mobility issues.

It all makes the journey to see Africa’s incredible wildlife that much easier. Our travel experts will know exactly the right properties to suit your needs and stoke the fires of your imagination.

Fly right

If you’re going to be on a plane for a long stretch, it’s important to do it right. This means notifying the airline if you’ll require help boarding and disembarking the plane, and if you’ll be travelling with any mobility aides such as a walker. We’ll look after all of this when we arrange your flights, but there are some things that only you can do.

For example, drinking plenty of water on the flight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills, and wearing compression socks if you’re at risk of DVT (talk to your GP). The best thing you can do is have an active flight and move as much as you possibly can during your long-haul flights. In-seat leg exercises and regular walks up and down the plane are a must – we can book you an aisle seat so you can get up easily to stretch your legs. For more advice about healthy flying, check out this great guide from Qantas.

Try to reduce jet lag

Speaking of flying, jet lag is something that can hit people hard. You don’t want to start your safari experience already off-kilter, so consider a rest stop.

A few days spent in Johannesburg, Cape Town, the Cape Winelands, Victoria Falls or even Zanzibar en route to your safari camp will ensure you arrive well-rested and with your body clock adjusted.

Choose the right accommodation

When it comes to accommodation, most people won’t notice things like whether or not there are stairs or if bathrooms have grab bars. But if you have mobility issues, these sorts of things are essential considerations that can make or break a holiday.

In a perfect world, you’ll stay in lodges that are easy to navigate, with the fewest number of steps. Manageable activities and thoughtful dining options should also be on the wish-list, and comfort should be paramount every step of the way. Luckily, we know just the right places to recommend.

If you’re an older traveller or have physical limitations we’ll only ever suggest places that are geared towards your needs – and ones that we know you’ll love. You’ll be happy to hear that in most places, the only real “trek” you’ll need to make is from your room to the bar or swimming pool.

Think about game drives

Whatever your age and wherever you go in Africa, two things are true: 1. It is massive. 2. In order to get around, you will spend a lot of time in vehicles.

You’ll find yourself in traditional vehicles for various tours and transfers, but when it comes to game drives you’re going to be in all-terrain 4×4 vehicles, driving along unpaved and bumpy roads, and occasionally heading off-piste into the savannah plains in order to track wildlife.

There are no seat belts in these vehicles, so it means you’ll need to have sufficient muscle control to hold yourself upright throughout game drives that can last for many hours.

Stepping on and off these safari vehicles can also be problematic for some people, as they’re quite high off the ground. But there’s always someone there to offer a helping hand, and some properties also have ramps or other devices to facilitate smooth boarding. Again, we can recommend the perfect properties if you feel like this could be an issue.

(Insider tip, if you’ve got a bad back, always sit in the front row where you bounce less. The further back you go the bumpier the ride)

Visit your GP

Before heading to Africa we always recommend travellers visit their GP to ensure they’re in good health and up-to-date with their regular immunisations as well as the applicable travel vaccines.

If you’re an older traveller it’s even more important to make this visit, especially if you have any chronic medical conditions (for example, diabetes), cardiovascular disease or serious aches and pains.

Your doctor will ensure you’re fit to travel and that any conditions are well-controlled. Make sure you have sufficient prescription medications for your entire trip, as well as any other over-the-counter necessities and first aid items.

While you’re at it, visit any relevant specialists and make sure you’re up to date with your dental appointments – you definitely don’t want a toothache while you’re in the middle of the African bush! And for total peace of mind, pay another visit to your GP just before you fly out. 

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Take out travel insurance

Last, but by no means least, make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance for your trip to Africa. It’s a must for any form of travel at any age, but especially if you’re a senior… and it’s compulsory for anyone who books a trip with Encompass Africa.

And because so many safaris need to be booked well in advance, we recommend you make sure you’re covered from the moment you book – not just the dates you’re due to travel.

At Encompass Africa we work with Allianz and Covermore insurance companies – speak to us or your insurance provider for advice on choosing the best travel insurance for you.

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