Accessible Adventure: A “Bucket List” Trip to Botswana
GeoEx traveler Karlene Bert recently returned from a very special Botswana safari with her husband and 89-year-old mom. This was the trip of a lifetime, especially for her mother, and the family discovered to their delight that despite some mobility challenges, people went out of their way to make sure the travelers’ journey was smooth and successful. I asked Karlene to describe their experiences within Botswana, the highlights of their trip, and her recommendations for people who may be considering traveling to Africa now. I found her tales singularly inspiring for anyone interested in traveling to Africa now, and especially for people who may be contemplating travel with elderly parents or family members with mobility challenges. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
I know this was a multigenerational journey for you. Can you tell me whom you were traveling with?
Yes, I was traveling with my husband and my 89-year-old mom. This was her bucket list trip. We had started planning it two years ago, and were supposed to take it last April. It ended up being a long wait, but it was absolutely worth it. This trip meant the world to her—and to us!
In Botswana, you stayed at three different safari lodges. How were they?
The first place we stayed was Jack’s Camp. That was absolutely breathtaking. The tents were gorgeous. The antiques were beautiful. It was all spectacular.
Also, I did not know that massages were included—and that was the best thing I could have done after traveling all that way to get there. It was sensational!
There were only 14 people at Jack’s Camp, and that was the busiest of all the places we stayed.
This camp was the most challenging for Mom because it’s not really wheelchair accessible, but the staff went out of their way to make it work, and they did a great job.
The bed was a high-rise bed, so the staff brought Mom a sturdy stool and she used that to get into and out of bed. And they brought her meals to her! She had all of her meals outside on her deck, and they arranged for us to have dinner with her on her deck too. That was fabulous.
This is also where we saw meerkats, and they were sensational. The camp has a tracker specifically for the meerkats. The staff brought a chair so that my mom could sit down, and the meerkats came to her! They were so much fun. They even jumped on my mom’s head and she loved that! She was in heaven.
Also, this is where we met the San tribe, and this was another real highlight. We were supposed to take a tribal walk with them, and I said my mother wants to see the tribe, but she can’t really walk. So the tribe came to her, and they were fabulous! She asked them questions and they told her everything; then they asked her questions. She ate it up. It was unforgettable!
Finally, we were there during the migration of the zebra and wildebeest, so we saw something like 3,000 zebra and wildebeest walking in a line.
Our next camp was Qorokwe Camp. There we went on the best safari I have ever had in my entire life. The animals were sensational. We saw a leopard kill, we saw a lion kill, we saw thousands of animals. They were almost falling on us! They had more lions and leopards than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
In one place we stopped and watched a leopard catch a kudu and then teach its baby how to catch a kudu—it was like having a classroom right in front of us. The whole time our guide was saying, “This is absolutely amazing.”
This camp also required some walking, but again, the staff was super accommodating. And they had good ramps, good handrails, and good bathroom facilities. They also had a pizza oven that was to die for.
The food was wonderful and the accommodations were very comfortable. All in all, this was my favorite camp. And there were only 5 other people staying there.
Our final camp was Vumbura Plains. There the airstrip was flooded, so we got to go by helicopter. That was very cool. It was sensational to fly over the trees and see the animals from overhead.
Vumbura worked out perfectly: There was easy access, easy walking on the planks, and the bed was easy to get into.
And the animals were amazing! The staff know the animals intimately here, and the animals aren’t scared of people. We had animals walking through the camp. The elephants were almost like pets; I could have touched them if I wanted to. I actually felt the wind of an elephant as it walked by!
All the animals here were sensationally calm. In fact, we had two lions sitting in the road, and we had to do something to make them leave because we couldn’t go around them.
And because of the floods, the birds were sensational.
Finally, we were the only ones staying at Vumbura. It was like having our own private camp!
I know you had to have a COVID test done before you could leave the country. How did that work out?
Yes, we had to have the COVID test done at Vumbura, and GeoEx was fabulous. You arranged to have a nurse flown in, she came to the camp and tested us, and then she flew off again. Wonderful!
In fact, I have to tell you, GeoEx did a beautiful job with everything. I was so glad I went through you. We would have messed it up if we had to do it ourselves. We would never have known what to do. We would never have known where to go. We would never even have made it through Johannesburg airport. Thank you.
Thank you! I’m so happy you had a wonderful time! Looking back on it all now, what are your overall feelings and assessments?
We had a sensational time. Everything clicked.
The guides were great. Everybody did their best to do everything we possibly wanted. They remembered what we wanted to eat, what we wanted to drink. When Mom was tired and crashed, they said, “How can we help you?”
And it was all phenomenal. I still can hardly believe that the animals just walked right through our camp. I was like, “Really? I just saw a hippo outside my front door?”
And the food was sensational.
My mom had a fantastic time. She was a trooper, and she loved every minute. Everyone was great getting her around. Yes, we had some issues with the wheelchairs and with her not being able to walk. But you expect that with an 89-year-old. Truly, it was the trip of a lifetime for her.
I want you to know—your service was outstanding. And the peace of mind you provided was priceless. I knew if something went wrong, I could call you guys and everything would be taken care of. I’m recommending you to everyone.
Thank you! You’ve made me want to get on a plane for Botswana tomorrow! But I have to ask: Did you have any regrets?
None whatsoever. We had a wonderful time. It was so worth the wait! But now I want to do it again tomorrow! Actually, I am going to do it again. I’ll be traveling with you again in two years—with all of my kids!
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