by Bill Forrester
Two and a half hours north of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal lies the Elephant Coast on the north Indian Ocean coast of South Africa. The Elephant Coast stretches from St Lucia in the south to Kosi Bay in the north and encompasses a vast array of activities from Big 5 game viewing, whale watching, bird watching, encounters with hippos and crocodiles, turtle tracking, scuba diving, visits to cultural villages in the heart of the Zulu Kingdom or just relaxing on the pristine beaches of the Indian Ocean.
The region has a conservation ethos with the HluhluweiMfolozi Park and lake St Lucia having been under formal conservation since 1895. In 1999 the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was inscribed as South Africa’s first world heritage site.
The Elephant Coast has one other feature that statistics alone cant cant convey, if is a feeling of stepping back in time and immersing yourself in a culture of Africa that has been forgotten and overly commercialized in other parts of the country. It is both safe and extremely friendly. It final great advantage is that it is an extremely accessible destination that allows a wheelchair tourist to experience the majesty of Africa’s big game.
Hluhluwe is the oldest and second largest game reserve in South Africa and contains the mandatory “Big 5” (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). It is world renown for saving the White Rhino from possible extinction and today has the largest population of Black Rhino in Africa. The park gives a feel of a true African adventure with its rolling hills dense forest and thornveld valleys. The park is open to private vehicles and has good roads throughout. Most of our travels were done with our car hired from Durban International Airport. We encountered herds of buffalo, giraffe, rhino, warthog, zebra and elephants with one very memorable close encounter. Driving is easy and well signed throughout, but often the best trick is to just stop by a river or waterhole and wait.
Accessible accommodation is available within the park at Hilltop Camp. As the name suggests it is a beautiful lodge perched high on the ridge line giving commanding views over the park. Apart from the rooms with roll in showers the main complex is very well designed with wide entrances and flat flooring throughout giving easy access to the dinning room and bar areas. The outside terraced area is two level with a very gently sloping ramp connecting both levels and giving a great place to relax over a drink and talk about the days encounters as the sun sets over the park. Accessible facilities are available within the complex both for overnight guests or visitors wanting a convenient place to stop for lunch or morning tea.
For those wishing to stay outside the park a beautifuloption is Leopard Walk Lodge located on its own 200 acres of private game reserve. There is a fully accessible chalet in a private bush setting. The lodge is fully catered in an open air dining room/bar with Zebras coming for their nightly feed right on cocktail hour.
Bonamanzi private game reserve and lodge is another outside the park option and it has a fully accessible unit. The lodge area is again very well equipped with level wide and smooth pathways connection all areas. The dinning facilities have easy access as does the elevated viewing area over the lake with gentle sloping ramps onto the platform. Bonamanzi is a private reserve and it has its own game drives including night drives. The open topped game vehicles are accessible via a purpose built wheelchair loading area.
If you are after a guided tour of the Elephant Coast Access2Africa safaris runs a series of inclusive itineraries from Durban including transport, game drives, scenic tours, activities and accommodation. We can put together an individual tour to meet your specific needs.
If you have ever wanted to experience the “wilds of africa” the Elephant Coast is a perfect and very accessible way to do it.