February 2009 Archives

I was just interviewed by SABC Radio for the Saturday February 28 edition of Weekend Live. These are the notes I worked from although I was unable to cover all points:

Some Thoughts on South Africa's Capacity for Inclusive Tourism
Dr Scott Rains
srains@oco.net

Let me start with some praise for South Africa.

Canada published the study "International Best Practices in Universal Design: A Global Review" by Betty Dion and team in 2006. This year it won an international award in Dubai as one the world's 100 most significant recent achievements in design. The South African Hotel Star Grading System standards, created through the expertise of Phillip Thompson and Heinrich Spies, holds up quite well to these international standards.

Several inbound South African tour operators are world renowned: Epic-Enabled, Endeavour, and Flamingo Tours each have more than a decade experience taking people with the most severe disabilities on holiday and safari. New specialized operations are emerging like Access 2 Africa Safaris in KZN or special programs at African Encounter. I am aware that all policy and legislation is a political compromise. South Africa has excellent civil rights legislation to eliminate the vestiges of apartheid-like thinking that infected social attitudes toward people with disabilities.

We all understand now that the underlying principle must be a presumption of inclusion over exclusion - that the burden of proof is now on those who would exclude. In actual practice on construction sites, in hiring, and in daily interactions these ideals are too often overlooked

The unwavering standard that we hold as a community of person with disabilities worldwide is called Universal Design in most parts of the world. Often it is referred to as Universal Access in South Africa. The definition of Universal Design is:

Universal Design is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design. Most simply, Universal Design is human-centered design of everything with everyone in mind. Universal Design is also called Inclusive Design, Design-for-All and Lifespan Design.

It is not a design style but an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.


I spent the past month in South Africa evaluating the tourism industry from the perspective of Inclusive Tourism.

Inclusive Tourism is the systematic application of the seven principles of Universal Design by the tourism industry at all phases of its product's life cycle.

What that means for the South African tourism industry is that people with disabilities need to be imagined in as part of society and the economy from before the first pen goes to the architect's drawing pad. Inclusion means more than seating inside soccer stadiums. It means attention to the full customer experience of travelers with disabilities and quality management through the whole tourism supply chain. Individual accessible bits need to be integrated into a whole seamlessly convenient product involving new South Africa's new Bus Rapid Transit and airport transit systems, theatres, and hiring practices.

We, as a community, pick up signals by seeing people like ourselves in the workforce, in advertisements, or "built into" the design of places and products.

And we as a traveler demographic travel more based on word-of-mouth recommendation than any other group. We have the three elements necessary to travel: desire, means, and time. We need to be marketed to.

That is why I am so encouraged by initiatives like Enabled Online (http:// www.enabled-travel.com ) which is designed to represent brand South Africa as a destination of choice for travelers with disabilities. That is also why I am encouraged by the leadership of tourism professionals like Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold of Cape Town Tourism, James Seymour at Tourism Kwazulu Natal, and Nonnie Kubeka at Gauteng Tourism Authority. Their pioneering work creates space for the traditional tour operator, hotelier, or other tourism industry stakeholder. It also allows South African entrepreneurs like Piet Human introduce entirely new products to the world like the DVD-based Incar Travel Guide to South Africa, Makaranga Lodge in Durban to make 50% of its excellently appointed rooms wheelchair friendly, and Blue Tangerine Lodge in Cape Town to invest heavily in barrier removal so that all guests, regardless of abilities, are welcome and comfortable.

The seemingly unique features of our bodies need to be accommodated the very first time a place or product is built out of respect for the planet - so that no waste is created in rebuilding - and out of respect for each person whose natural abilities change and eventually always diminish over time.

These converging principles - already present in the Cape Town Declaration of the Responsible Tourism Movement and reflected in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD - especially Article 30), can be brought home in a very significant way once they are incorporated fully into the South African Green Stay Programme evaluation process.

For further reading on Inclusive Tourism see:

* "What is Inclusive Tourism?" in the Oct - Dec 2008 issue of Ability magazine, Chennai, India * The Rolling Rains Report at http://www.RollingRains.com

For a travelogue on Dr Rains' 30 day study in South Africa see: * http://www.rollingrains.com/travelogues/
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Faces of South Africa - 2

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Taken from inside Abalonetti Seafood Trattoria...

Image via Wikipedia

Quality service involves that something extra.

It is that little surprise of recognition that you are getting something you wanted but maybe didn't even realize you wanted it.

When I sit down to a well set dinner table and see a creatively folded napkin it catches my attention.

When I check into my hotel room and find everything I need laid out on the bed or arrayed in the bathroom I relax a bit.

Then there's the next level. Call it the "manic phase." 

I don't really want to need a sailor's mastery of knots to untie the flapping flamingo napkin sculpture.

toilet paper origami

And I don't know anybody who counts it an advantage to be plunged into wrap rage trying to get the little gold adhesive dots, or sealing wax, or other duct tape wannabe off the final artfully folded square of toilet paper rendering the ultra-thin tissue temporarily unavailable.

Save the origami for less interactive art installations, please!
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Johannesburg

Image via Wikipedia

So, what might be the practical implications of the popular description of the Johannesburg airport:

"O.R. Tambo - the world's only construction site with its own airport!"
Well, combine the soundscape of jet engines, departure announcements, jackhammers, and crying children with fact that I have a radio interview and a video shoot back-to-back and you start to get a hint.

Have you ever noticed how the reserved parking, accessible hotel room, or wheelchair-friendly bathroom seems to be off in a corner far from everything else. I was absolutely certain that I would go to my grave never finding a redeeming quality in these subtleties of segregation.

I was wrong!

There is a good use for having a disabled-only single-person bathroom way down at the end of the hall and around the corner. There is no place in the entire airport more insulated from the power washers' whoosh, vacuum cleaner's clang, and hammer's throb.

I called in my radio interview to Doug Anderson's Radio 2000 show from the can.

On to the video shoot with Piet Human of Incar.

Unfortunately the empty quiet lounge we found overlooking the runway did not long stay that way. Funny how a tv and a microphone brings people from out of nowhere.

The gathering crowd made for some challenging background buzz to edit out later.

The most troubling sonic intrusion was a bird that thudded smack into the plate glass and slid unceremoniously down to the tarmac three stories below. I know it's not the environmentally friendly way to think but I did find myself calculating how much less collateral damage there was from this bird's solo dive into a window as compared to the possibility of it taking the same headlong plunge into a jet engine as a plane rose for takeoff.
 
I also couldn't help but note how remarkably similar the recently deceased looked to the Water Dikops of Kruger Park that exhibited an identical Darwinian tendency toward early extinction during our night game drive a few nights ago.
 
Off to Cape Town now flying on 1 Time Airlines (Somehow the name does not fill me with a sense of confidence. Let's hope their mascot is not the Water Dikop.)
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Report by Monica Guy
 
8am on Valentine's Day. The heavens open over George, an historic town perched at the eastern end of South Africa's beautiful Western Cape. 625 athletes in wheelchairs, hand cycles and tricycles are lined up at the start of the seventh Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge, on main avenues shut to traffic.
 
Everyone is soaked within seconds, but it simply adds to the drama: those entering the 10 km or fun race break into song and perform a warm-up dance in the rain; the athletes intent upon the full 42.2 km marathon or 21.1 km half-marathon simply narrow their eyes against the rain and double-check their racing wheelchairs. It's an extraordinary sight.
 
Extraordinary because the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge is absolutely unique. Competitors must be disabled in some way, and must compete using a mobility-assistive device of some sort; there are 44 categories for the three distances. Those in the 7 km fun race can be pushed by friends or relatives.
 
But this is completely unlike the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon in Japan or the Seoul International Wheelchair Marathon in Korea, where hundreds of trained, focused athletes line up in top-of-the-range racing wheelchairs intent upon victory and record-breaking. In George, 85 percent of participants are from disadvantaged communities where disability can be stigmatised and facilities are scarce. 80 percent of these are black or coloured. Competing alongside them are world-class sporting celebrities such as the South African Ernst van Dyk, Paralympic champion and world record holder for the wheelchair marathon, and international athletes who have travelled from as far as France, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The age range is 2 years old to an impressive 95.
 
Inclusion, Community, Achievement, may all be abstract concepts, but they feel palpably real here.
 
The starting gun bangs and the marathon racers are off. Ernst van Dyk's impossibly broad shoulders are the first  to disappear into the misty haze, his arms rhythmically pushing down and away on the wheels of his racing chair like a powerful whiplash. Another gun and the half-marathon competitors shoot out, intent upon catching up. On the other side of the partition, the 10 km racers are jostling to be first in line - a bang and they roll out past the line, wheels all a-tangle, arms pushing frantically. A couple already need help from the mechanics positioned along the route; one young boy whose steering mechanism is twisted holds resolutely on with one hand while pushing with the other. The fun racers pour out behind them - young, old, with varying disabilities and mobility devices, many being pushed by friends and relatives, a couple of young ones even still asleep. The spectators retire out of the rain to one of the excellent stalls offering pancakes or boerewors hot dogs.
 
The Outeniqua race was started by Esther Watson, a disenchanted occupational therapist who woke up in her home town of George one morning with a vision: a wheelchair marathon to rival any of the world's great sporting challenges.
 
Twenty-seven wheelchair users competed in the first race, held in 2002 down an improbably steep pass in the nearby Outeniqua mountains. Seven years on, the annual event has attracted a record 625 participants from all of South Africa's nine provinces, as well as international disabled sports men and women. Sponsors come knocking, eager to be involved: Vodacom, Parmalat SA, Kempston Truck Hire, Die Burger newspaper, Powerade drinks, join the George municipality and over 65 smaller sponsors from all over the town and nation. Celebrities Fanie Lombaard (several times Paralympic gold medallist for shot put, discus, pentathlon and javelin), Breyton Paulse (ex-Springbok rugby player) and actor Neels van Jaarsveld are pushing disabled children in the fun race. The voice of Ian Laxton, legendary commentator for the 89 km Comrades Marathon, booms over the PA. It's an astonishing achievement, for which Esther Watson won the Shoprite Checkers/SABC2 Woman of the Year Award in 2006.
 
It's not for awards and accolades, however, that Esther and her committee of nine volunteer women dedicate their time and effort. "When we started this race in 2002 all we had was a dream," comments Esther..."but if you believe strongly enough in any dream, you can always reach it. Never ever stop dreaming. Never ever stop making changes in people's lives." Truly, these women must never stop, as the logistics of organising such a huge event are daunting. "We had one or two guys, but they dropped out, they couldn't take the pace," says Esther. Then, half tongue-in-cheek: "A man's got to do what a man's got to do...and a woman's got to do what he can't."
 
The sun breaks through the clouds at 9.20am. In no time at all, the winners of each category begin to cross the finishing line. A ripple of shocked excitement runs through the watching crowds as the marathon winner appears in the distance, flanked by a motorbike and speeding into view at an amazing pace. Instead of the sure favourite Ernst van Dyk, it is the French athlete Denis Lemeunier who will win the race in a time of 1:42:48. His fellow countryman Alain Fuss crosses the line shortly afterwards in a time of 1:44:29. They had been racing close together for most of the race, making the most of each other's slipstream and mutual encouragement.
 
Van Dyk trails in third with a time of 1:45:20. We learn that he had a puncture which a long time to fix in the bad weather conditions. He is smiling, though, like a true sportsman. He'd told me the night before that he loved this race, since "[i]t really reaches people who wouldn't get the chance otherwise." And he has other things in his sights: if he wins the Boston marathon again in April this year, he will be the first athlete ever to win it an amazing eight times.
 
If it sounds tacky or clichéd to say that the greatest achievers were those who completed the 10 km and fun races on ordinary manual wheelchairs, tricycles and cobbled-together racing chairs, then it certainly didn't feel that way on that rainy Saturday morning. There was a sense of triumph in the air as we sat around sharing hot corn cobs and steaming plates of potjiekos, a traditional stew being cooking up in vast quantities over smoky open fires.
 
The SA Dance Team performed on wooden boards in one corner of the field: two beautiful couples twirling each other around the dance floor with an elegance that belied - or was even enhanced by - their wheelchairs. There were songs, speeches, prizes, medals, balloons and finally, of course, the sun.
 
What a feat. You had to see it to believe it. Go next year, if you can. My utter, enduring respect to all involved.

Alfie-Smith-DSC01669.jpgIn the book How to Take Vacation Pictures the author notes that the background can become a character as well as reveal the character of the subject. You get to know the lot about the character of a person spending a week on the road and in the bush with them.

One of the enjoyable parts of the day while on safari with Epic-Enabled is the chance to sit with safari leader Alfie Smith. Whether that is one-on-one or around the braai (campfire) the insights are good and the stories entertaining.

Like the time Alfie realized in camp the first night of a tour across South America that he had entirely forgotten the cook tent. Not to worry he assured the guests he would set them up in this clearing here and be back with everything before sunrise.

Sure enough he was back as he promised - but nobody was there!

Instead there were some goat herds and a few stalls going up in the pre-dawn light.

It turns out Alfie wasn't the only one who found that clearing appealing. The spott was used as the regional marketplace every Saturday!


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On a Game Drive Tracking Lion

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We're playing Where's Waldo in the bush veldt.


His name is Ian but he is as invisible as any storybook Waldo ever was among the thorn briars and the lions (no tigers or bears). We've followed the yellow clay road to where we thought he was. He has cast off again tracking lion. We wander after in our lumbering safari vehicle.


On a family trip as a child we entertained ourselves at times like these with songs and contests involving makes of cars or license plate numbers. I don't speak, let alone sing, any of the languages on tour today, Dutch, German, Sotho, Afrikaans, or the dialect of Imperial English evangelized by our resident elocutionist. So, we settle into our private enjoyments while the truck trampolines down corrugated roads in pursuit of the fading voice on the walkie talkie. I play the birding game:


European Roller, Fish Eagle, Yellow Billed Hornbill, Red Billed Hornbill, Pied Crows, Yellow Weavers, Buffalo Weaver, Guinea Fowl, Mourning Dove, Blue Waxbill, Button Quail, Francolins from Natal as well as the Drakensburg above us, Gray Lowery (Turico; the veldt's warning signal - "Go Away Bird").


The driver calls out, "Look down!" From our perches seven feet above the ground the millipede (Shongololo) looks about the same size as I recall from my youth in the Olympic Rainforest in Washington State - about three inches. A quick reality check reminds us that this immature army of legs is at least nine inches long and pumping as fast as it can to get out of the open and off the lunch menu of the area's hungry civets.


Later a Leopard Tortoise and mine fields of Ant Lions bring the day's spotting of the Small Five to three:


Ant Lion, Buffalo Weaver, and Leopard Tortoise


Rhino Beetles prove as scarce as their full-sized namesakes today. The closest we get to anything resembling an Elephant Shrew is a squirrel cowering for cover in  tree branch so we can't tick off the fourth and fifth on the list.


Kudu, Gnu (wildebeest), Impala, Blue Vervet Monkeys, and even a full grown male Steinbok (standing shorter than the veldt grass in seed) all make the day's spotting tally.


But where's Waldo?


Far off the main road now we can smell the lion's den. The distinct odor of cat overpowers the neutral smell of veldt in its summer green.


Even so, no sighting. It's neither lions nor tigers nor bears today as we return to bush camp for breakfast.

On the Way to Kruger National Park

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On the way to Kruger National Park I saw a lion.
Flank-DSC01063.jpg
The lion saw me.
Above-DSC01097.jpg


We chatted a bit.

We played "hide & seek."
Flower-DSC01120.jpg







We played in the pond (Shhh, don't tell anyone else. They think lions don't like water.)

Water-DSC01125.jpg

We took a walk down a country road.

Road-DSC01156.jpg

Then she went off to hunt up something for dinner. (I didn't ask what she had in mind for the evening meal!)






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Following the familiarization tour sponsored by the province of Kwazulu-Natal and this week's tour by the province of Gauteng I will be the guest of Sabine and Alfie at Epic Enabled. As Internet connections allow in the bush there will be posts and photos.

 

After this safari I will visit their Blue Tangerine property in Cape Town and meet with numerous inclusive tourism stakeholders there for three days.

 

There is a short pre-tour meeting on the evening of 11 February when Alfie talks to the group and debriefs them on the history of the Kruger, how far each stage of the journey is, where we stop en-route, what can be expected along the way etc.  The group then meets up early on Feb 12 for breakfast and departs on tour at 7h00.

 

Here is an outline of our itinerary for the upcoming February tour:

 

Day 1 - Feb 12: From Johannesburg, our first day starts at 7am and is a scenic journey heading along the Blyde River Canyon to a magnificent Private Game Reserve, world renowned for reintroducing animals to the wild and its Lion breeding project where we spend 3 nights. (L/D )

 

Days 2 & 3 - Feb 13 - 14:. You can get to know and encounter up close lions and maybe even touch a wild cheetah (named Savannah) at this stunning lodge.  Dinner is served in a traditional "Boma" around a blazing fire by us.  Activities during these days include morning and afternoon game drives & walks, a visit to the Hoedspruit Research and Breeding Centre for Endangered Species (Cheetah and Wild Dogs), a visit to a local Shangaan village (optional cost) and visiting Jessica the Hippo (optional cost). (B/L/D)

 

Days 4, 5, 6 & 7 - Feb 15 - 18: We spend the next 4 days in the Kruger National Park. This 2 million-hectare haven is home to the Big Five and many other species of animal, bird and plant. Kruger Park is a premier local and international Game Park, featuring, apart from its excellent camps, wonderful views and tranquil settings.  The Park features exciting drives through both dense bush and dry scrub. Whilst in the Park, most of the time will be filled with game viewing on early morning and evening drives, discovering the inner beauty of this memorable Park. This is where you can explore your photographic skills, or even just capture the sight of this incredible variety of wildlife as a memory back home. Our nights are spent at various main and private tented camps throughout the Park, with nights 5 and 6 in one camp. Optional cost night game drive available. (B/L/D)

 

Day 8 - Feb 19: Our last day takes us out of the Southern most gate of the Kruger Park, Crocodile Bridge, and west through the rolling hills of the Highveld, back to Johannesburg where you will be delivered to your hotel or the airport after enjoying your incredible Epic safari! (B/L)

 

There are extra activities which are not included in the tour fee, namely the optional night game drive in Kruger Nat. Park (R 150), optional Shangaan Village visit (R100),  optional Jessica the Hippo visit (R 70), meals in restaurants (if you choose), drinks & personal expenses etc.

 

Included in the tour are:

·        7 nights accommodation in tents & bungalows as per itinerary

·        all transport as per itinerary in special adapted vehicles for wheelchair access

·        wholesome meals as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch & D=Dinner)

·        all entrance fees and excursions as per itinerary

 

If this accessible itinerary sounds interesting to you contact Epic Enabled:

Epic Enabled & Blue Tangerine
3 Bodrum Close
PO Box 422
Noordhoek
7985
South Africa
 
Epic Enabled - Tel/Fax: +27 (0)21 785 3176
Mobile: +27 (0)73 22 82825
E-mail: info@epic-enabled.com
Website: www.epic-enabled.com & www.epicenabled.blogspot.com
Skype ID: epic-enabled
 
Blue Tangerine - Tel: +27 (0)21 785 3156  /  Fax: +27 (0)21 785 3176
Mobile: +27 (0)72 634 1778
E-mail: info@bluetangerine.co.za
Website: www.bluetangerine.co.za

Blimey, there's a lot to learn about South Africa! Travel writer and Scott's sometimes South African travel companion Monica Guy writes from Cape Town:


Further to Scott's quick guide to South African English for Americans:


Monica-DSC00023.jpg

 

You'll read in your guide book that most people in South Africa speak English. Actually, only 8.2 per cent have it as their first language. isiZulu and isiXhosa are the most widely-spoken languages in South Africa, with Afrikaans (user-friendly Dutch) coming third.

 

Although it's true you can get around without knowing a word of any of the ten other official languages, you'll find that South African English ain't anything like English English or American English.

 

The Oxford Dictionary released its South African English dictionary in 2002, but it's a heavy read. Here's your very own shortened version of the essentials:

 

Essentials

 

Yebo or Ja (pronounced Yaar): Yeah ('Yeees' seems to be the way Zulus pronounce it]

 

Ag: Oh/yes well/erm/hmmm

 

Howzit?: How are you?

 

Hey: To be tagged onto the end of any sentence or question you like.

 

Shame: Anything from "what a shame" to "great, that's fantastic".

 

Just now: Anything from "right away" to "never".

 

Braai: Barbecue

 

Bakkie: Pick-up truck

 

Robot: Traffic lights (usually ignored. Incidentally, the phrases "road safety" and "right of way" do not currently have an equivalent)

 

Buck: Rand (official South African currency) - about a tenth of a dollar.

 

Dagga: Marijuana

 

Eina: Ouch!

 

How to Swear in South African English

 

Cuck: Slightly less offensive than sh*t

 

Guava: Ass

 

Ballas bak: Literally to "bake your balls". Something like "sit on your ass".

 

Poep: Fart. You can probably guess what a  "spuitpoep" refers to.

 

Better stop there.

The human diversity of South Africa is as spectacular as it's physical and biological variety. Here I have collected photos of some of the faces I have encountered on this journey.



Find more photos like this on Tour Watch

"Yees" is not something you put it bread dough to make it rise. It is the opposite of "no."

The common response to "Thank you" is "pleasure" delivered with the lilt of a smile.

Free State is actually a province not a state. (Go figure.)

"Is it?" is a South Africanism meaning "Really?" "Is that right?"

"Are you winning?" is phrase meaning roughly "Are you having success?" "Are you doing ok?"

Signs indicating that a parking space is reserved for those with disabilities retains it's universal meaning. Basically: "Who cares? I was here first."

It is morning in Johannesburg ("Jo'burg").

My City Lodge hotel room reminds me of any of my college dormitory rooms -- only much smaller. After removing the chair to the built-in desk (proper wheelchair height) and one of the bed tables so that the bed could be rotated there is enough room to turn around in a manual wheelchair. Fortunately the accommodations also includes a double bed. That way I am able to sleep with one of my two suitcases leaving it at a height where it can be reached in the morning and leaving enough clear floor space to move in the chair when I get up.

The flight last night on on Mango Airlines (nice color airplanes was uneventful after a 1 hour and 10 minute delay. The passengers to the left and right of me noted that the engines sounded funny. We all lightened the mood by introducing ourselves and then immediately saying, "Goodbye. Nice meeting you" in case we forgot such pleasantries in what seemed destined to be a quick landing.

The  lineup of passengers in our row sounds like the opening of a joke - two Assembly of God missionaries, a sexology intern, myself, a model, and an HIV researcher.

I'll leave your imagination free to consider the topics of our non-stop conversations during the hour-long flight. Uncensored was the political analysis of this broad range of South Africans and long-term residents. The consensus was a sense of betrayal that the dream of post-apartheid equality has been sold out for a clinging to old models of greed and power-lust by a new set of players. The hunger on the streets is for trustworthy leadership.

On the theme of air travel and disability this bit of news came my way this morning:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has received just 161 calls about accessible travel since EU regulations were introduced in July 2008 to protect the rights of disabled people when travelling by air.

The EHRC said the figures represent first-time callers ringing its helpline who were concerned about airlines not providing help with issues such as seating or assistance at the point of arrival.

The concern is that many of the 8.5 million disabled people in the UK are avoiding travelling by air or are not complaining out of embarrassment.


Source:
http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/02/05/30155/only-161-complaints-over-accessible-travel-in-wake-of-eu.htm

Marti Giochi reports in her latest issue of Global Access news that mystery shopper John Roberts continues his world tour with posts over at Travel Weekly:

John Roberts (a pseudonym)  takes an inaccessible tours of Singapore at http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/01/05/29862/the-disability-travel-challenge-booked-tours-in-singapore-not.html

Then it's onto Sydney where he faced several access challenges http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/01/09/29908/the-disability-travel-challenge-inaccessible-tours-and-steep-hills-in.html

A Qantas flight from Cairns to Brisbane
was also riddled  with problems http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/01/21/30029/the-disability-travel-challenge-cairns-to-brisbane-with.html and a Diamond Princess cruise at http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Articles/2009/02/03/30125/the-disability-travel-challenge-diamond-princess-cruise.html
l
 
Off by van today to discover a new face of South Africa -- Gauteng province. Even in this economic slowdown people with disabilities are traveling with pseudonyms and without.

There are five zones in Isimangaliso Wetland Park near St Lucia: the Indian Ocean, the dune ecosystem, the estuarine system, swamp, and savannah. We explored the estuarine system with Advantage boat tours.

204px-Saddle-Billed_Stork.jpg
Access to the boat was, well, "exhilarating." I was lifted (wheelchair and all) by a team that could have been from the World Wrestling Federation, down into the waiting boat. Later we earned that a more accessible new catamaran boat is impounded up on the hard across the street from the St Lucia Police station. I was not able to learn exactly why it is not bring licensed to operate but the captain and owners are keen to put it in service.

I observed something surprising as I signed the guest book. More than half those from the US who signed since the book began in November 2008 are from Seattle. I wonder how South Africa got on the map for travelers from the Pacific Northwest.

With my anemic telephoto I did not succeed in collecting good photos although we saw hippos, crocodiles, and the following birds:

Pied Kingfisher

Little White Egret

Gray Heron

Egyptian Geese

Yellow-billed Stork

Great White Egret

Saddle-billed Stork


Yellow-billed Kite

Goliath Stork


Craig Redelinghuys at Safari Brothers has suggested these possible trips as the basis for a familiarization tour of accessible sites sponsored by Gauteng Tourism. Once the tour is finalized I will post entries here on Rolling Rains.
________________________________________

7 February 2009

08h00 collection after breakfast by Safari Bus driver.
Transfer to SOWETO to meet our local tour guide.

Johannesburg & Soweto    or    Soweto & Apartheid Museum 

    
Duration:  5 hrs
Entrance included: Mandela House Museum & Hector Peterson Memorial
   Carlton Centre "Top of Africa" or Aparthied Museum
Certified SOWETO tour guide.

Our tour is designed to give the visitor to Johannesburg an overall impression of "Egoli" - the City of Gold, South Africa's commercial and financial capital. We take a look around the northern suburbs, then on to the hustle and bustle of Hillbrow and the downtown area to view a "mini-Manhattan" from the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre. Continuing to Soweto (South WEstern Township), largest black residential area in South Africa, we see a fascinating contrast to Sandton and Rosebank in the north. This sprawling "city within a city" essentially acts as a labour reservoir for the greater metropolitan area of the Witwatersrand. In many ways, the story of Soweto is the story of South Africa. Our tour includes all the major points of interest, such as Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Baragwanath taxi rank, Freedom Square, Hector Peterson Memorial and Nelson Mandela's former home.


After lunch transfer to Cradle of Humankind

Cradle of Mankind (Sterkfontein)    

Duration:  4 - 5 hrs
Entrance included: Sterkfontein Caves & The Wonder Cave.
Certified driver with Guides at each location


The Sterkfontein Caves were discovered in 1896 by an Italian gold prospector and are now regarded as one of the world's most important archeological sites. The caves lie in the Sterkfontein valley which, together with the nearby sites of Swartkrans, Drimolen and Kromdraai, make up the recently proclaimed World Heritage Site known as the "Cradle of Mankind". Dr Robert Broom of the Transvaal Museum (now the Museum of Natural History) began excavations at the cave in 1936 and in 1947 discovered a well-preserved skull of a species of early man known as Plesianthropus Transvaalensis. This later became known as the famous "Mrs Ples". Our tour includes visits to both the Sterkfontein and Kromdraai caves.

________________________________________

8 February 2009

Driver to collect at  06h30

De Wildt Cheetah Centre     

Duration:  5 hours
Entrance included: guided public tour of De Wildt
Certified driver with Guide at location

The De Wildt Cheetah Centre was established by Ann Van Dyk and her brother Godfrey in 1971 with the aim of breeding the severely endangered cheetah. In April 2006, the centre celebrated its 35th anniversary , and has not only achieved the removal of the Cheetah from the endangered list, but also successfully breeds other endangered species, such as Wild dog, Brown hyena, Riverine rabbit, Suni antelope and Blue duiker.

This is an exceptionally interesting tour, providing the visitor with a unique opportunity to learn more about South Africa's fascinating wildlife - and the efforts to preserve it for future generations.


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9 February 2009

Collection at 06h30 by guide.
Transfer to Pilansberg Game Park

Pilanesberg Game Park       

Duration:  11 hours
Entrance included: Pilanesberg Game Park
   Certified tour guide.

The Pilanesberg Game Park lies 160 km (100 miles) from Johannesburg in North West - the "Platinum province" - and occupies an eroded volcano that is more than 1,000 million years old. Covering an area of some 57 000 hectares, the Park offers the visitor a wide diversity of 35 animal species, including the "Big Five", 350 bird species and 65 reptile species - all in a malaria free area. On the southern boundary of the Park lies Sun City, a resort famed for its superb golf courses and slot machines, the Valley of the Waves and the legend of the Lost City - and not forgetting its magnificent Palace hotel. While our tour does include both attractions, the itinerary is quite flexible and your tour guide will adapt the days program to suit your preferences. Lunch is included in the Pilanesberg Game Park.


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10 February 2009

Transfer from Hotel - O.R Tambo airport.

Transfer to OR Tambo in Toyota Condor
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Other optional day tours


Gold Reef City Tour      

Duration:                 4 hrs
Entrance included: Gold Reef City
Certified tour guide.


NB: CLOSED ON MONDAYS

A reconstruction of the Johannesburg during the gold Rush era, Gold Reef City home to a fun fare and is designed to replicate the time of the Gold Rush experience. An organized Jozi story of gold, takes you through many attractions on offer. Enjoy the performance of the Gumboot dancers which originated from the mine workers, Traditional dance performance .Take a trip down an old mine shaft  and get a sense of the tough working conditions miners  had to go through. Watch gold pouring demonstration.
           
Cullinan Diamond Mine      

Duration:  9 hours
Entrance included: guided private tour of Cullinan Mine
Certified driver with Guides at each location


Underground tour 
 

NB: Booking is essential for the underground tour 
   
The small town of Cullinan lies 100km (70 miles) northeast of Johannesburg, where the open grassland of the Highveld gives way to the bushveld stretching away to the north. The town owes its existence to the Premier Diamond Mine, established in 1902 by Thomas Cullinan.  The mine was renamed the Cullinan Diamond Mine in November 2003, in honor of its centenary. The famous 3 106-carat Cullinan diamond was discovered here in 1905 and, although no longer in its original form, remains unequalled in size. A short video presentation offers an introduction to the diamond mining industry in South Africa, followed by a guided walking tour of the mine surface. After the tour, refreshments are available (not included) before returning to Johannesburg.


Pretoria City       

Duration:  5 hours
Entrance included: Voortrekker Monument
Kruger House Museum
African Window Museum OR Melrose House
Certified tour guide.


   Although Pretoria lies only 58 km (36 miles) north of Johannesburg, South Africa's administrative capital provides a complete contrast to the City of Gold. We travel to Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital, founded in 1855 and named after the Voortrekker leader, Andries Pretorius. Often referred to as the "Jacaranda city", this nickname refers to the thousands of trees lining the streets, their purple blossoms heralding the approach of summer each October. Our tour begins with a visit to the Voortrekker Monument, a striking memorial built to honor the early pioneers. We then continue to the Kruger House Museum and Church Square in the centre of the city, where the statue of Paul Kruger looks down on the passers by. The imposing Union Building, which houses the office of the State President, provides an impressive view over the city. Our stop here completes the tour, before we return to Johannesburg.
Early morning departure 06h30. Collected by tour guide.

 .

If these itineraries interest you more information is available from:

SAFARI BROS. Head Office incorporating SAFARI BUS

CC No: 2002/002404/23                                                                                                

VAT No: 474 021 8112

Mail:         P.O. Box 596, Cramerview 2060, South Africa

Phone:     +27-11-794-2166

Fax:         +27-11-794-2166

Mobile:     +27-82-827-4449

Email:       craig@safaribrothers.co.za

 
 

 

The Makaranga Lodge Sculpture Garden

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Makaranga Lodge in Durban will receive it's own special entry as a recommended accessible hotel and small conference site. In the meantime enjoy photos of their fabulous outdoor sculptur display. This is mostly Shona stone carving.



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Tips on South African Travel:


  • Use a travel agent. There are many undiscovered treasures here.
  • Interview your travel agent well and expect them to do the same to you. This is not only to guarantee a comfortable trip for you but to guarantee that you are leaving behind someone well-prepared to advocate for the next traveler from our community.
  • Note the shape of power receptacles and bring appropriate adapters
  • Gratuity is taxed if listed on the dinner receipt. Cash is preferred.
  • UV is strong here even through clouds. Remember sunblock.
  • Red Bush tea is used to settle colic in babies here and may be comforting to travelers' stomach. It is naturally caffeine-free.
  • Fashion statement: Avoid Burger King's meat-scented cologne when on safari. (Attractive but maybe not to your type.)

CIA map of South Africa

Image via Wikipedia

DAY 10

2 Feb


We enroute to Durban stop in Richards Bay to meet Kobus Head of Tour Operators Association Zululand and see the Yacht Club and Small Craft Harbour. 



~ Itinerary arranged by Jennae Bezuidenhout, Access2Africa
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Satellite image of w:Greater St. Lucia Wetland...

Image via Wikipedia

DAY 9

1 Feb

 
After waking up to the sound of Africa with birds and nature, we enjoy a leisurely breakfast and set off for St Lucia,a picturesome village situated within a nature reserve and which is surrounded by 5 distinct ecosystems and Isimangaliso Wetland Park.

St Lucia offers the day visitor an endless wealth of possibilities with its shops, curio and Africanware flea markets, pubs, restaurants, boat trips, crocodile farms and a lovely interpretation centre explaining the ecology of the World Natural Heritage Site.

Suggestion: Boatride in morning then to Richards Bay after toYacht Club and small craft harbour to Kobus/Yacht Club Head for meeting.(Bonamazi Game Reserve)


~ Itinerary arranged by Jennae Bezuidenhout, Access2Africa
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A Change of Plans

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Double-bookings in our itinerary made it impossible to meet Kobus and visit Richard's Bay.

Below are photos from some of the other activites we did in the region including Iyala Weavers' Co-op and Dumazulu Cultural Village.

 

 


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