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Garden Route (Tsitsikamma, Knysna, Wilderness) National Park
People with Disabilities
Wheelchair Access Profiles
As at July 2010 there are 5 units in Garden Route National Park that have adaptations for guests with mobility challenges, 3 in the Tsitsikamma section and 2 in the Wilderness section.
These units need to be booked directly with SANParks as they are held on reserve for guest who require them and cannot be booked through satellite offices or through the on-line mechanism. Email email@example.com or phone +27 (0)12 428 9111 and request a unit accessible to the mobility challenged. Do not book another unit and expect that you can swap when you get to the park.
There are also 3 adapted accessible campsite ablutions (one in Tsitsikamma section and 2 in Wilderness section) – see access profiles for images and detail. There is also a selection of privately run accommodation, in the greater area encompassed by the park and some of these private operators have adapted their accommodation to be universally accessible.
Wheelchair Access Activities
Walks and Trails are one of the major ecotourism attractions of the park, and many pass through spectacular coastal and forest scenery. The 5-day Otter Trail in the Tsitsikamma Section has an international reputation, but this entails some heavy terrain and crossing of river mouths at low tide, but there are many shorter day walks in the park as well. The most popular of these is perhaps the walk from the main complex to the Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge, also in the Tsitsikamma Section, but this also involves ascending/descending a steep incline and crossing a beach and is not suitable for wheelchair users.
There are however trails in the park that are suitable for wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges:
At Nature’s Valley there is a short circular route adjacent the Groot River. This trail is a boardwalk made from recycled polywood, which means there is no impairing impact from tree roots, leaf litter, muddy or sodden ground etc. There is a kick-plate on the one side of the path and a banister on the other. The trail passes through virgin forest and is a great way for a wheelchair user to leave the signs of human development behind and with a bit of stealth get some great sightings of forest birds and mammals.
At the Garden of Eden (immediately adjacent the N2 between Plettenberg Bay and Knysna) there is marked 800m circular route accessible to wheelchair users.
CAt the Big Tree – an ancient Outeniqua Yellowwood (There are a couple of trees labelled the Big Tree in the area, but this one is also on the N2 between the turn off to Storm’s River Camp and where the highway crosses the Storm’s River over the Paul Sauer Bridge) which also has a boardwalk from the parking area to the tree and the track takes one through lush indigenous forest.
Some other forest tracks in the greater park may also be partially or fully accessible to a person in a wheelchair.
Although not a designated trail, wheelchair users looking for a suitable surface and gradient may wish to travel to the village of Nature’s Valley (especially outside of school holidays when many of the holiday houses are empty). The narrow tarred road network of the village is perfect for moving around and in many places the forest encroaches into the garden so much that it is almost like being in the forest itself. The village is adjacent a lagoon and people can also make their way along the water’s edge down to the beach.
Wheelchair users wanting to enjoy great views of the Indian Ocean can also make use of the tar road through Storm’s River Rest Camp.
There are a variety of privately run activities in the vicinity of the park that afford access opportunity. Two that offer good access opportunity are:
- A visit to Monkeyland (in a 12 hectare plot in the Tsitsikamma Forest just off the N2) is highly recommended. Most of the reserve is accessible, while guides are more than willing to assist where paths are difficult. The sanctuary is a rehabilitation place for primates, including gibbon, spider monkey and howler monkey. Accessible ablutions are available. http://www.monkeyland.co.za/
- Just adjacent this and under the same ownership is Birds of Eden, the largest free-flight aviary in the World. The pathway is accessible throughout the entire facility. It does descend down into a steep ravine, so assistance may be required by some. A plethora of bird species roam the aviary. Accessible ablutions are available. http://www.birdsofeden.co.za/
(Please see additional information on Wheelchair Accessibility)
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