These accessible hotels, cottages and guest houses will help make your stay on the South African East Coast and in George a little more comfortable.
During my travels over the past months I’ve come across some establishments that really try to be accessible, while others just are! Ari Seirlis also recently visited some Sun International establishments along the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) coast. Here are our comments and feedback.
Wild Coast Sun Resort
This family-friendly resort and casino is just over a two-hour drive south of Durban. It offers various rooms, including a Luxury Accessible room. There are numerous restaurants, bars and fast-food outlets, while the casino offers table games and slots, and is open 24 hours a day.
The conference facilities are extensive, with a wide variety of options. The Resort is renowned for its outdoor activities too, and offers a waterpark, an 18-hole golf course and Segway tours, horse riding, swimming, tennis, lawn bowls, squash and a gym. Ari says: “Expect a warm welcome at the entrance gate, a porter to greet you at the hotel drop-off point and wheelchair parking facilities (five bays for hotel guests) in the undercover car park.
“It was good to note that the wheelchair parking facilities are restricted to wheelchair users, thanks to Johann Botha, the security manager. The reception check-in facility is efficient and the wheelchair-accessible room that I stayed in (Room 411) is on the same level as the reception and not far down the corridor.
“Room 409 is the interleading room and there are five wheelchair and interleading room combinations available. The interleading room has a king-size bed. The bathroom, although not completely conforming to South African National Standard (SANS) 10400 of the building regulations, is accessible enough for any wheelchair user,” he adds.
According to Ari, the bathroom is spacious with a roll-in shower. There is a lovely balcony, adequate space in the room to manoeuvre a wheelchair comfortably, and helpful staff who are willing to assist wheelchair users with the steep ramp leading to the breakfast area, Chico’s, the reception and the casino area.
“Unfortunately, the movie theatre has steps and is not very accessible even though the staff would willingly carry you up the steps. The outside area overlooking the sea has a number of pathways that are relatively smooth and easy to navigate. The view of the wild coast is beautiful, and the expansive outdoor area, with its scent of the sea, is a relaxing environment, once again offering great service,” Ari recalls.
Sibaya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom
Situated a few kilometres south of King Shaka Airport, this complex offers excellent facilities for families and business travellers. There is the Sibaya Lodge and Royal Sibaya Hotel within the Casino and Entertainment complex, which offer the same facilities as the rest of the chain as well as a spa and theatre.
Ari notes: “Sibaya Lodge has a beautiful setting just behind the main casino building and the 118-room, three-star hotel is really cosy. The wheelchair-accessible room is exactly that. (There are two rooms with an interleading facility.) The room offers a spacious bathroom with roll-in shower, enough space to manoeuvre in the room and a beautiful view over the sea from the balcony.”
He adds that while the bathroom is not quite up to SANS 10400 standard, it is adequate for agile paraplegics and assisted quadriplegics. The interleading room offers two double beds.
“One small drawback: there are no staff members in the car park, which could be problematic for a wheelchair user who requires support with exiting their vehicle and with luggage on arrival and departure. But overall, the Lodge has friendly staff, reasonable rates (which can be negotiated) and a beautiful view,” he concludes.
Forty Winks, KZN Midlands
Nestled in the heart of the Midlands Meander in the Kamberg Valley – a fly-fishing hub – is the Forty Winks 143-acre property. The accommodation units are strategically placed on the upper reaches of the hills to afford the most spectacular views of the dams, game and surrounding area. The cottages are semi-detached, each with their own entrance and car port.
Should you wish to book both units, there is an interleading door offering access between both. Each unit has two bedrooms, a family bathroom, guest toilet, an open-plan kitchen and dining-lounge area that opens onto the covered patio via sliding doors. There is underfloor heating throughout, a fireplace in the lounge, TV (with limited channels) and limited free WiFi.
Cottages one and two have wheelchair-friendly features and the owners are planning to add extra cottages. They have agreed to build these from scratch to be Universally Accessible. Access to the fishing dams requires tackling quite a steep roadway and therefore a four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary.
Once at the first dam, there is an accessible dock and jetty. (The owners have plans to add a picnic area and accessible toilet here.) The dams are stocked with rainbow and brown trout. If fishing isn’t your thing, there are other activities you can do, such as swimming in the dams, birdwatching or looking for the various game that are on the property.
If you are more adventurous, you can walk anywhere on the property or do a mountain-bike or 4×4 drive along the eight kilometres of trails. There are also hiking trails in the Kamberg Nature reserve, which is 30 minutes away.
What a venue! I absolutely loved the views, the ability to sit on the balcony and watch the birdlife and game from early morning to late afternoon. The owners are very friendly, are keen to be of assistance in any way possible and really want to make their property accessible to people with disabilities.
There are a few areas that need addressing, which I’m sure they will be attending to soon, like adding a plug point near the head of the bed, and installing a fixed shower seat and a sliding adjustable shower rail. The access to the fireplace in the lounge is restricted by a step, and the kitchen counters are a tad high, but that just meant I was able to rest completely and let my friends do all the work!
The braai area is located outside the back door, which keeps the large balcony open for just sitting and enjoying the views.
Christine’s Eden, George
I needed self-catering accommodation recently for my trip to George to compete in the Physically Disabled Bowls National competition and spent many hours on the internet trying to find a facility with a roll-in shower and step-free access. The only place I could find was this delightful one-bedroom cottage situated on The Gables, Blue Mountain Estate.
The Gables is part of the estate’s facility for the over-55s, and reservations do have the prerequisite that one guest has to be over 48 years old! The unit is semi-detached and has a large bedroom with an ensuite shower, open-plan kitchen, and lounge with access to a small patio and garden.
The views of the Outeniqua Mountains are spectacular and the Garden Route Mall is on the doorstep! The owners live on the Estate. Bryan is a registered tour guide and offers transfers and sightseeing options. There are a few inaccessible features such as the shelves at the bedside that are too high and the light switches that are difficult to reach when lying down.
The clothing rails are at the standard height, but the owners do supply a portable clothes rail and the drawers are accessible. The built-in shower seat has the controls for the shower fitted on the back wall, which makes it difficult to use the seat. The basin is on a cabinet, which means no knee clearance.
The kitchen counters are a little high, but it is still possible to use the microwave easily. A bonus is the rear courtyard, which is covered, and there is a top-loader washing machine, so you can dry your laundry despite the rain! There is limited DSTV and limited free WiFi. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. For more info, please visit the various websites: www.suninternational.com; www.fortywinks.co.za; www.booking.com with the filters of George and facilities for disabled guests.
Mandy Latimore is a consultant in the disability sector in the fields of travel and access. email: firstname.lastname@example.org