Glamping for the Disabled Now Enabled by Thoughtful Resort Operators

For those with disabilities, the world is slowly but surely becoming more accommodating- in public spaces, in work places, and finally in vacation destinations. Cruises and mega resorts are popular vacations for disabled individuals. But what if you want a little adventure? More and more boutique resort operators are creating an extra luxury tent or two that accommodate. Here are a few glamping options for those who have special needs.

White oak Treehouse - The Mohicans

Glenmont, Ohio, a charming hamlet of 272 people halfway between Columbus and Cleveland is home to The Mohicans, a small resort famous for treehouses designed by owner Kevin Mooney and architect/craftsman Pete Nelson, featured on The Discovery Channel show, “Treehouse Masters.” How do you get a wheelchair into a tree, you might ask? “Take the gravel path, directly to bridge that takes you to a platform, cross the bridge to a double front door that has plenty of room that a wheelchair can go in,” says Kevin. He’s describing the White Oak Treehouse, with an accommodating large deck and a bathroom with grab bars. It goes for $195/night to start, with two bedrooms and a “fully stocked kitchen.”


If you’d rather stay ground based, and you have a large party, the Amish-built Walhonding cabin may be more to your liking, a wheelchair accessible dwelling with “rustic upscale decor, cathedral split log ceilings, covered front porch, back patio, leather furniture, radiant heat floors,” and sleeps up to 14 guests.

Turtle bay

Longing for Hawaii? Along the west shore of stunning Turtle Bay at the Turtle Bay Beach Resort in Oahu are clusters of beach cottages, one of which is an “ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Accessible Oceanside King Cottage. With its ADA automatic door, multiple access ramps, and spacious ADA accessible bathroom with all the right provisions, you will spend less time worrying about mobility and more time enjoying warm ocean breezes while your exclusive cottage concierge tends to your every need. Average daily rate is $394.

eco tent1

For a cheaper view of the sea, consider the Concordia Eco Resort on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Travel blogger Tiffiny Carlson of The Mobility Resource raves about Concordia’s accommodating accommodations stating, “If you’re looking for a low cost way to enjoy the jungle and ocean without any hindrances, this is it.” Starting at $195/night, choose one of the four “eco-tents” with accessible features nestled on an ocean-facing hillside, or splurge for the Premium Eco-Tent (which has some minor restrictions, so please call ahead with questions). Two of eight eco-studios planned for the near future are slated to be handicap accessible as well.


Glampers with disabilities who want a taste of the Old West will want to check out the luxury glamping tents at Moose Creek Ranch in Victor, Idaho. A mere 30 minute drive from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, guests can “enjoy a day there, come home to the ranch, rest, then set off the next morning towards West Yellowstone and the west entrance to Yellowstone Park.” In addition to having handicap accessible luxury tents (which may have limitations, so call ahead), Moose Creek Ranch is pet and kid friendly as well.


Venture off to Namibia, Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime experience African safari and stay at the Etosha Village, which provides “wheelchair friendly units designed with a ramp instead of stairs, a more spacious bathroom for easy wheelchair access and the room has a different interior arrangement for easier access.” The operators of Etosha Village pride themselves on their commitment to the conservation of wilderness areas, constructing their luxury canvas suites to ensure minimum impact on the natural habitat.

etosha safari

For quite some time, travelers with mobility issues found it difficult to imagine such outdoor adventures as a stay in a treehouse or on an African savanna. Now many of those amazing outdoor experiences, thanks to thoughtful resort operators, are finally within reach.

Sanctuary Swala: Peace in the Tanzania Wilderness

I awake just in time for sunrise, rub my eyes and remind myself where I am: Tanzania. I grab my camera and go out to my wrap-around deck, which sits right in the middle of the savanna. An orange glow is low on the horizon shining through the acacia trees. Monkeys and guinea fowl run around in front of me. I hear only nature – rustling in the bushes and the sounds of birds awakening all around me. I grab the yoga mat that is stocked inside my tent and do 20 minutes of chatarangas and sun salutations. Lovely French press coffee is brought right to me on a tray and I sit in wonder.


Sanctuary Swala
is about a four-hour drive from Arusha—the first two hours are paved, while the rest is on a dirt road through Tarangire National Park. It’s the first “hotel” at which I’ve stayed where on the way there, I pass zebras, giraffes, and lions.


Upon arrival, an attendant escorts me to my “permanent tent”. One of twelve canvas pavilions, each tent has a bleached hardwood floor, a canvas ceiling with ceiling fan, upholstered chairs in a sitting area, fluffy white duvets on comfy beds, a full en-suite bathroom complete with modern cement slab vanity, double sinks, and an indoor and outdoor shower. There is a wooden deck surrounding the tent and you can sit on your front “porch” and watch zebras and elephants walk right on by. It’s surreal. If this is glamping, I am hooked.


It is hot and dusty in Tanzania, so admittedly one of my favorite things is the complimentary laundry service. There’s nothing like clean clothes for the light packer. One interesting caveat, since they have an all male staff, they do not wash women’s underwear, but do give you detergent in your room so you can hand wash your delicates.

And just in case of any emergency, each tent is equipped with a handheld radio.


At night, I am told to give out a sort of “bat signal.” I simply shine the flashlight that I find charging in my tent up toward the treetops and an askaris (night watchman) comes over and escorts me to the dining room. Seem unnecessary? You have to remember we are just living on the grounds of a national park. There is no fence between us and the wild beasts, just the door of the tent, so at night it’s in our best interest to be careful and still be escorted on the lighted pathways.


Each day at camp, you can join a safari drive, take an early walking safari at dawn, or even go jogging with one of the staff just outside of the park at a local “football” field.

“Feeling adventurous?” asks Chris, the property manager. “Want to go for a little walk in the evening?”

“Sure!” I exclaim without even thinking.


We meet at 5:15pm in the open-air lounge and I sign some “you could die” waivers and get the briefing about safe distances between us and the animals and when we might have to freeze or flee. Oh yeah. This is not just a “walk in the park.” A hike in Tanzania is much different than a hike in any park I’ve ever been to. This is the bush. When on safari we are not allowed to get out of the car. But now we are walking away from our lodge—away from any vehicle or shelter—and are literally just on our own out in the wild with 15,000 pound African elephants (the largest land mammals on earth), dangerous buffalo (they are very unpredictable and kill more people in Africa than any other animal) and lions. The big difference? We are escorted by a park ranger carrying an AK-47 and Chris leads the way also carrying a rifle. Of course, I don’t want to die, but I also really don’t want to put any animal in danger. I started having doubts before we even set out. Why should I risk the life of an animal just so I could get closer? That’s the last reason I came to Tanzania. For better or worse, we only see the elephants that were already at the campsite watering hole (therefore distracted with their bathing and cooling off) and some waterbuck. The most dangerous thing we happen upon are some big termite mounds and huge piles of elephant dung.


Sanctuary Swala sits in a remote corner of Tarangire National Park. While it is one of the least visited in Tanzania, it is also teeming with wildlife—massive herds of elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, and lions abound. The park is situated in and around Masai tribe country, which makes for a great introduction to the diverse people and landscape of this amazing country.


Sanctuary Swala is run with the philosophy of “luxury, naturally.” This gives you a great combination of a comfortable stay, with a more natural kind of luxury in a place with a very strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The camp has been built with high eco-standards and is said to have a particularly low carbon footprint. Power is run by generator, which is turned off part of the day, and then there is some low battery charged power. The location was chosen to be close to wildlife without causing any harm or distress. Wastewater is carefully managed and they do not use locally made charcoal as it promotes deforestation, instead they use briquettes, which are made locally from agricultural waste for cooking and heating water. Only biodegradable cleaning products are used and waste is sorted and transported to the city of Arusha for recycling. I also really like that, unlike most other properties I’d stayed at so far, they provide water in glass bottles which they refill everyday instead of using plastic water bottles.


Since it’s a small place, dining at Sanctuary Swala is an intimate affair. The fixed menu rotates every six days and one day each week they have a communal barbecue around the campfire. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner are included and meals are served on the main dining deck, which is lifted on stilts around an enormous, ancient baobab tree. Breakfast is served before the morning game activity. Lunch can be enjoyed back in camp or picnic baskets can be arranged for guests going out on safari. As evening sets in, there are drinks and canapés around the campfire followed by a three course dinner. And to top it off, there is even an unexpected pizza oven. To be honest, after several days of safari, I loved my time just sitting still in the camp—watching the animals from the lounge and my deck on the edge of the wilderness of Tanzania.

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tongabezi…The Best of Victoria Falls

The world’s largest waterfall extends 5,604 feet and crashes into the Zambezi River casting a mist that can be felt for 30 miles…but to unlock the true wonder of Victoria Falls, a stay at Tongabezi Lodge is key. As the first hotel to be built on the upper banks of Zambia’s Zambezi river, Tongabezi has the ultimate location, connections, and expertise to satisfy your every glamping desire.
Founders Ben and Vanessa Parker built the eco-lodge to embrace the area’s African roots and wild environment…without straying too far from Western comforts. This is the base camp for their slew of river activities and where we met for our first culinary adventure.
At the dock, a wooden boat greeted us with a perfectly set table for two. We savored every course as we wound our way up the lively Zambezi.

The spiced lamb kebabs with sauteed okra and tomato (grown in Tongabezi’s very own garden) had the most incredible flavor…a trend that continued with every meal. For a little post-lunch entertainment we coasted by a family of hippos having an afternoon dip.
Escorted by our valet Niambe (all guests have a personal attendant throughout the course of their stay…talk about luxury!), we were presented with two fantastic suites to choose from. One was a gorgeous room directly on the river with nothing but screens keeping you from the sounds and breezes of the Zambezi. The second choice was the “Nut House,” a thatch-roof cottage tucked up on the hill with views out to the river and an infinity plunge pool outside. Both amazing, but who says no to a private pool?
Here is the aqua beauty that won us over, complete with to-die-for views of the wildlife teaming along the riverbank. We swam in the heat of the day and the twinkle of the stars.

Inside our suite, the room was the epitome of African luxury. A staircase brought us down past our bar area to the fireplace lounge area, and then to our grand four-poster bed. The vibrant Zambian textiles, antique accents, and modern amenities made us want move in.

In the afternoon we went on safari at the nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (which means “The Smoke that Thunders,” the Tonga name for the falls). There we saw giraffe, zebra, warthogs, elephants, baboons…but this hippo sighting? It was at dinner! We were on the patio a few feet above the riverbanks and heard the sound of a big mouth chopping and snarfing; we flashed our light and low and behold it was an adolescent hippo a few yards from our table! You’d think with the light he might scurry away, but no, he ate right alongside us throughout our meal and even joined us for some after-dinner drinks.

09. livingstone
Tongabezi is a true pioneer in eco-tourism throughout the region and the best example of that is Livingstone Island. They have exclusive access to this island which literally hangs over the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, providing views that will make your stomach drop and your heart soar. For our full experience at Livingstone Island and the National Park of Victoria Falls, see our Glamping review of their neighboring property Sindabezi Island Camp.
When it comes to ambiance and romance, Tongabezi left us love-struck. Chilled wine awaited us in the room each evening, bubble baths drawn before dinner, hot cocoa and blankets for morning boat rides, and countless other thoughtful touches popped up at every turn. But the gesture that really gave them top billing in our hearts was our dinner on the Sampan. Check out this video clip and imagine sitting with your partner on a floating dining room in the middle of the Zambezi river, enjoying dinner under the glow of lanterns and moonlight, accompanied by the sounds of an African choir growing louder and more beautiful as they row towards you in a canoe. It will take your breath away.

Most mornings we woke up early to take advantage of the cool air and to watch the animals start their day. While out for a sunrise boat ride and fishing adventure, we saw a bit of rustling on the river bank and spotted this feisty pair of elephants having a drink. Press play to see this powerful encounter.
A visit to Tongabezi wouldn’t be complete without at stop at their trust school, Tujatane. It started in 1996 as a primary school for the owner and staff’s children, but with fantastic success it now serves nearly 200 community youth. We took a tour with the principal and he proudly regaled us with stories of students that had gone on to be doctors, pilots, and leaders in their community. Amazingly the school is run entirely on donations and proceeds from the gift shop!
Staying a few nights at Tongabezi and a couple nights at their sister camp Sindabezi was the perfect way to experience the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. The same river and safari activities are available from both properties –so regardless if you want the excitement of camp or the creature comforts of the hotel, you don’t have to compromise any adventures by day.

Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog and Long Term Travel Coaches for anyone looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @HoneyTrek.