Adventure and sporting opportunities are increasing for people with physical disabilities thanks to organizations such as Adaptive Adventures. But for more than three million Americans relying on a wheelchair daily, finding these activities and verifying that they have proper equipment can still be a challenge.
There are some awesome adventures to be had—from riding a camel in the Sahara to soaring high in a hot-air balloon. Here are a few of our favorite wheelchair-accessible experiences around the world.
Hot-air ballooning in Catalonia
Less than a two-hour drive from Barcelona, Catalonia’s Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park features lush greenery, Roman-era landmarks, and accessible hiking trails. Make the day more scenic with Vol de Coloms, a hot-air balloon company that takes high flyers over dormant volcanoes and provides remote-controlled seats for wheelchair users. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Mediterranean Sea and Pyrenees Mountains.
Riding a camel in Morocco
After getting lost in the souks of Marrakech, take the nine-hour drive to Merzouga for the ultimate bucket-list experience. Morocco Accessible Travel Consultants offers travelers with limited mobility an adaptive camel saddle with a backrest and headrest to provide comfortable support while trekking through the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, the largest in Morocco. (Want to explore more? See why the North African nation is one of the world’s fastest growing travel destinations.)
Pro tip: You can spot regional birds including Kittllitz’s plovers, ruddy shelducks, and Egyptian nightjars year-round—but in spring, flocks of pink flamingos steal the show.
Sailing in Wisconsin
Sheboygan, a city about 50 miles north of Milwaukee, is a terrific spot for accessible travelers interested in trying adaptive sailing. The Sailing Education Association of Sheboygan (SEAS), a nonprofit sailing program, has a mechanism to lift wheelchair users aboard its custom-designed Sonar boats for a sail around Lake Michigan. For sailors whose upper body mobility is limited, bite switches are available for hands-free steering. (Love the sand and sea? Here are the most wheelchair-friendly beaches in the U.S.)
Pro tip: Sailors can work up a hunger! Once ashore, it’s easy to fuel up with a grilled brat piled high with sauerkraut and Bavarian mustard in Sheboygan, the “Bratwurst Capital of the World.”
Ziplining in Costa Rica
Take in one of Costa Rica’s most spectacular sights by soaring over Arenal Volcano National Park. Go with the outfitter Il Viaggio Travel, whose experts will help seat visitors in an upright sling before zipping them down seven adrenaline-pumping lines. Travelers feel as if they are flying while catching glimpses of the forest below and the smoke clouding the volcano’s rim. (For additional outdoor adventures, here are four of the best wheelchair-accessible trails in U.S. national parks.)
Pro tip: Seek rainforest views from below in Mistico Hanging Bridges Park, located in La Fortuna—the gateway city to Arenal Volcano. Several paths are accessible-friendly and offer glimpses of frogs, birds, and bats.
Water skiing in Tennessee
Beeline to Chattanooga to feel the brisk water of the Tennessee River splashing in your face via adaptive water skiing. Sports, Arts, and Recreation of Chattanooga (SPARC)—a local chapter of Disabled Sports USA—takes adventurers with limited mobility down the river with the support of seated skis. Check the calendar for events, and then buckle in tight and hold on for a wild ride. (Take an epic road trip to Tennessee’s coolest caverns.)
Pro tip: Adaptive water skiing is a relatively new sport, but availability can be limited. Adaptive Adventures is an organization that organizes sporting opportunities and maintains a calendar of events for children, adults and veterans with physical disabilities and their families.
Cory Lee Woodard is a wheelchair user and travel writer. He is author of the award-winning travel blog Curb Free With Cory Lee.