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  You are here: Home > Travel Stories > Africa

Travel Story by Paul Bartlett and Stuart Anderson

  Deaf banned in Botswana!

On safari - a zebra

There were 12 of us (all deaf) who flew into Maun, a small town in the middle of Botswana and on the edge of the Okavango Delta for an African Safari. Our 13 day trip was arranged through Drifters Safaris and we were to be picked up by our guide Leon.

The plane landed safely and we walked across the tarmac into the administration building and lined up at passport control, there were 2 lines and we queued up in both. Most of us got through without any problem, I got through too. We waited at baggage collection which was just past passport control, and soon after we grabbed our bags and went into the unrestricted area as some of us had to use the loo or buy drinks etc, and we waited for the others to come through.

Before long word got around that one of the Americans in our party had his application to enter the country rejected because he was Deaf. We thought, what is going on this is 2006 and not 1956, and decided that this must have been a false rumour. So we waited for the others to come through, and they didn't. So we went back into the restricted area to see what was going on. We saw the American trying to communicate with the Customs official and asked our interpreter to help him sort it out, so she went in. Soon after we saw them carrying on a bit and thought, "Gee, this looks serious!"

We asked if we could help and was told no, that we were to remain in the unrestricted area. So we kept out, but one or two of us went in anyway and tried to help the American get himself sorted out. Soon after Leon our tour guide arrived and we explained what was happening and he went in to intervene, and the interpreter came out to explain what was happening.

Apparently it is policy in Botswana that disabled people (including Deaf people) must be accompanied by a carer when entering the country. Also a document must be presented written by a resident of Botswana to verify this. Of course none of us could present this document and Leon was South African! Soon after another of the Customs officials came to us in the unrestricted area and we asked her what was happening, and she repeated to us what we already knew. She then asked to see our passports so some of us showed these to her, but she snatched them away and walked off! So we had to go back into the restricted area and wait for this to be sorted out!
Leon called his boss and explained the situation, and told us she would be here within the hour! So we had to wait while she drove over. Then she finally arrived and after about 20 minutes all this was sorted out and we were free to enter the country, and got our passports back!

We wondered why some of us were allowed to go through and others weren't. Apparently the American had been signing to the others and the customs officials saw this and decided to evoke their privileges.

This was a surreal experience for all of us as it was the first time that we had been treated like this just because we were deaf. I have done a fair bit of travelling but I have never had anything like this happen to me it was an enlightening experience all the same! But at the end Botswana is a beautiful country and I would return after all we all were treated very well and the customs officials were just doing their jobs and following protocol.

Click on photo to enlarge

Our tent  A campfire

Date Submitted: 28 Nov 2006

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