Oasis Blog

Piranhas and parrots in the Brazilian Pantanal

August 27, 2014

Earlier this year I travelled to Brazil and to the vast wetland area known as the Pantanal.  I knew you could look for wildlife here but I didn’t realise how much I would see, it was fantastic!

Macaws in the Pantanal , BrazilDon’t go expecting a jaguar to saunter past you but do expect to see abundant colourful birds, smaller creatures you may never have heard of and possibly a small, infamous fish with very big teeth…

The Pousada Santa Clara was our base in the Pantanal, where the Oasis Overland truck groups stay. Once a working farm, it is now a lovely place to stay complete with a pool to cool off in the heat and traditional, delicious meals to eat.

Howler monkey in the Pantanal, BrazilThe first morning’s activity was a two hour hike in search of wildlife.  The area is pretty flat and later in the season it would be flooded but for now we walked through grass to raised, tree-covered parts that dotted the landscape.  These become refuges for animals in the floods and even now was the best place for spotting wildlife.  We caught sight of a group of quatis, cute, long-nosed mammals with a long, striped, racoon-like tail, racing along the tree branches.  From quite far off we heard what sounded almost like roaring and as we approached the trees, some in our group looked quite nervous!  Our guide led us confidently on and pointed up to the tree-tops where a  group of very aptly named howler monkeys were making themselves heard.  The noise was incredible!

Caiman, Pantanal. We took to the river in the afternoon, chugging along in a small motorboat.  We saw more caiman than you can shake a stick at, slipping underneath the surface of the water as well as capybaras, the largest rodent in the world (but also very cute)!  An absolute highlight was the sight of a couple of river otters, staring at us from upriver before they ducked under the water and out of sight.

That evening we headed out in the truck with a spotlight which picked out a fox, a bush deer, bats, hundreds of caiman’s eyes glowing on the banks and the biggest spider I have ever seen!

I mustered up enough energy in the sweltering heat the next day for a sedate horse ride whilst others went to pitch their strength and wits against Brazil’s most famous fish, the piranha!  The fishermen and women returned victorious with lunch for the day and very good they tasted too.  They do have really big teeth though.

Piranha fishing in the Brazilian PantanalYou’re not likely to get bitten by a piranha but mosquitos are pretty much guaranteed so good insect repellent is essential.  The heat was intense too so don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.

Birdlife is everywhere in the Pantanal and we saw toucans, macaws, parrots, kingfishers, ducks and herons on our trips out.  One of the best things about this place though was just walking around the Pousada amongst the shady trees and watching the hyacinth macaws, all sorts of parrots and parakeets, stunning small birds like the red crested cardinal and hundreds of other colourful, noisy feathered friends!

You can visit the Pantanal on our Coast to Coast or Kingdoms & Carnivals Overland Adventures or on our Rio to La Paz, Rio to Cuzco and Rio to Lima Regional Explorers.

 

 

 

 

Posted in South America. Tagged with , , .

Making an experienced lady look brand new…

August 21, 2014

We are lucky here – we have a team of dedicated drivers who care for their trucks like they are their best friend.  Overseen by Mark, our Fleet and Operations Director, the trucks purr away and carry our happy travellers on adventures of a lifetime.

This year we are running two trips down through West Africa, and so it was time to give one of our trucks M745 an overhaul in preparation!  She has driven the African continent North to South several times, repeatedly traversed the Middle East in times of peace and conflict, and followed the whole of the Silk Road from Istanbul to China.  There is not much she hasn’t seen on the road – from love affairs to film crews, she has seen it all.

Of course we all need to put on a new set of clothes and smarten ourselves up from time to time, and a truck is no different in many ways.  So after so many troublesome roads across the world, it is time to show ‘our girl’ a bit of TLC.  Mark has driven the truck in to the workshop and is currently completing a full mechanical check of the vehicle in preparation of the Trans Africa (London to Cape Town) and her next adventure in November this year.

Painting, polishing and sticker-ing...all in the name of an over haul!

Mark says “it’s unbelievable the vehicles withstand the harsh conditions so well.  Even with almost 1 million kms under her belt, the truck runs like new”.  It is not uncommon for trucks to complete this sort of mileage, as they really are built to last, and this particular one, is from an era before electronics, which makes it a really reliable and strong vehicle.  As a matter of course, wearing parts such as brakes, tyres and diesel injectors will all be changed and serviced.  All lubricants will also be changed, to help keep the truck running smoothly.  There will be a complete re-kit of kitchenware and spares, which are both essential for a trip of this scale.  Her lockers have also been repaired and re-painted and the whole truck has been given a good polish – no mean feat for a vehicle of this size!

Oasis certainly takes pride in its fleet, and this is just another example of keeping our vehicles in top shape for the challenging expeditions we undertake.

Almost ready to go!

If you’d like to join M745 on her journey through Africa then spaces are still available on either our UK to ACCRA (9 weeks) Trans Africa or UK to CAPE TOWN (21 weeks) Trans Africa. Or why not come along to our Open Day for a sneak peak of our shiny truck

 

Posted in Africa, All Blogs. Tagged with , , , , , .

‘Up North’ in South America – Rio to Quito via Manaus

August 13, 2014

Our Trans South America crew of 2013/2014, Scott & Leslie, have kindly written a brief blog of  some of the highlights on our Rio to Quito, via Manaus section.  The trip spends 6 weeks in Brazil and then another 7 weeks in Venezuala & Colombia before coming to an end in Quito, the capital of Ecuador and the gateway to the Galapagos Islands. Read on to hear what they had to say.

After yet another epic Rio Carnival and a few new additions to our FRIDA truck family, we headed for the exotic beaches of the famous Brazillian coastline. Taking in the breathtaking scenery whilst meandering through the likes of Itaunas, Prado, Caraiva – with Brazils top 2 most beautiful beaches of praia do Esprelho, and praia do Carumbau. Well needed RnR for a couple of weeks (having started the trip 16 weeks earlier in Quito!).

Western bound for the magical landscapes of the stone country of Lencois. Quaint coffee shops and bars, a rockclimbers heaven and an endless choice of 1 day adventures to be had. Over the next few weeks cruising the contours of the mountains. Never failing to spring surprises on us around every corner.

Working our way to Belem to board the mighty Amazon River, for a 5 day cruise to Manaus. Hanging out in hammocks and taking in the views.

 

A definite highlight of our tour was swimming with the Pink River Dolphins, on a day tour out of Manaus. Dolphins, literally cuddling your legs and playing with such affection, it was hard to leave the water. Feeding giant fish, 2 metres long and hanging out with tribal people and native wildlife like Sloths, Anacondas and the like. A must do tour!

2 days north of Manaus to Venezuela and on to the Carribean coast. Henri Pittier N.P, for more beaches saturated with some of the worlds finest chocolate farms. Angel Falls, flowing top to bottom, sleeping in hammocks in the jungle lodge and enduring crazy dugout boat rides through what could only be described as a photographers mecca.

More action packed days followed as we met up with Alan Highton  (aka the lightening man ), Alan led Frida and our group into Los Llanos.

Los Llanos was everything and more than we could have possibly wished for. On one occasion the vehicle stopping abruptly to leave us staring at a dried out waterhole seemingly full of nothing. Our fearless guide soon proved otherwise. After gently prodding the soft ground for 2 or 3 minutes, literally the earth started to move around us as 6 or 7 anacondas, two or three meters in length, merged from their hollows and intertwined themselves within the shockingly excited group standing extremely still. After playing a while, we headed a couple of kilometres away to a half filled watering hole. What happened then was astonishing, a quick walk of the bank and an dangerously accurate plunge into the water, presented a 3 minute dual. A predator of pure muscle versus skill and courage. The end result being a giant female anaconda measuring 5 meters. An absolutely awesome sight never to be forgotten.

A couple of days later experiencing the phenomenen of Lightening in our private hammock space of Catatumbo Lake (aka Lightening Lake). Yet another awesome adventure.

Colombia next, Coffee shops and plantations everywhere. Some people meeting the infamous Roberto Escobar brother and business partner of Pablo Escaobar. Medellin for a spot of paragliding, Taganga for a quick scuba dive and an adventure out to Tayrona national park. All in all, Colombia’s beauty is world class, friendly and definitely not to be feared.

The last couple days into Quito Ecuador via a shopping frenzy at the Otavalo markets, ensuring any loose change was well spent. An exceptionally breathtaking tour full of adventure and beautiful people, both on and off the truck.

Scott & Leslie

If you are interested in taking part in a trip to see these amazing places, we still have some availability on our upcoming departures as follows:

Quito to Quito- Trans South America – 29 weeks, starts 31st October

Rio to Quito via Manaus – 92 days – starts 19th February

Rio to Manaus – 42 days – starts 19th February

Manaus to Quito – 50 days – starts 2nd April

Check out these trips and all of our South America trips here.

 

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Thank you and Bon Voyage to Oasis Crew Scott and Leslie

August 5, 2014

It’s time to bid a sad farewell and to say a big thank you to Scott and Leslie, two of our crew in South America. They have been leading trips there for the past two and a half years.  They will be greatly missed by their fellow crew and the team here at Oasis HQ. On behalf of Oasis and all your past travellers we would like to say a big thank you to Scott and Leslie for all your hard work, commitment, energy and enthusiasm. We wish you all the best for your future ventures and if you ever change your mind you know where we are!

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Oasis Overland Open Day – 13th September 2014

July 30, 2014

 

Have you been on an Oasis Overland trip and always wondered where we are based? Are you interested in finding out more about one of our trips, or do you live in the area and are curious about what goes on at Oasis? Well now is your chance to find out! Come and join us between 11am – 3pm on the 13th September 2014 at:

Oasis Overland HQ, Unit 2, The Marsh, Henstridge, Somerset. BA8 0TF (near J Day engineering)

 

The team at Oasis Overland HQ will be opening our doors for the 2014 Open Day and you are all invited!  During the open day you will be able to:

 

 

  • Meet our Trans Africa truck- one of our purpose built expedition trucks, which is due to travel down the West Coast of Africa in November.
  • Talk to the team, past Oasis tour leaders and past travellers – get your questions ready!
  • See our mini-camp set up – complete with tents and rain shelter (we like to be prepared)
  • At 1.30pm one of our Africa Tour Leaders Jon will be presenting a showcase of Africa photos and stories – come and hear his tales and be inspired!
  • See our expedition photos and stick your favourite Oasis travel photograph on our ‘wall of fame’
  • Enjoy a BBQ and drink (in exchange for a donation to one of the Oasis charities)
  • 10% discount on any bookings placed on the day (excludes Trans Africa & Trans South America)

 

We will be operating a free pick-up service from Templecombe railway station at the following times:

11:30am and 1:30pm, and a drop off leaving HQ at 1:15pm and 3:15pm.

If you would like to take advantage of one of these pick-ups then please email info@oasisoverland.co.uk by 11th September stating which transfers you would like.

We look forward to seeing you there!

            

 

Posted in All Blogs. Tagged with , , .

Getting our hands dirty…

July 23, 2014

The team working on the truck

Trucks, our drivers love them, our travellers love them and we love them.  It’s not uncommon for our travellers to see their driver ‘tinkering’ on the truck at the end of the day.  Whether it’s checking tyre pressures, greasing various parts of the truck or running routine checks, they keep busy.

We are very proud that we still build, run and maintain our own trucks.  This gives us ultimate control over how the trucks are kept and in the long run we feel helps to keep our travellers safe.  Whilst our fleet manager Mark makes several visits out to see the trucks every year, other members of the office team also visit them at various points and run over a few simple checks.

To make sure the whole team are prepared to do this, we recently held a training weekend at our second workshop in Lincolnshire.  The girls in the office donned oversized overalls and set about making the journey north.  When we got there, one of our Trans Africa trucks awaited.  She wasn’t used to having girls work on her, but she quickly got used to it and I think in the end kind of liked it!

After watching a video on basic checks, it was time to get our hands dirty.  Our drivers regularly do ‘MOT’ style checks on the vehicles and so our training followed the same format.  We worked our way through the list, crawling under the truck to listen for air leaks on the brakes (which I am pleased to report we did not find), checked the wheel nuts and tyre pressures, jacked the front of the cab amongst many other things.

Working hard!

Natalie and Ceris investigating brakes!

Once our basic knowledge was up to scratch we moved onto more technical things.  So we looked at how the brakes operated as well as looking at a clutch.  Anything you want to know about slack adjusters and ‘S’ Cams, then we are the ones to ask!  Finally we descended into the ‘pit’ underneath the truck and Mark pointed out what various things do, from the parabolic springs to the water pump.  Move over boys – the girls now have the skills!

All in all it was a very useful long weekend.  Don’t be surprised if someone from the office is on your trip and looking around the truck.  We believe there is no such thing as checking the vehicle too many times, and many eyes help to keep our trucks in tip top condition.  Our drivers do a great job at caring for their trucks, and we are proud that we now have an office team who can go through some simple checks with them on the road.

 

Posted in All Blogs, UK News. Tagged with , , , , .

Work Experience at Oasis Overland

July 16, 2014

Last week David left school for a week to join the Oasis HQ team and gain some work experience in the world of overlanding and adventure travel.  We set him a challenge to write a blog and here it is!

My name is David Bath and I have been doing work experience at Oasis Overland for a week.  When I first started I was quite nervous but when I met the people I was working with, Katie, Ceris, Tracy, Natalie, Jackie and Chris, I started to get more and more confident. The person who normally set the tasks and gave me work to do was Ceris.

The best things about working at Oasis Overland were the editing on www.gapyear.com and the adding of pictures on Pinterest and Facebook.  Gapyear sells some of the holidays of Oasis and the holidays need to be updated after a while because of the changes in costs, routes and other details, also they need to look more appealing to the customers.  I did research on the area and what was on the holiday and added info and pics to the holiday details.

On the first day I was shown around the work place and where I would be working most of the time and where everything was and things like that.  My first work task at Oasis was to see how user friendly the website was by finding information about a holiday and how easy it was to book and to review what was good and what was bad.  So the first day was getting to know what they do, what the holidays were like and what the website was like.

Baby gorilla in AfricaAs I looked through the different holidays the one that is my favorite is the Nairobi to Lilongwe for 40 days trip because you get the chance to see wild gorillas in their natural environment.  You need to get a permit to do so which does cost extra money but it must be such a great experience though.

Thanks to David for his hard work during the week!

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Zimbabwe – by Oasis driver Pete (part 2)

July 9, 2014

Continued on from Zimbabwe – by Oasis driver Pete (part 1)

After our visit to the ruins on this particular trip we diverted from our usual itinerary and visited the Chinoyi Caves which are about 100km North West of Harare. This is a wonderful point of a interest taking about an hour to explore and conveniently placed enroute to our next destination, Kariba. Originally described by Frederick Selous in 1887, the caves traditional name ‘Chirorodziva’ means ‘Pool of the Fallen’ after a incident in the 1830′s involving a migrating tribe who flung all the locals into the Pool.

The murderous use of the pool continued with Chief Nyamakwere, who used the main pool as a place to murder his enemies. This gave rise to first the ‘Silent Pool’ and now the ‘Sleeping Pool’ as the name for the cool, cobalt blue pool where modern divers access the underwater cave system. Chief Nyamakwere was disposed by Chief Chinoyi, who gave his name to the nearby town and the caves. During what were mostly Matabele raids the cave system was used as a refuge for the Mashona Chief and his followers.

For those who can handle the narrow passages and complete darkness, the Chinoyi caves presents one of the best cave diving experiences in the world. Lacking time and paperwork we headed to a view point higher over the sleeping pool, before heading to the Dark Caves. After enjoying a quick run around the cave which affords another view of the ‘Sleeping Pool’ we headed to the truck for dinner, and a game of cricket in the infrequently used campsite.

The Chinoyi Cave and all our other Zimbabwean destinations are gems which have become forgotten as the country’s political situation prevented many potential tourists from visiting. The currency, the Zimbabwean Dollar, collapsed and the USD is now common alongside South African Rand and Botswana Pula. Neighbouring countries describe the benefit of Zimbabwe’s problems to their own situations as the ‘Zim effect’. It affects all industries and relates to the business and expertise that was or should have been in Zimbabwe going elsewhere.

The next day saw a short hop to Kariba, a town on the artificial lake of the same name which was created in 1958 and finally filled in 1963. A massive lake providing hydro power to both Zambia and Zimbabwe, a quick talk to a local quickly reminds you of what tourist related activities used to operate here. As the only truck to come here and not hop straight on a house boat our reception was enthusiastic if slightly chaotic.

One activity we tried was the game drive. Any cynicism I may have had as our evening began was eradicated by Martins account of a simple Zebra and its habits and lifestyle. His detailed knowledge again and again made the very reasonable fee for the game drive seem worth it and many of us went on a night drive the following evening.

Other popular activities involve hiring a speedboat or sailing boat complete with captain and going for a cruise on the lake. Our hosts, Warthogs Bush Camp, worked hard to make us feel welcome and even built us a shelter since our last visit. This is a fantastic destination which used to boast Jet boating, Paragliding, Kayak trips and others alongside the activities we did.

A long drive day took us to Gweru, a town in between Zimbabwe’s primary settlements of Harare and Bulawayo, which is home to Antelope Park. The objective of the park is to support a wild lion population which has been decreasing in recent years. You can support this objective by participating in the many activities at the park, and the opportunity to observe this most famous of African predators up close is special. You can observe the male lion social hierarchy during the lion feeding, and also see how lions hunt in the ‘stage 2 night drive’ and amongst a long list also see lion cubs which are about the size of a domestic cat!

After this experience another fantastic opportunity to get close to one of the big five is presented in Bulawayo at the Matapos park. The burial place of Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia, modern day Zimbabwe, the landscape is fantastic. The Rhino Safari here involves some motorised transport and depending on your fitness and enthusiasm a fair amount of walking. You learn how to track animals, about wildlife and if you are lucky you will find a Rhino, which when viewing on foot is a special experience.

        

Leaving Bulawayo takes us to the most famous of destinations in Zimbabwe, one which has largely survived the slump in tourism that has beset the rest of Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls. Our spectacular final destination is mesmerising and a variety of activities have sprung up around this waterfall. Rafting, sunset cruises, Devils Pool, paragliding, helicopter rides, bungie jumping, zip wiring, gorge swinging, diving with Crocodiles, and when you’re done with all that, high tea at the colonial era Victoria Falls hotel or game meat buffet at the Boma restaurant, ‘the place of eating’.

Zimbabwe has so much to offer that even the two weeks we spend within its borders does not seem enough, the country has so much wildlife that is affordable to reach, a population that welcomes tourism with far less hassle that you find in some other countries (bar the police!) and a variety of destinations and people which makes it culturally interesting too. If you feel reluctant to visit this fantastic country, reading about its history and contemporary travel blogs will be enough to arouse your curiosity and make you change your mind!

Note: most of our trips do not currently visit Chinoyi Caves or Kariba.

 

Posted in Africa, All Blogs. Tagged with , , , , , .

Who is overlanding through Iran this year?

July 2, 2014

Iran is a country often in the news and usually for the wrong reasons! Although last week the UK announced it was re-opening its Embassy in Tehran and positive noises are emanating from both sides.

The ladies in Iran

Leaving the murky world of international politics aside, in our experience the people of Iran have been extremely friendly and welcoming. Our trip to Iran in June this year crossed the Kavir desert and visited places such as Isfahan, Persopolis, Tehran, Masshad as well as many less well known smaller places. The journey through this unique and interesting country took 19 days, with each day presenting a new adventure or experience.

Our 16 adventurous travellers and Oasis Overland Crew Malcolm and Grace feasted on fantastic local dishes, had their eyes opened by the exotic sights and experienced Persian hospitality at its best. The local guide on board the truck helped to explain some of the history of the places we travelled through. The inquisitive, but polite, local people were so pleased to see foreign travellers again after so many years. Now (and in the next couple of years) it is the time to be visiting Iran before mass tourism returns.

A taster of Iran!

Our next trip departs from Bishkek to Istanbul on 21st August and 5th September 2014 and (as well as Iran) travels through Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey.

Bishkek to Istanbul 63 days

Bishkek to Istanbul 78 days

Alternatively if you are looking for a shorter adventure through Iran, Katie on our Central Asia desk will be able to suggest a smaller section of the above trips, to allow you to focus on visiting Iran.

Email Katie at: centralasia@oasisoverland.co.uk

 

Posted in Central Asia. Tagged with , , , , , , .

World Heritage List reaches 1000 sites with inscription of Okavango Delta in Botswana

June 30, 2014

We are delighted to hear that Botswana’s Okavango Delta has recently become the 1000th site inscribed on the World Heritage List.

This delta in northwest Botswana comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the river Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronised their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods. It is an exceptional example of the interaction between climatic, hydrological and biological processes. The Okavango delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion. It really is a unique habitat with some spectacular photo opportunities. If you would like to visit this World Heritage site have a look at the following trips

Our 21 day Victoria Falls to Cape Town Deserts and Gameparks trip

Our 35 day Lilongwe to Cape Town Deltas and Dunes trip

Our 56 day Nairobi to Cape Town Coast to Coast trip

Our 75 day Nairobi to Cape Town Grand Adventurer trip

 

 

 

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