Oasis Overland Director
I started my lust for travel when my parents emigrated from apartheid South Africa to the United Kingdom when I was a teenager. After finishing school in the UK I visited a kibbutz in Israel and hitchhiked back to the UK across Europe. From here there was no turning back, and my next trip as a 22 year old was my first visit back to South Africa and a backpacking trip through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.
After a year back in the UK working hard and keeping down 3 jobs, I saved enough money to, I hoped, cycle from London to Cape Town. However, after 8 months and having cycled through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Mali and Senegal to Gambia, my mate Phil and I met a Zimbabwean with a yacht in Banjul who was looking for crew to help him sail to Brazil.
Although never having set foot on a yacht, Murray reckoned we would be hard working and pliable deck hands. He agreed to stow our bikes on board and we set sail on his 32 foot sloop from Banjul, Gambia to Recife in Brazil. Our parents posted out a map and a Lonely Planet guide book of South America and after 27 days at sea we were back on our bikes. After 18 months cycling through Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay we ended up back at Recife, broke, and with very saw butts, but extremely happy.
These days my travels take me abroad two or three times a year with Oasis and my family. It’s a joy and a privilege when I visit our Oasis Overland trips on the road and catch up with our crew and our travelling groups as well as local contacts and suppliers with whom we have built up some great long term relationships. My most recent trip was to Zimbabwe as well as South Africa and Egypt where I managed to see four of our overland groups and their crew. The best travel experience with my family was in 2010 when Jackie and I took our two young boys on a ten week journey from Kenya to Zimbabwe in our old Toyota Hilux.
First Oasis truck travelled on: D650 NOX from Istanbul to Cairo in April 1998
Favourite country: This is often changing, but in recent years Bolivia and Zimbabwe
Top thing to pack: Photos of my kids and family – a great way to interact and share stories with people you meet in country.
Top tip: While travelling take the rough with the smooth, don’t stress.
Favourite travel memory: The many occasions I met local people and chatted to them or shared meals or were invited into their homes.
Accounts, Finances and Responsible Travel
Ever since I was a child I have had a fascination with travel, and Africa in particular. My introduction to the continent began with a trans-Africa expedition over 25 years ago! This led to three years work as a Tour Leader and then coming back to run the UK office of a small overland company. I have been involved with Oasis since Day one and my role has evolved from sales and operations to Finance, and my other big passion Responsible Travel. Having two children along the way and having travelled widely with them I am also a big advocate of travel with children and the personal development opportunities it offers them, in addition to the huge amount of fun it is for a family! I have been heavily involved in planning our family trips and am always happy to chat to any parent wanting to talk a trip through.
The highlights of travel for me are meeting local people and learning about their lives, culture and traditions. As such I try to learn as much of local languages as I can. I am still attending weekly Arabic lessons (5 years on!) Progress is slow but in the right direction. My Swahili is very rusty but just about still there!
What I love about Oasis is our genuine commitment to support local communities and those that would not normally benefit from the tourist dollar. One of my favourite projects is our connection with a Children’s Home in Zimbabwe and the annual day trips we run for them. Many of those children rarely leave the compound they live on so our day trips are a significant event in their lives.
One of my most memorable recent travel experiences was on our 11 day Trek Morocco Berber Migration trip. I loved walking in stunning remote landscapes, alongside a Nomad family-having a small window into their lives.
I was fortunate enough to be able to do the research for our 18 day East Africa Family Adventure with my own family. This trip encompasses such diversity-from the rich, wildlife-laden plains of the Serengeti to the palm fringed beaches of Zanzibar. Four years later my children still talk about it. We have ‘in’ family jokes that stem from that time and it was great to watch my children playing with local children and immersing themselves in new experiences.
First Oasis truck travelled on: : Habibi
Favourite country: too many to choose from!!! Tanzania, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe
Top thing to pack: Clean knickers!
Top tip: Try to read, or take some books by local authors before you go - it will help give you a feel for the country and definitely learn some phrases of the local languages.
Favourite travel memory: Watching my children being taught, by local Malawian children, how to do somersaults into Lake Malawi. They didn’t have a shared language but managed to spend a morning laughing and joking; followed by a great acrobatic performance by all!
South America, Central Asia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco
I was introduced to overland travel in late 2006, as a passenger on the Oasis Kingdoms and Carnivals trip from Rio de Janeiro to Quito. 15 weeks living on a big yellow truck with 20-odd strangers, and my first experience of the developing world. Whilst I denied it to everyone at the time, doing my best to play the stoic and unflappable Englishman, I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect and worried that I wouldn’t fit in, my cooking would be an unmitigated disaster and everyone would starve, or that I’d be the victim of an express kidnapping (as everyone in the rural Devon pub I worked in before I left assured me would happen). All of the fears were, of course, completely unfounded, and after an unforgettable four months I couldn’t wait to do another trip.
In 2009, during my university summer holidays, I joined the 56-day Coast to Coast trip starting in Nairobi and ending in Cape Town. Even after that, clearly my appetite for the on-the-road lifestyle had not been satisfied, because the first thing I did after graduating was apply for a job as an Oasis Tour Leader.
After a few months of badgering the office my wish was granted, and in April 2013 I started work running the 73-day Grand Adventurer trips between Nairobi and Cape Town, via Rwanda. It proved to be more challenging and tiring than I’d ever imagined (I’d thought Tour Leaders were basically paid to go on holiday), but it was also the most rewarding, enjoyable and satisfying experience of my life.
Now I’ve returned to the UK and look after the South America, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco trips here at HQ. It’s great to be able to talk to both new and old Oasis travellers and hear all their plans or stories from their trips with us. No two trips are the same, but that’s what it’s all about, really.
First Oasis truck travelled on: VL12 JX, or Frida to her friends, Rio-Quito December-April 2006 - we had great crew and a brilliant group.
Favourite country: Impossible to select one, but the top two are probably Zimbabwe and Argentina
Top thing to pack: Some photos of your hometown and friends and family are a great way to get a conversation going with the locals you’ll meet - they're often more interested in you than you are in them. More practically, a few plastic zip-lock bags and the odd sachet of silica gel can be a lifesaver – they keep dust and sand out of cameras when you’re racing through the Serengeti or the Peruvian desert, and make sure important documents stay dry if you get caught by a thunderstorm in the Amazon basin.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to get out there and mix with the people who actually live in the places you’re visiting, rather than fellow travellers. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to stick to the campsite bar or more tourist-orientated restaurants, and so on. A little bit of adventure can lead to some hugely memorable and rewarding interactions with people you’d never otherwise meet. Trust your senses and stay safe, of course, but if that local bar looks fun, pop in and give it a go – everyone back at the hostel is just banging on about who’s been to the most places anyway.
Favourite travel memory: Bit of a clichéd one perhaps, but reaching Machu Picchu at sunrise and seeing it gradually reveal itself as the clouds lifted from the surrounding valleys was pretty special. In Africa, it has to be getting angrily stared down by a temperamental white rhino about eight metres away while on foot in Matopos National Park, Zimbabwe; I was half petrified, half awestruck. He was trying to get the attention of a nearby female and obviously felt I was cramping his style (fair enough, I suppose). Getting a local bus around Plymouth was also a hair-raising experience and some of the locals were terrifying, but I'm glad I did it.
Fleet and Operations Director
Caravan trips from Lincolnshire to Devon were the norm in my early childhood. If we were really lucky, a stop off at Whipsnade Zoo was thrown in for good measure.
I didn’t actually fly anywhere until I was 16 and I said I wouldn’t bother again! So quite how I jumped from that, to wanting to see as much of the world as possible, I’m not really sure!
A farming background gave me a good grounding in both practical and mechanical skills, and this also led to my taking of both a HGV and PSV licence. Working for a large Horticultural company in the UK required long winter working hours, which in turn gave me extended holidays in the summer months. It wasn’t long before I discovered Overland in the form of an African Safari, and a year later I’d applied for a job and was driving and tour leading the same route!
Move on some 12 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to have explored every South American country, travelled the Silk Road in a totally unsuitable car and worked in East Africa.
Nowadays rather that drive the trips, I spend a bit more time in the office, but also ensure the vehicles are up to a UK safety standard, train new crew in basic mechanics and support them on the road.
First Oasis truck travelled on: Frida in South America
Favourite country: Iran stands out, mainly due to the friendly locals and amazing history
Top thing to pack: Dry bag – apart from the obvious use, they are great to use as an extra overnight bag, or to keep dust out of electronics
Top tip: Don’t put your tent up in a dip in the ground – it’s all good until it rains!
What is your favourite travel memory? Driving an overland truck through the Serengeti – quite a move on from Whipsnade Zoo!
Central Asia and Africa
I joined the Oasis family part time in September 2013 to do a general administrative role, such as looking after incoming bookings and everything to do with the ‘info’ desk as well as general office responsibilities. In December I took on a full time role and covered the ‘Africa desk’ until Natalie was back from her travel sabbatical. I got a chance to go on our Gorillas and Gameparks trip which was the most incredible experience, and I was properly initiated into the overlanding world. Rwanda was an incredible surprise with its lush mountainous scenery, and of course trekking with the gorillas was something I shall never forget.
I have since taken on the role of Central Asia Sales & Operations which has been a really fun and interesting role and I’m just back from another adventure on the big yellow truck, to Kyrgyzstan.... somewhere I never would have gone before and which was an amazingly beautiful country.
I got the ‘travel bug’ very early on, as I lived in Khartoum from the age of 3 to 8, so have vivid memories of swimming in the Nile, and camping under the African stars. My travels continued on in my gap year where I spent 5 months travelling around Tanzania and Kenya, a month in Lençóis, Brazil, and then always snatching getaways where I could, from Oman to Morocco as well as many European countries....long may the travel bug continue!
First Oasis truck travelled on: Woxy the yellow beauty driven by Mick and tour leader Joe
Favourite country: So many, but really loved Rwanda & Kyrgyzstan!
Top thing to pack: Thermarest roll mat....they self inflate, don’t take up much space and are really comfy. Head torch....used that every night!
Top tip: Go with the flow, relax and enjoy, and remember if you want to meet the locals then you just need to go out of the campsite!
Favourite travel memory: This is tough as have so many to choose from, so will narrow it down to 3 (ok 4!)! Being a metre away from gorillas in the wild in Rwanda has to be right up there. Swimming with dolphins off the coast of Zanzibar. Building a playground from scratch in Lençóis, Brazil. And finally staying in a yurt on the edge of Lake Song Kol, with horses roaming around freely everywhere I looked.
I blame my constant itchy feet on my parents who took me to Zambia and Zimbabwe for the school holidays during my teens. My Dad was working in Zambia and we had family in Zim so it was a great opportunity for us kids to experience Africa. By the time I left school I was hooked on travel! I was also hooked on Africa as after studying Travel and Tourism at college and working for a villa holiday company for a couple of years, I booked up for a Trans Africa overland expedition. At Oasis we often describe this trip as a life-changing experience and for me it certainly was. In those days the route travelled through West and Central Africa to Kenya, finishing 7 months later in Harare, Zimbabwe. I loved the remote places we reached, camping in the wilderness, the incredible starry nights, meeting local people and the whole overland experience.
That was 20 years ago and I’ve worked in the overlanding industry ever since. I started at Oasis Overland in 2003, starting out in sales and operations and was lucky enough to hop on a few trips such as our Victoria Falls to Cape Town Deserts and Gameparks and Quito to La Paz Andes and Amazon. Nowadays I look after our UK Head Office and the marketing side of things but still get out on the road whenever possible. Earlier this year I met our trucks in Rio for some Carnival fun before heading out to the Pantanal which was a fantastic experience, there is so much more wildlife than I had expected! I also hopped on the Expreso del Oriente train, an overnight journey from the Brazil border to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, which future Oasis travellers will use on our new Brazil, Bolivia and Peru Regional Explorers. I loved travelling through the Bolivian countryside and seeing Bolivian village life passing by!
First Oasis truck travelled on: Didingo! In Ecuador. A long time ago now… she’s made a few journeys since then.
Favourite country: So hard to choose… really it’s got to be Zimbabwe!
Top thing to pack: Less than you think you’ll need! It’s so easy to weigh yourself down with too much stuff you don’t need and you can buy most things on the road.
Top tip: Head out to local cafes and bars – great for meeting the locals and trying new food! Don’t be afraid to try street food either. If the vendor has a lot of customers, that’s a sign of good food.
Favourite travel memory: Trekking the W Track in Torres del Paine National Park. It snowed which meant the going was quite tough but it made the already stunning scenery even more beautiful.