Between September and December 2012, I spent 75 days on an Oasis Overland truck travelling from Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Town, South Africa. It’s time for a review!
Most of you will know just how far in advance I started to plan my travels; this blog alone started in February 2011 but the idea had hatched before that. One of the first things I did back then was chat to a friend of my sister’s who had travelled a fair bit and she was the one to recommend Oasis Overland. Their website is really well set up and they sent me a free brochure with details of all the trips they offer. I was in touch with them over a year before my trip was due to start and even then they were incredibly helpful, answering my queries promptly over Skype and email. I did have a wee look at some of the other overlanding companies which offer trips in Africa, but to be honest I was so impressed with what I had already seen on the Oasis site, plus the fact that a friend’s recommendation means a lot to me, that I decided to stick with them and book my trip.
Booking the trip was incredibly easy – I made an account with them through their site, paid a deposit using my card online, and then put more money towards the balance whenever I wanted. Once you have an account you are able to easily view all the details of your trip and also get in touch with your truck mates-to-be, provided they have chosen to make their details visible.
As I mentioned before, my experience of communicating with the company online was fantastic. My only other contact with the staff would be with our guide Alun and driver Pete. I can’t praise these two enough for everything they did for us throughout the trip. They really went over and beyond everything they needed to do and they weren’t just staff, they were friends. This really did turn the trip from a great one to an outstanding one. I’m not sure how we would have wrapped our heads around all those different currencies if it wasn’t for Alun … and someone had to show us where to get the cheapest gin ;)
The Truck (not a bus!)
Ah, Twiga (meaning giraffe in Swahili). It’s a love/hate relationship when you spend this much time in one vehicle. We met a few trucks along the way and most had different set-ups to ours. The Oasis trucks have seats lined up against the sides of the truck, facing inwards. Some other companies’ are set up like a standard bus, others have seats in groups of four round a table. I can’t speak for those arrangements but I actually really liked facing inwards; we had plenty of leg room and it also meant we interacted more as a group. There was a beach area at the front of the truck where we could sunbathe, nurse a hangover or get a 360 degree view of the area. The only thing I didn’t think the truck was suited for was game drives, but then we only did the one in it. There was plenty of space to store our luggage, as well as a handy overhead shelf so that we didn’t have to go under the seats for the stuff we used often. There was also room for two cool boxes (cold beer, woo!) and a safe, which meant we never had to worry about having our passports and other valuables on us.
Kenya – Uganda – Rwanda – Uganda – Kenya – Tanzania – Malawi – Mozambique – Zimbabwe – Botswana – Namibia – South Africa
There are a number of options available for trips through Africa so you can pick and choose depending on the areas you want to visit and how long you plan to travel. I based my decision on the amount of time I wanted to be in Africa – I thought 75 days would be a pretty good introduction to the continent. Having met other overlanders along the way and discussed it with them, I am really pleased that our route went from Kenya down to South Africa, rather than vice versa. At the start of the trip we were all fresh and ready to deal with East Africa, which can sometimes be quite difficult. As time went by, we entered the more westernised countries and could appreciate the perks they came with. We visited some fantastic spots and packed so much into the two and a half months we were on the road. There are plenty of optional extras along the way. Be prepared! You are more than likely going to end up doing as many as you can, no matter how much you want to watch your budget. Can you really say no to a three-day safari in the Serengeti? Mmmm I thought not.
Overlanding as a Group
This is not relevant to the company but to overlanding itself. It is not a walk in the park. Being in such a small space with so many people (at one point the truck was full – 24 people) can drive you batty at times, especially on those 14-hour drive days. Tents can be uncomfortable and sometimes the last thing you want to do is cook for the entire group. That said, the friendships you make along the way make it all worth it, and if you are unsure about travelling by yourself then this setting will give you some security. Overlanding can be dirty, sweaty work and sometimes nothing greets you at the end of the day but a cold shower, but it’s all part of the experience. And it’s what makes it fun! I personally loved it and would definitely do it again. The main thing to remember is that you have to work as a group; if you are usually selfish, whiny or incredibly messy, then you definitely need to leave those traits at home to make life easy for everyone else.
The best memories of my 6-month trip are on the Oasis Overland truck with these amazing people. Somehow we managed to turn the ‘annoying’ points of overland travel into good fun. Waking up at 5am? No problem, we’ll plan a Christmas party while we’re doing it. Putting up a tent after a long drive-day? Let’s turn it into a race and get it done in (I shit you not) two minutes. High five on that one, Simone :) A day behind thanks to being stuck in Lilongwe and making up for it by driving into the night? Sing-along party in the back of the truck it is then! The more I think about it, the more I can’t wait to get back on a truck again.
Thank you Oasis Overland for helping me make some memories which are going to last me a lifetime :)