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The No­mad tours have cov­ered sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa for 20 years

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Africa Ad­ven­ture Tours, one of the lead­ing op­er­a­tors pro­vid­ing this ser­vice in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, has bought 25 Hino 500-Se­ries 1626 trucks to up­date its fleet of 47 ve­hi­cles.

These are No­mad’s first Hino trucks af­ter MD and founder Alex Ruther­ford did a de­tailed com­par­i­son and stud­ied the pos­i­tive feed­back from ref­er­ence checks with cur­rent op­er­a­tors of Hino trucks in sim­i­lar busi­nesses.

“The most im­por­tant re­quire­ments of a truck in the ad­ven­ture tours business are re­li­a­bil­ity and dura­bil­ity, backed up by good fuel con­sump­tion and ex­cel­lent af­ter-sales sup­port.

“We be­lieve that this is what we are get­ting with the new Hino trucks,” said Ruther­ford.

“The trucks must also be easy to main­tain at com­par­a­tively low cost and need to be de­signed for op­er­a­tion in the most rugged African con­di­tions.”

No­mad African Tours, which is now in its 20th year, op­er­ates a com­plex net­work of tours through­out sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, all of which run to tight timeta­bles, par­tic­u­larly in the high sea­son from July to Oc­to­ber. The tours vary in length from four days to 56 days, with a round trip that goes as far as Uganda and to­tals about 20 000 km, so ve­hi­cle break­downs have to be kept to an ab­so­lute min­i­mum.

The fleet is ex­pected to cover more than three mil­lion kilo­me­tres this year, made up of about 850 tours. No­mad Ad­ven­ture Tours trucks have al­ready trav­elled more than 30 mil­lion kilo­me­tres over the past 20 years, trans­port­ing more than 95 000 trav­ellers on about 10 000 tours.

The trucks are run for five to eight years and re­placed when main­te­nance start to rise, usu­ally af­ter cover­ing more than 800 000 km. The trucks are fit­ted with ad­di­tional 400-litre fuel tanks, dual bat­tery sys­tems and air bags on the leaf-spring sus­pen­sion sys­tem to make the ride more com­fort­able for the pas­sen­gers.

No­mad buys its trucks as chas­sis cabs and then fits its own bod­ies, which are man­u­fac­tured in facilities at the com­pany’s head of­fice in Som­er­set West. These bod­ies have been de­vel­oped over the years to pro­vide safe and com­fort­able transport for 24 trav­ellers who have the op­tion of overnight­ing in tents or in lodges.

Ruther­ford said the type of trucks has be­come a lot more pow­er­ful over the years. “Whereas 140 horse­power en­gines were con­sid­ered suf­fi­ciently pow­er­ful in the early days, we now have 260horse­power en­gines to power the adNOMAD ven­ture tour trucks, which weigh as much as 12 tons laden.”

SEFFRICAN EN­TREPRENEUR­SHIP

The 20-year his­tory of No­mad Ad­ven­ture Tours is a won­der­ful suc­cess story.

Ruther­ford, who had com­pleted a de­gree in eco­nom­ics and psy­chol­ogy af­ter leav­ing school, had no firm plans for a ca­reer but he was filled with wan­der­lust.

This re­sulted in him trav­el­ling to Lon­don, buy­ing a 1972 Land Rover and set­ting off to re­turn to Cape Town by an over­land route. The re­turn jour­ney took al­most 11 months and proved a mar­vel­lous learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as Ruther­ford and his fel­low trav­ellers in­ter­acted with other peo­ple in­volved in over­land trips through Africa.

“That lengthy jour­ney got me think­ing of of­fer­ing an or­gan­ised African ad­costs tour with par­tic­u­lar ap­peal to Euro­peans keen to visit our con­ti­nent,” said Ruther­ford.

“The re­sult was that on re­turn­ing to Cape Town, I bought a new truck and found a suit­able body at a scrap­yard which I mod­i­fied to make it suit­able for a long-dis­tance ad­ven­ture tour.”

By the end of 1998, the com­pany had eight trucks op­er­at­ing and in 2003, Ruther­ford was able to buy out his part­ner and the ex­pan­sion con­tin­ued. The num­ber of trucks rose to 63 when he took over a com­peti­tor, but has sub­se­quently been cut back to 46 trucks, which Ruther­ford said is the op­ti­mum for the cur­rent eco­nomic con­di­tions.

He is also very proud of the com­pany’s ex­cep­tional safety record and stressed the im­por­tance of build­ing qual­ity bod­ies that are strong and safe.

The com­pany now em­ploys about 200 peo­ple, many of them hav­ing been with No­mad for many years. Ruther­ford said that the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for guides have changed over the years and now their train­ing has to in­clude sub­jects such as dis­pute res­o­lu­tion as tem­pers can get frayed on some of the long road jour­neys. He said that the cus­tomers are also chang­ing and are gen­er­ally older these days, while there is a grow­ing switch away from overnight camp­ing to sleep­ing in lodges.

Ruther­ford said that this year is look­ing good for his business and the prices of the tours, in real terms, are now lower than two years ago. “Sev­eral of our com­peti­tors have gone out of business in the 20 years we have been in this business, but I am pleased to say that our for­mula con­tin­ues to work very well and we are look­ing for­ward to a bumper 2016 and 2017.” — WR.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The new Hino 500 se­ries’ trucks will mod­ernise the over­lan­der fleet at No­mad Ad­ven­ture Tours.

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