From Wolverhampton to Uganda – in a VW

When Rachel Landman was a schoolgirl in Wolverhampton, she was used to trekking to Regis Comprehensive.

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Rachel Landman at the Mbamba Swamp in Uganda

But now, she spends her days planning safaris across the picturesque Ugandan landscape in vintage VW camper vans for a living.

After working in the tourism industry in Uganda for the last three years, the 34-year-old is now part owner of Kombi Tours, a safari company offering a unique experience.

The company has three camper vans, all from the 1970s which they use to travel across the country.

And she said it was growing up in a culturally-diverse Wolverhampton in the 1980s and 1990s that gave way to her love of travelling.

She said: “Wolverhampton in the 1980s and 1990s was rich with many ethnic groups.

“I was always curious about where the parents of many of my friends came from. These places were mainly India, Pakistan and Jamaica.”

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Adventure – Rachel and the team looking at elephants at Murchison Falls National Park on top of their trusty VW camper van

Born to a British mother and Dutch father, her passion for travel was ignited again when her parents split in 1987 and her father moved back to The Netherlands.

She said: “From the age of eight my sister, Hannah, and I would travel between Wolverhampton and The Netherlands fairly frequently.

“This is likely how I found my passion for travel.

“I love flying in aeroplanes and I love to explore.

“For a very long time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in terms of a career but I think that Wolverhampton, particularly my friends in my formative years, shaped me as an independent, active and somewhat outgoing person.”

Miss Landman left Wolverhampton in 1997 to go to university, before moving to London, where she worked for 10 years.

In October, she became a director of Kombi Tours, which was set up by Steve Cresswell and William Boase, who are also both British.

The company was born out of a trip the pair took across Uganda in 2011 on a motorbike. They now have three vintage VW vans and a 4x4 for the more-difficult-to-reach areas of beauty.

Miss Landman said because there is less tourism in Uganda than in other African countries, it means their tours have an element of intimacy in them.

She said: “The wildlife in Uganda is very special indeed.

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The Dude at Ridge Waterfall in Uganda. All pictures: Will Boase

“Twice in a year I have been fortunate to have been driving in one of the parks in the West of Uganda and found five lions just relaxing in a tree.

“You can’t get much better than that when it comes to tracking down predators.

“And in Uganda you have less tourism so more intimacy when you do find something exciting.”

She added: “Uganda is one of two countries in the world where you can find the iconic tree-climbing lion, and one of three countries in the world where you can track the rare mountain gorilla. We have a fairly aggressive growth plan to turn a business that has largely been non-commercial into an internationally-recognised company that is a little off the wall.

“Bear in mind that it takes two staff about four days of running around the place to set up a tour.

This is mainly because those things that we would take for granted at home often don’t work. Things like bank teller machines that say ‘please come back tomorrow our systems are down’, national power outages, and insane inner-city traffic congestion.

“But this is part of it.

“It’s all part of the adventure and its feels so good when you make something work and your clients have ‘the holiday of a lifetime’.

“That’s how I define success.”