Africa. Tanzania. The Serengeti. The blood red sunsets and the big endless skies. The wildlife. The people. The adventure. You must go to the villages, walk the beaches, rub shoulders in the markets, taste the food and watch and listen as the children greet you with song. You must also, of course, go on Safari. The word means journey in Swahili. For most of us, it’s a chance to see remarkable, often endangered, wildlife. It’s possible to get so close, you can hear them breathe. To get there, safely and in relative comfort, you need the right transportation.
We took a modified Toyota Land Cruiser. They arrive on Africa’s shores from Japan in form of a standard model four wheel drive Land cruiser or Toyota pickup truck. Then a transformation begins. In the case of the standard Land Cruiser, the chassis and the driveshaft are lengthened. This initial step is not necessary with the truck, but both need to then undergo extensive body modifications. A power inverter is installed to recharge the array of cameras that Safari-goers tend to bring. There is added seating to allow 4 to 6 passengers (or more!) to go on drives of up to ten hours over a variety of often dusty terrain. There’s plenty of space for luggage, tables and chairs for picnics, and perhaps most importantly, large pop out roof sections that allow you to perch and ride like a tank commander, able to see in all directions.
On board they have plenty of water and snacks, including locally grown cashew nuts.
The Toyota, with its combination of leaf springs in the back and coil springs up front, is ideally suited for the mix of highway and rough bush driving that so often is necessary to get where the the good game is. Every one hundred thousand kilometres they replace or rebuild the diesel engine and then hit the road again for many more years.
Our guide was David Mboya of Nomad Tanzania. An able driver, guide, wildlife expert, ecologist, caterer, and all-round charming fellow. He was kind enough to walk us through the virtues of his company vehicle, the truck he calls “his dream vehicle.”
There is an eternal debate in Africa over which is better, the Land Cruiser or the storied Land Rover. But that is a story for another trip, another Safari, another adventure.