SAFARI NJEMA TACOMA
Between lions, leopards, elephants, cape buffalo, black mambas or armed poachers, there are quite a few reasons to wish someone a safe return when they venture out into the wilds of East Africa, and I like to think that the words hold protective power. Thankfully, up to this point, it has held true.
To each and every one of you, whether your journey is a world away, or just down the road, I wish you the same good fortune, and a safe return home.
This is my adventure mobile, Safari Njema, a 2016 Toyota Tacoma that I’ve outfitted as an homage to some of the classic cruisers I’ve encountered on safaris past. Since my first foray in 2006, I have spent countless days in and about Africa, accumulating years' worth of adventures, friends, and safari vehicle envy, all which inspired me to finally start building the rig of my dreams. One of my favorite sayings in Swahili, “safari njema,” can mean several things, but during the time I lived there, we always used it to wish someone a prosperous journey, and safe return home.
Whether in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia or Zimbabwe, the list of coveted cruisers is long, all which were uniquely outfitted to suit the individuals and companies I’ve worked with. There are few feelings better than loading up the rig with all the needed supplies & fuel, and heading out into the vastness of a game reserve to hunt Cape buffalo for days on end. We would cook our meals over a fire, camp under the stars, while the chattering of hyenas lingered on the edges of our dreams.
It was in these vehicles that I first experienced what it was like to be truly free, unencumbered by society, speed limits, or even roads. We went wherever the wildlife was, through rivers, over mountains, amidst dense forests, and across parched alkaline lake beds.
But Africa shows no mercy on mechanical devices, and whether a fuel pump, leaf spring, or clutch cylinder, something would inevitably break. Drawing from good old fashioned African ingenuity, someone would always fashion a temporary fix from a water bottle, spare wire, or even a condom, that would suffice until we returned to camp.
And while my truck will likely not be traveling the rough roads of the mother land, I am no mechanic, and cannot place confidence enough in my abilities, especially when I’m on a time sensitive assignmment. So to offset my lack of automotive autonomy, I sought out one of the more beloved and reliable platforms in the overlanding world, the Tacoma. Besides, I can just borrow my friend’s cruiser when I get back to Tanzania.
There is certainly no shortage of options when it comes to outfitting an overland vehicle, but I wanted to keep the look and feel of "classic safari,” preferring more traditional styling over modern, aggressive looks. With that as a starting point, I was fortunate to be able to partner with some amazing sponsors, pillars in the off-roading community, who helped me realize the vision of this buildout.
Manual transmissions are hard to find these days, so I had to custom order the truck, which took about 3-4 months to get, but was totally worth the wait; TRD Off Road double cab, short bed, with a 6 speed manual transmission, in the quicksand color.
The wait time on the truck being custom built was actually an advantage in the long run, as it gave me time to finalize all of the particulars with the sponsors, and be able to get going as soon as she arrived at the dealership. You can read a bit more about the details of each phase in the photo captions below, and a I’ll also be creating a separate page with product specifics soon, for those technical minds out there.
As you can imagine, this will be an ongoing process, as an entire new phase is already in the works, so definitely check back in the coming months. But for now, this is where she stands, in all her glory. I'll be adding more info on the build process in the photo captions shortly, but thanks for your patience!
A more detailed, technical list of modifications is soon to follow.