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Land Cruisers on Safari!

Posted: 30/01/2012

Our safari themed February enews is in honour of the website of the month, Insiders Africa featuring Ol Pejeta Bush Camp. Situated in the Kenyan region of Laikipia on the Equator, this camp is a haven for nature lovers and photographers alike.

This tented bush camp on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy offers guests the opportunity for a unique kind of safari experience in Kenya including rides in their classic Land Cruisers along the dirt tracks of the reserve. Visitors gain an insight into modern wildlife conservation on this working wildlife conservancy and cattle ranch.

Celebrity tweeter Steven Fry has been to stay twice while filming "Last Chance to See" programmes for the BBC about the world’s rarest large mammal, the Northern White Rhino. There are 7 of these animals left in the world, with 4 living in a protected area in Ol Pejeta.

The reason we found Ol Pejeta particularly interesting was the array of storied 4x4s they use in the 100,000 acre park. A fleet of Toyota Land Cruisers transports both the Conservancy staff and visitors around the park safely over a range of challenging terrain.

The Land Cruiser seems a sensible choice considering the vehicle’s high reliability rating of 88 on the Reliability Index. The car's sturdy build leads to very few breakdowns but for any fault that is found the the average cost of over £500 can hurt your pocket! Another point of note is that the average vehicle on the Index is 4 and a half years old and most on the conservancy are over 20!

The vehicles are expected to deal with deep river crossings, potholes which manage to put even those in Edinburgh to shame and rainy seasons which turn the roads into a slippery bog.

According to Diane Hunter who runs the camp with her husband Alex “when it comes to conditions like this....tyres maketh the car!” Where possible the vehicles are equipped with mud tyres as during the rainy season the black cotton soil can turn into the swampy terrain you see below. Diane said “You have to remember where [the potholes] are in the dry season because when it rains they look just like puddles! We drove into one on a 4WD course for new Kenya residents from Nairobi so we could practice towing cars out of holes…decent gas shock absorbers are very important to us!”

A big problem the vehicles face is the dust which manages to get into every nook and cranny in day-to-day use. The air filters in particular require constant cleaning to avoid breakdowns.

The vehicle below is the oldest there (a 1969 Land Cruiser FJ 43) and used to belong to famed photographer Peter Beard. However, it's only a 3-speed (3.5CC!) engine and doesn't have a synchromesh – this means rather than changing down gears you need to stop completely and start again which can make driving a nightmare. It has taken 2 years to source a new engine which is compatible and they are looking to use this to solve the problem! Due to the age of some of the vehicles it can be difficult to source parts so some are used from other Toyotas and they are constantly on the lookout for parts from wrecks or breaker yards. Luckily rust is not a big problem in Kenya and panel beaters are easily found. 2 years ago the vehicle became completely submerged due to an “act of God” but the 2 full time mechanics they have at the camp managed to have it up and running again within 3 hours! This is only an hour more than the average time off the road seen on the Reliability Index for Land Cruisers - a testament to the skill of the mechanics.

For more information visit http://www.insidersafrica.com/ or email info@insidersafrica.com.