Under the hood of Tanzania’s Highly Celebrated Truck: Samia Suluhu’s Royal Tour Car
The now wildly popular, Green Toyota Landcruiser, is the car which President Samia Suluhu drove during the shooting of equally famous ‘Royal Tour’ film
In the early misty morning, a flying bird lands on the bonnet of a slow moving, tour vehicle.
The little bird remains standing on the hood even as the car picks up speed in the drizzling rain.
Now, the green Toyota Land-Cruiser, formerly a Hardtop but now featuring an elongated body conversion happens to be the most famous car in the country at the moment.
It could also be famous around the globe too. Hollywood has seen it, New York has watched it.
That is because it is the vehicle which was used in the shooting of the ‘Royal Tour’ travel documentary film, currently trending globally and featuring Tanzanian Head of State, Samia Suluhu Hassan.
But that is not all; the Land-Cruiser was actually driven by the President herself.
President Samia Suluhu was behind the wheel of the heavy Toyota truck during the documentary filming in Ngorongoro and later for spectacular events captured on camera within the Serengeti National Park.
During the ‘Royal Tour’ shooting in Serengeti, the Head of State slipped behind the wheel and drove the mammoth truck for nearly 25 kilometers through the wilderness of the endless plains.
Makoma hill happens to be the vantage point in the heart of the National Park.
And that is the place where that iconic photo of President Samia standing with arms locked behind, gazing down below the expanse of Tanzania’s third largest National Park stretching below her.
Previously, the head of state drove the vehicle when guiding the Royal Tour producer, Peter Greenberg in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the popular Lion chasing scene was shot.
As it happens, the Toyota Land-Cruiser belongs to the Tanzania National Park and is usually stationed at the Serengeti National Park.
“The vehicle is usually used by VIP visitors when touring in this park,” explains the Conservation Officer in-charge of Tourism Department at Serengeti, Tutindaga George Mwakijambile.
She revealed that the Fourth Phase Head of State, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete who frequently toured Serengeti, used to ride in the Land-Cruiser.
Occasionally the vehicle would undertake missions outside the park, like when it was used to transport the immediate former President John Pombe Maguli when the latter was touring Rubondo Island in Geita.
The green Toyota Land-Cruiser 70 Series, hardtop vehicle with parastatal plate numbers, SU 37010 has also seen it all.
It was bought by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, through Tanzania National Park in 2009, thus making it 12 years old so far.
Conservator Martin Looiboki was in-charge of Serengeti National Park by then.
It is a Four-Wheel Drive, Five-Speed Manual Transmission with a differential lock switch located beneath the Toyota engraved steering wheel.
The mill under the hood is a 4200cc 1Hz Toyota engine, which most motorists swear by.
In 2010 the vehicle was taken to Rajinder Singh Auto Motors (RSA) in Moshi, Kilimanjaro where it was converted from the original hardtop shell into the current extended Safari Body.
From there, the vehicle became a seven-seater tour van, popularly known here as ‘War Bus!’
But the 2009 models did not feature much creature comforts apart from the rear placed small electric cooler box for drinks, the dashboard remains the old fashioned straight angular edged beige coloured hard plastic.
The car is still fitted with vintage technology such as an audio cassette tape player, a radio tuner with AM, FM and SW stations.
In the age of better equipped modern Safari Vehicles, why did the Head of State choose to drive only this one special truck?
“First the vehicle colour blends well with the environment, reflecting the natural settings of the National Park,” explained the Serengeti Tourism Officer.
In fact throughout the ‘Royal Tour’ filming, President Samia Suluhu herself always wore attires that blended with nature, so it was only befitting for the Head of State to pick the green truck.
That should also explain why that little bird also felt comfortable enough to land on the vehicle’s hood, that early morning at Seronera.
Even as the Land-Cruiser ploughed into the bushes, filled with wildlife species, Zebras and Wildebeests remained unpertubed and continued to graze on peacefully.
Suddenly this development raises another crucial question; shouldn’t all Safari Vehicles in Tanzania and East Africa feature colors that blend with nature?