Suzuki SA has one of the planet's best dedicated 4x4 vehicles, in fact, it has no direct competitor at all - thus the diminutive Jimny is iconic, an instant classic no matter which generation you're talking about. Often times, when a car has been on the market for a little while and sales start to lag, manufacturers try come up with cool marketing ideas to drum up interest. Again, not the case with the Suzuki Jimny that's only in its 4th generation in the last 51 years. Since the 4th generation's 2018 launch there has been a long waiting list for those wanting brand new ones. Yeah, 2nd-hand can be had more readily, but even then they're few and far between. So if it's not to drum up sales, what is the #SuzukiSafari? It's absolutely freaking awesome is what it is!
Suzuki SA have created an experience, not a marketing exercise. Being a trusted partner in adventure, the inaugural #SuzukiSafari not only showed the impressive capabilities of the Jimny, it cemented the fact that there is no need to leave this beautiful country of ours to have an amazing getaway. Having access to a Jimny does make things one heck of a lot easier though because the only limits after that will be permission to cross some local terrain. That's where JJ and the crew from family-owned and run African Expeditions comes in. This family has taken travellers around SA on guided self-drive tours for more than 30 years now, and with the recent upgrade to a Suzuki Jimny as their lead car, it makes sense that Suzuki SA has partnered up with them. The Suzuki SA crew is amazing, as is the African Expeditions crew - birds of a feather and all that.
While I don't own a Jimny, everyone that knows me knows that having one in my garage is a goal, but until then I've been lucky enough to do awesome Jimny things with Suzuki SA, and while we've done many things in the past - this #SuzukiSafari is easily the list-topper. The only thing better than a 3-night, 4-day tour of the Suzuki Berg & Sperrgebiet Route, would be doing it twice in a row or adding a day or two on - but that would be greedy. Actually, while I was on the Safari, I wasn't the only one plotting ways to extend our time on the epic trip. If everyone had their way, we'd still be traversing the dunes and beaches right now.
Day 1 started dark and early with a flight to Upington in the Northern Cape where we met African Expeditions crew and a fleet of new Suzuki Jimnys. Being pretty much in the middle of nowhere meant we had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get to Pofadder, but being in a Jimny that drive was comfy and smooth. We were headed to Pofadder to have some lunch and a briefing on the day's planned drive. After some power burgers, the various partnered-pairings first had to kit their Jimnys out with the Suzuki Safari signage - the same signage that would be in place for the Suzuki Safaris that followed this first one. It wasn't as easy as it looks, but by the end of the task, the Jimny convoy looked great and we headed out to explore.
Our first stop was the old Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a short drive away. When I say old, I mean old. This church was built back in 1872 and has an amazing hard-fought history, and is also a stalwart in the community. Old buildings are awesome, especially when you get to hear the associated stories of triumph and tragedy. From the church we hit the "road" to our camp site for the night.
Our destination was Camp Desert Paradise, which took us through Charles Pass and on to a breathtaking spot discovered by JJ and Suzuki's BC San during a recce session - they dubbed it Bobbejaanspieël Pass. This trek through the desert-like passes was great, the desert terrain looks rough and tough, but the Jimny fleet made light work of things. Seriously, I've praised these little 4x4s for years and I know their capabilities, but my mind is blown every time I drive one away from the tarmac. Bobbejaanspieël Pass was made up of a very loose and slippery kind of shale. I was clever enough to follow JJ up in his Jimny - on foot. This gave me some amazing views and a chance for great pics, but also to see from the outside just how easy the Jimny trundled up the steep and slippery hill. I also set a new heart rate record according to my smart watch, I think I was 2bmp away from falling over while the Jimnys barely knew they were being subjected to a steep and tough pass.
En route we met up with one of JJ's long-time friends - Adam "BlouBul". This man has his house set up miles and miles from anywhere, along a long time dry river bed bordering the hills that separate SA from Namibia. The man has everything he needs to have a happy and stress-free life. A roof, a bed, water, a radio and some small farm animals. He's also a massive rugby fan, and on hearing this one of the chaps with us, Cayne, gifted him with a pair of Springbok tracksuit pants that he got from an actual Springbok player. To say the was happy is an understatement.
After our little roadside pow wow, we carried on through the desert to our accommodation made up of tents, camp chairs, a bonfire and amazing food and drinks. I know I speak for everyone on the #SuzukiSafari when I say that it was a visual overload, nature has the ability to completely humble you.
The second day saw us covering more vast distances along picturesque desert roads towards our accommodation for the next two nights, Die Houthoop. We headed off to Mik Rivier and Klein Pella, with a stop at Karsten's Boerdery, one of the world's biggest premium date farms. It's so cool that SA has things like this, and it's even cooler to be able to see these places first hand. Some of the ladies on the trip especially loved this stop because the idea of a normal shower seemed to beat out the bush showers from the tented camp site. After shower hour, a short presentation on the farm and it's workings and a gift of world-class export-quality dates, we headed out again.
With the terrain starting to be more like soft beach sand, tyre pressures were adjusted and we started along the picturesque route to Die Houthoop Gasteplaas for dinner, drinks and amazing company. Once again, the little Jimnys never missed a beat, there were no struggles, incident or anything. I mean I know these 4x4s are brilliant at what they do, but they continually blow my mind with the ease that they can traverse any terrain you throw at them. This route saw us drive along the Orange River, the Mik Rivier, Klein Pella, the amazingly picturesque Quiver Tree Forest and the famous Spektakel Pass.
The third day of the #SuzukiSafari was easily my favourite. Not really because of the terrain and the Jimny's capabilities making travel easy, but because of the photo opportunities. There are few places as amazing as this part of South Africa and being able to capture the scenes I did is truly humbling. This Shipwreck Route covers amazing beach trails that lesser 4x4s struggler with, we breezed through plenty spots were other cars needed help. While beach sand looks easy to navigate, it's actually not an easy terrain for a vehicle, the wrong wheel speed and you'll dig in, too much weight will do the same. Luckily even a fully loaded Jimny floats across the soft sand. It's also ridiculously fun to do.
We stopped off at the remains of Agenbach House (one of the original farm houses in the area) before carrying on along Atlantic seafront to check out a few famous shipwrecks along the way. I tried my best to capture these amazing vistas, and while I do think the pics worked out pretty damn well, they really don't do the place justice. It's also my first time up close with a shipwreck, the feelings were surreal.
You'd think that a beach drive and shipwrecks would be enough for one day, but this wasn't just a safari, this was was an epic adventure. We headed back to base at Houthoop for an amazing lunch - actually everything we had at HoutHoop was brilliant, just freaking brilliant. With full stomachs, nap time could have been a thing, but there was no rest for the Jimnys. After lunch the #SuzukiSafari convoy headed to the nearby Red Dunes for some more sand fun. This was another amazing sight, in the middle of all the white beach/desert sand there's a massive red sand dune. It stands out from the surrounding white sands, but only once you're near the top of the outside hills leading up to it. If we didn't have a guide like JJ showing us where it's the most fun to play with Jimnys, we would have driven right past it. From the air it's a different story, the red sand contrast to the white sand is almost alien.
We spent a few hours criss-crossing the dune, doing laps of a different kind. Again, these little 4x4s made light work of the soft sand, so much so that all thoughts were on having an absolute blast instead of worrying about maybe getting bogged down and needing a rescue. We all sat in the dune as the sun started dropping below the horizon, taking in the awe-inspiring views. When the temp dropped a little more, we all climbed back in the Jimnys for class. With Suzuki's BC San at the head of the class in his Jimny, we had for a presentation on the current state of Jimny manufacture and availability, along with some interesting stats related to the nomenclature. Best classroom EVAR!
During class we learned that in 51 years, the Jimny has sold over 3 000 000 units worldwide. Here in SA the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations can be found, although there are a few super rare Gen 1 LJs around too if you know where to look. The 3rd generation was the most popular, arriving on our shores in 2008. In ten years of sales, just over 9200 Jimnys found homes, in contrast this 4th Gen Jimny has already sold over 4700 units with every model arriving already having a home to go to. It won't be long before there's more new 4th Gen Jimnys on our roads than the Gen 3. That's brilliant! It's no wonder we were on the stock allocation list before Aus and New Zealand - Jimny has a strong SA following.
The Jimny has always been a Japan-only build, but with worldwide demand continually growing, having one factory making all derivatives for the JDM, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East markets creates a bit of a bottle neck. All the Jimnys you see here were assembled on a new production line in India, starting in Q2 of this year. This means export models can number between 1000 and 1500 units. MOAR JIMNYS - Yeeeehaaaaaa! This is only for assembly though, so that Japanese quality carries on. On a side note, over 40% of passenger cars in SA are manufactured in India. Bet you didn't know that!
This new production means we no have five Jimny trims available in SA, previously being three. There's now the Jimny 1.5 GL AT and MT in the mix, changing up the standard features and giving buyers exactly what they want. Nice one Suzuki!
Day 4 was more of a wind down day, but we still got in some awesome driving along some picturesque roads. After yet another hearty breakfast at Houthoop, we started the trek over the Wildeperdehoek Pass and the Messel Pass en route to Springbok. Of course we had plenty stops along the way to take a look at the amazing view and oddities spotted along the way. For these gravel roads it was a case of leaving a decent gap, listening to JJ's extensive knowledge about everything we could see, and soaking in the awesomeness that is the Northern Cape.
We hit Springbok for a refuel at around lunch time and then racked up an easy 400km of tarmac back to Upington Airport, and then home. Again, there was not one person on the #SuzukiSafari that wanted to head home. That's a clear telltale sign that the trip was not just a good one, but an epic one. The sights and scenes have become amazing memories, stories that will be told around campfires and braais for years to come. I just love how some of my most epic travel memories are linked to the Suzuki Jimny, and I don't even own one. Yet.
Die houthoop Gasteplaas
If you're ever up in the Northern Cape, Houthoop is a place you simply have to check out. It's the coolest oasis of awesome, it's not 5-star, it's 5-billion star! It automatically feels safe and homely and offers up plenty photographic opportunities. It's the perfect place to use as a base camp like the African Expeditions team has done. If I ever find myself back in that next of the desert, Veronica's Houthoop Gastehuis is guaranteed a visit.
I want to thank everyone in this pic for making this inaugural #SuzukiSafari not only a success, but an awesome memory. The African Expeditions team, the Suzuki SA team and the fellow journos and photographers all added to the overall awesomeness of this trip - you guys all rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!