Exploring U.S. backcountry by safari vehicle just got cleaner, thanks to Natural Habitat Adventures, which this month unveiled the planet's first hybrid safari vehicle. A four-wheel-drive hybrid Toyota Highlander retrofitted for optimal off-the-beaten-path wildlife viewing, the Hybrid Safari One includes such custom features as beefier suspension, a new roof with sliding canvas top and specialized flip-up photography windows. Carbon-neutral ecotour company Natural Habitat Adventures will put its new climate-conscious transport to the test this summer on western U.S. expeditions including an exploration of Grand, Bryce and Zion Canyons.
Natural Habitat Adventures founder and director Ben Bressler got the idea for the green machine while brainstorming ways to continue to reduce the company's greenhouse gas emissions. "The idea was to create a prototype, then improve upon it," says Bressler. "Our goal was not only to further reduce our own carbon footprint, but also to raise the bar on low-impact transportation for the entire adventure travel industry."
Natural Habitat Adventures' new Hybrid Safari One accommodates four guests in individual bucket seats, each with a roll-down or flip-up window, and is projected to get 25 miles per gallon on safari -- more than double the mileage of a typical safari truck of the same size. Hybrid vehicles deliver better fuel efficiency by using two power sources -- a gasoline engine and an electric motor. The company spent more than a year researching and building the specialized vehicle -- also outfitted with safety devices and conveniences such as tow capacity, on-board dining gear and fire prevention devices -- for an approximate cost of $70,000.