Micato Musings



July & August Photo Contest Winners Announced

Posted by: Micato

Our call for submissions in the July and August Micato Safaris Photo Contest yielded tremendous results, once again.  Our Micato Safaris judges poured over images of kudus and gazelles, Maasai warriors and grandchildren, as well as the African landscapes of which we are so fond.  The talent of the following four photographers rose to the top this summer:

July 2015
Grant Stephens

African leopard decending from tree branches

How rare to catch a leopard at all, but to catch him in action shows real talent!

Grant tells us that while on safari in East Africa with his parents, “We came across dead impala in a tree and we became quite excited when our drivers told us we were close to a Leopard. We anxiously drove around searching different trees for this amazing hunter. We came across this beautiful Leopard and gazed upon it as it stared back at us. Soon the Leopard stood up, hopped onto a lower branch then jumped out of the tree. I had had my camera focused on him the whole time waiting for an opportunity to photograph him. As this magnificent leopard ran away, I looked down at my camera screen and was just ecstatic with the moment that I had captured.”

July  2015
Lucie Fjeldstad

Maasai Elder

Lucie’s colourful portrait of a Maasai elder shows the human side of an African safari.

We agree with Lucie when she says that “Kenya is NOT just about the wildlife.  It’s about endless savannahs, sunrises, sunsets and some of the friendliest, most colorful people you will find anywhere in the world.”  She went on to question “Wouldn’t the entire world be better if we all dressed in bright and lively colors?  It couldn’t help but brighten our day, much like meeting this fellow and his family did for us when our guide took us to a Maasai village.  Everyone was so welcoming and friendly!   The costumes, the colors, the jewelry, and even the hairstyles are gorgeous, regardless of whether we are talking about the men or the women or the children!”

August 2015
Bob Fjeldstad

Victoria Falls

Spectacular Victoria Falls from a helicopter sightseeing flight.

Bob tells us that “Once you are within 20-25 miles of Victoria Falls you can see the cloud of water vapor rising over 1000 feet in the distance and you begin to understand how that cloud resembles smoke!  Then as you get closer and closer to the Falls you hear the crashing of hundreds of tons of water a mile wide careening over 350 feet to the rocks below sending up clouds of spray and mist high up into the sky.”

He says that “The nickname of “the Smoke that Thunders” seems so apropos!!!  It is impossible to capture the breadth of Victoria Falls in a single picture frame from ground level.  So in the absence of today’s aerial drones, we found a helicopter service that would take us around the Falls.  While the Falls are stunning from ground level, they are unbelievable from above and we took tons of pictures, ” and we wholeheartedly agree!

August 2015
Simon Shore

Lion cubs

Class Photo on the Savannah?  Not quite!


Teenager Simon Shore may just be our youngest Honourable Mention in the history of the Micato Safaris Photo Contest.  He tells us that while he was travelling in East Africa with his parents, “We ran into these beautiful cubs just as the sun was setting.  We followed them from the tall grasses to this deserted ant hill and watched them enjoy the cool evening and locate the perfect kill.”  Simon feels that “This photo captures the powerful bond of this beautiful cat family.”

Is next month’s winner or honourable mention sitting on your hard drive?  Regardless of when you travelled on Safari with us, your photos are eligible.  You just may be the winner of next month’s $250 credit in our online Safari Shop.  For details on how to enter, and to view photos from our past winners, be sure to visit the Micato Photo Contest on our website.



An African Safari’s Most Wonderful Gifts

Posted by: Micato

By Jack & Rikki Swenson

Beginning our recent safari with a visit to Samburu Game Reserve in Kenya, we were celebrating many milestones. This was to be our tenth annual Lindblad Expeditions/Micato Safaris East Africa Photo Safari that we would be leading with many of our favorite driver guides, and also our wonderful Micato Safari Director, Tonnie Kaguathi.

With us were a mix of guests, some of whom had previously been on safari, and others for whom it was their first time exploring this magical continent. Among our guests was one of our favorite traveling companions, Satish Nair, who had previously joined us on many trips including a spectacular Micato Safari in 2009. We were all extremely excited to be in Africa and venturing out on safari together.

After our planes landed in Samburu, we headed towards our camp on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. During this short drive we were amazed to encounter herds of elephants drinking at the river, reticulated giraffe, many antelope, the rare local Grevy’s zebra (which in previous years we had searched hard to find), and lions, too. It was quite a grand welcome and introduction for those who were on their first safari.

We enjoyed a similarly successful afternoon game drive that same day, had a lovely dinner, and retired for the night to the myriad curious sounds of the African bush. The following day was Satish’s birthday, and we lamented that we hadn’t brought a gift or even a card for him. I thought, “That’s okay, I’m sure we’ll have a special sighting of something today, and we’ll tell him that was our gift intended for him.”

Sure enough, only perhaps twenty minutes into our morning game drive as our vehicles were ambling through the lushly wooded riparian zone by the river, we spotted a pride of lions basking in the morning sun just a short distance upriver. Our vehicles soon reached the lions, and we had splendid views of two lionesses and their five cubs of varying ages in the crisp morning light. Soon the dominant male of the area arrived and we watched as they greeted, and then the females and cubs wandered along the river edges. I said to Satish in the adjacent vehicle, “Hey, I got you lions for your birthday!” He flashed a huge smile, and his eyes sparkled with delight.

Lioness in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Lioness (Panthera leo) surveying her surroundings from a fallen tree in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya. Photo By Jack Swenson

During the afternoon game drive, I was riding with Satish and his cousin, Sai. After watching groups of oryx, impala, Grant’s gazelles, and many more Grevy’s zebras, we eventually a found a female cheetah with her two nearly grown cubs resting in the shade of a bush. It was nearly sunset and time to be heading back towards camp. En route, our driver, Patrick, took a short detour to an area where there had been a report of a female leopard. As we eased towards the bushes where this young female leopard was resting, she emerged out into the open. She turned and began walking in our direction. Soon she was looking directly at us, and stalking towards us. I crouched down and shot a couple of photos from directly out the side window. Then, in a flash, she darted straight underneath our vehicle. What?! We’ve been on many safaris and have never had a leopard run under our safari vehicle. But, then again, this was Satish’s birthday and he’d come back to Africa in search of more memorable safari experiences.

female leopard Samburu Game Reserve

A female leopard (Panthera pardus) approaching, Samburu Game Reserve, Kenya, Africa. Photo by Jack Swenson

At the end of the day, there was a cake and singing for Satish. We then told him that we couldn’t decide whether to get him lions, cheetahs, or a leopard for his birthday, so we got him all three. We all laughed with delight, knowing that this was simply the magic of being on safari in Africa.


Satish, the birthday boy, captured a stunning image of three cheetahs on the next morning in Samburu.  That photo was later chosen as the winner in the Micato Safaris May photo contest. You can see Satish’s photo and read the story surrounding it here.

Micato Safaris will again host Rikki & Jack Swenson on their 11th Annual Lindblad/Micato Photo Safari in 2016.  To learn more, or secure one of the few remaining spaces, contact Melissa Hordych at Micato Safaris on 1-800-Micato-1 or by email at inquiries@Micato.com. 



The Original DIY

Posted by: Micato

by Leslie Woit

The world’s oldest technology has been recently discovered in Kenya. Don’t just read about it: become the Ultimate Citizen Archaeologist on a private site tour of the world’s most important archeological dig.

Dr Louise Leakey, Dr Maeve Leakey with Dennis Pinto and Family

The Pinto Family examining some of the artifacts at Turkana Basin Institute with Drs Maeve and Louise Leakey.


Finally, the answer to man’s oldest question.

Where did I leave that hammer?

The world’s oldest tools have been discovered in the midst of the region known as the Cradle of Civilization, by the arid shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya. The rudimentary worked rocks — man’s first invention and a vital link in our evolution – have proven to be some 700,000 years older than previously thought.

Within a layer of sediment dating to 3.3 million years in a dry riverbed and adjacent hill, the discovery was made by Dr Sonia Harmand, research associate professor at Stony Brook University in New York, and Dr Jason Lewis, co-leader of the project. Their discovery changes the timeline of early human technology, signaling what is being called a new beginning to the known archaeological record.

The area known as Lomekwi 3 is an archeological gold mine: From this same site, in 1999 a team of fossil hunters working with Meave and Louise Leakey unearthed a 3.5-million-year-old skull believed to belong to a new branch of early human named Kenyanthropus platyops. Our ancestors Kenyanthropus — or possibly australopithecines — were making these stone tools as early as 3.3 million years ago.

Until now, the earliest known stone tools were known as Oldowan, named for the first examples discovered more than 80 years ago by celebrated paleoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, about 600 miles from the Lake Turkana, Kenya site. The “latest” tools have earned their own moniker, Lomekwian, for the archaeological site Lomekwi 3.

At Lake Turkana today, the Leakey Family legacy lives on. The Leakey Family established and built the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), where the field research stations form part of a continuous presence of intensive fieldwork, data collection and specimen study by many scientists. Meave and Louise Leakey’s (daughter and granddaughter of Louis and Mary) continue to run their own research expeditions from these field centres, making new and important discoveries with their team.

“This vast region,” according to Louise Leakey, “is undoubtedly the best field laboratory for studying our past.”

In the spirit of continuing discoveries, Louise Leakey will soon launch a platform that will allow citizen scientists participate in the search. It is called fossilfinder.org.  And a further peak into the laboratories at Turkana Basin Institute can be found at Louise’s site, AfricanFossils.org.

And of course, nothing beats getting up close and personal with a visit to the archeological site that’s rocking the world.

“Micato’s unique connection with Louise Leakey allows for us to plan an excursion to the Turkana Basin area that is unlike any other,” explains Liz Wheeler, CEO of Micato Safaris in East Africa. “On the Northern Frontier Expedition, Micato guests see the dig sites and spend time with the knowledgeable team there, learning about human history in the place where it all began.”

“How many people have the chance to live the life of a modern-day Indiana Jones in the most exciting setting possible?”

Learn more about visiting the site of the Leakey Excavations at Turkana Basin on Micato’s Northern Frontiers Expeditions or contact our team of Safari Experts at 1-800-642-2861.






Micato Safaris Photo Contest: May & June Winners

Posted by: Jane Carswell

We received many wonderful photographs for the May and June Micato Photo Contest, giving our judges the challenge of selecting a mere four shots total for our winners and honourable mentions.

Here now the winners, who not only gave us their stunning images, but also shared a few words about what these special moments on safari meant to them.


May 2015
Satish Nair

three cheetahs by Satish Nair

Three cheetahs on the hunt by Satish Nair


Satish recalls the memorable moment when he and his group encountered these three cheetahs on the Micato Safaris/Lindblad Expeditions Photo Safari earlier in 2015:

“We were out at first light at Samburu, and came upon this cheetah trio emerging from the bushes.  The sun was just peeking over the hills, burning what remained of the overnight fog, and bathing the entire landscape in golden light.  Our Micato driver expertly maneuvered the vehicle so we could get backlit shots as the cheetahs marched forth with laser-like focus, having caught wind of an impala herd several hundred yards away.   We stayed with the cheetah for well over a half hour, as they stalked the herd, in and out of the bushes.  In the end, however, their efforts came to naught when a sentinel grant’s gazelle sounded the alarm, and the herd scattered.”


May 2015
William Merrick

Lion cub on rocks, East Africa

Lone Sibling, lion cub by William Merrick

William’s story behind this photo shows how we can really get to know certain animal families while travelling on safari:

“We were just getting ready to hit the tents when this cub was spotted.  At the time, this appeared to be the only lion.  The next day we returned thinking we might see mom as well.  No mom, but two siblings to make three.  After about 15 minutes, a lion’s roar was heard and it was mom coming back to get her kids.  A fresh breakfast was about a mile away.  We followed them and that’s when we found the kill, on the other side of a small stream.  This then offered additional shots of the lions jumping across the creek or the cubs swimming across.  In all, we spent several hours following the family from their evening bed under the tree trunk to breakfast the following day.”

June 2015
Anna Drake

Elephant in East Africa by Anna Drake

Elephant in Tarangire National Park by Anna Drake

Anna remembers this moment from her first day on safari in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania:

“We had come upon a herd of about 40 elephants and it was an amazing sight! I never thought I would see so many elephants in one place like that. There were so many all around us and I wanted to get some close-up shots of individual elephants. I saw this one who I caught just as it was chewing a mouthful of grasses and it seemed to be looking right at me! The elephant appeared unfazed by our presence and continued eating its lunch before it moved on across the road to join the rest of the herd. It was so special to be so close to such a magnificent creature and to watch it living its life in the wild!”

June 2015
Maribeth Venezia

Giraffe in East Africa by Maribeth Venezia

The Peek-A-Boo Giraffe by Maribeth Venezia

This is Maribeth’s second Honourable Mention with a giraffe photo. We’re beginning to wonder if the giraffe is Maribeth’s totem!  About this photo, she recalls:

“This was our last afternoon game drive in Samburu National Preserve. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a giraffe, or did I? I certainly did a double-take. I asked the driver and guide to stop the vehicle and if possible to back up a little bit. There it was, a beautiful giraffe, playing “peek-a-boo” behind a bush. It looked like the he was wearing the bush for clothing. The giraffe stared at us, never moving away from his camouflage outfit. We all got a good chuckle!”

It is never too late to enter the Micato Safaris Photo Contest. Photos are eligible as long as they were taken on safari with Micato. Each monthly winner receives a $250 credit for Micato’s Safari Shop and at the end of the year we award a $3000 Micato Safaris credit to put towards a safari or to use in the safari shop.



The Greatest India Book?

Posted by: Micato

by Tom Cole

Cover Image-Rudyard Kipling's Kim

Rudyard Kipling’s Kim

It’s probably a little myopically unfair to call Rudyard Kipling’s Kim the greatest book about India. Unfair because it’s 114 years old and because its language and ostensible politics sometimes pinch the modern ear. Myopic because, after all, it’s a book about India by an non-Indian, and a guy with a reputation as a strident imperialist to boot.

For many years it was almost vanishingly rare to hear a good word about Kipling in polite literary or political circles. In the past couple of decades, though, his reputation has seen a major uptick. For one thing, you can’t read Kipling without marveling at his wonderful energy and focus and his command of expression. He was a masterful, fabulously engaging writer (and in 1907 the first English-language Nobel laureate). Henry James, not given to idle praise, once said that: “Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known.”

As for Kipling’s politics: he was indeed sometimes uncomfortably bellicose, and it’s (a little too easy) to see him as what we would today call, in our guillotine fashion, racist. But a close look at his 1897 poem Recessional shows him to have been surprisingly skeptical of the British Empire’s pretensions. And after his son was killed in World War I his fascination with war and soldiery took a dark turn. Further complicating things was the inescapable fact that Kipling knew and loved India and its people deeply and well—he was born there, in Bombay, in 1865, and in his formative years was a wide-eyed lad who “thought and dreamed” in the local vernacular.

Kim tells the story of the far-flung adventures of the eponymous youth, who at book’s beginning is a resourceful street urchin in Lahore (now in Pakistan, then part of British India). Though he’s thought to be a “native,” Kim is the orphaned son of an Irish mother and father who died in poverty. I won’t outline the fascinating plot, especially since Wikipedia has done such a good job: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_(novel).

If you’re interested in India, Kim will provide you with a what the Oxford Companion to English Literature calls “a vivid picture of India, its teeming populations, religions, and superstitions, and the life of the bazaars and the road.” The India that Kipling presents in Kim is still very evident in the India of today. The lad’s travels along the Grand Trunk Road are unforgettably vibrant, and his encounters with Tibetan lamas (one of whom is a major figure in the book) and bazaar merchants, and English soldiers and Russian spies, are masterfully and accurately drawn. If you love or have a hearty affection for India and you haven’t read Kim, I envy you, because you’ve got a grand treat in store. Kipling was perhaps—no, surely—the Raj’s greatest chronicler, and on my recent Micato trip to India, I felt his presence often. His first collection of short stories, Plain Tales from the Hills is indispensable reading; and while we were looking—successfully— for tigers in Ranthambore National Park, I re-lived my experience of the thunderously marvelous Jungle Books.

(If you’re wondering about those Russian spies: Kim becomes embroiled in what was known as the Great Game, a long rivalry for dominance in Central Asia between the expansionist Russian Empire and the British, who were convinced the Russians were intent on swooping down from the north to pluck the Jewel in the Crown from them. Another of Kim’s great characters is Col. Creighton, a brainy English spy in the Himalayan uplands where the Great Game was played in earnest. Creighton is based on a real-life adventurer/soldier/spy/mystic named Francis Younghusband, the epitome of the Edwardian hero figure, the kind of fellow who would stop the music by striding in his ragged field uniform into a Viceregal ball in the hill station of Simla, walk up to the Viceroy and say, “Sir! I bring news from the frontier!”)


Looking for some other great reads on India?  Check out Tom’s other blog article on the subject: 4 Great Books about India.



Kings of the Jungle, But Is the Monarchy at Risk?

Posted by: Micato

By Leslie Woit

Fast, ferocious and famously noble. Who would imagine that lions are among the most vulnerable creatures on the planet?

Ewaso Lion Project-Nanai

Nanai the lioness is one of many lions at risk in Northeast Kenya. Photo submitted by the Ewaso Lions.

According to a small yet important grassroots conservation project called Ewaso Lions, at the current rate of loss, unless something is done, Kenya’s lions could be threatened in the near future.

“We definitely need parks, but most areas are too small for lions and they get into trouble when they move beyond them,” explains Shivani Bhalla, founder of Ewaso Lions. “Working with lions on community-run land is important for their conservation.”

The problem for lions is twofold: habitat loss combined with human confrontation – though rather than poaching, which so severely threatens other animals, lions are primarily threatened over livestock depredation. The northern Kenyan people are primarily pastoralists who raise sheep, goats and cows. In community areas, lions often kill livestock.

“This causes great resentment amongst the local people,” explains Bhalla. “And often people come and retaliate by killing lions.” In order to protect their livestock, pastoralists may retaliate by shooting, spearing or poisoning lions.

Under the leadership of Shivani Bhalla, PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and a National Geographic Explorer, Ewaso Lions focuses on research and education. This includes GPS tracking, camera traps and lion monitoring. “We monitor 40 lions in the region, each lion has been individually identified and we monitor them on a daily basis.”

The human factor is a vital component of the programme’s success, including lion scouts who work in community areas. “They’re out every day patrolling the region collecting information on predators, livestock and ungulates to really see what are the factors that affect the lion population in this area. Is it other predators, is it people, is it changes in prey?”

Ewaso Lion Project-Lion Collaring

Shivani Bhalla and her team collaring a lion named Lguret. Photo submitted by Ewaso Lions

Ewaso also uses “ambassadors” drawn from the local community. The Warrior Watch programme engages the local Samburu warriors, known as Morans.

“We realize the Morans had been previously neglected when it came to wildlife conservation decision-making, so we’ve engaged 18 warriors in four different conservancies.” Warriors collect information on predators and talk to communities about predator locations, so they can take their livestock away from those locations to avoid potential predator conflict. “They really have become wildlife ambassadors within their communities.”

To Learn More About Ewaso Lions

Ewaso Lions is the first project to conduct a formal research study on the lion population in Samburu, Kenya. Ewaso Lions’ community outreach and education programmes engage local people in conservation, provide training, find creative solutions to human-wildlife conflict and give back to the community.

A visit with the Ewaso Lions team can be arranged on your Micato Bespoke Safari or on select departures of the Hemingway Wing Safari in 2015.  To inquire about a visit, contact a Safari Specialist at Micato Safaris at 1-800-MICATO-1 or by email



March and April Micato Photo Contest Winners Announced

Posted by: Micato

In March and April the submissions to the Micato Photo Contest were nothing short of spectacular!

Here now the winners, who not only gave us their stunning images, but also shared a few words about what these special moments meant to them.


March 2015
Dr. Allan Gold

Micato Safaris March Grand Prize Photo by Dr Allan Gold

On his recent Photo Safari with Micato and Lindblad Expeditions, Dr Gold captured this leopard resting in a tree.

In describing the moment, Dr. Gold says “I vividly recall being captivated by this stunning female leopard resting and observing from a low tree limb.  Late in the day magical light filtered through the yellow-barked acacia forest behind. We approached at the back of a small loop of road after crossing an open plain where impala and gazelles were grazing. We had ample time in the rich but fading light to photograph while the lady stood, stretched and readjusted her perch a few times before finally leaving for work. ”

March 2015
Maribeth Venezia

Giraffe Centre in Nairobi

Maribeth was given a warm ‘Welcome to Kenya’ at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi.


Maribeth describes her Giraffe Kiss moment in this short story:

“Our transportation to Kenya proved challenging. We left in a snowstorm and had to endure delayed flights, cancelled flights rerouting and finally – delayed luggage! However, once we arrived in Kenya we were in heaven! We were escorted to our hotel, had a delicious breakfast, freshened up and we were off to see the sights.  One of our stops was the Giraffe Center in the suburbs of  Nairobi. We ascended onto the viewing platform where one can interact with the giraffes. A gorgeous giraffe decided to give me a welcome kiss! I must say his tongue was a bit rough and hairy but I was thrilled to be part of this experience. Subsequently I had nuggets of giraffe treats and was most generous to my new friend. I did not want to leave. This was our  first day in Kenya, what a fantastic start! ”

April 2015
Lucie Fjeldstad


Sunrise over the Red Sand Dunes of Namibia.


Lucie recalls her recent trip where she captured the sunrise on Namibia’s sand dunes:

“It was our first time in Namibia. We were told the dunes were best with sunrise shadows so off we went at dawn. When we saw this serpentine ridge and its natural contrasting shadow we slammed on the brakes and shot this photograph. Fabulous unique landscape … truly beautiful!”

April 2015
Steve Kuriga


A Young Reticulated Giraffe Looks on with Curiosity.

Steve recalls the moment he captured this photo of a young giraffe:

“Dawn broke to a cloudless March sunrise as we ventured from Larsen’s Camp to Samburu. While alongside the wildebeest trails we came across a tower of giraffes feasting on nearby acacia trees. This calf was in constant visual contact with the vehicle as I focused and captured his innocence.”

It is never too late to enter the Micato Safaris Photo Contest. Photos are eligible as long as they were taken on safari with Micato. So set aside some time to look through your photos… next month’s winning photo could be sitting on your hard drive and might earn you a $250 credit for Micato’s Safari Shop.



The Ultimate Trunk Show

Posted by: Micato

By Leslie Woit

Even the smallest elephant is too much for an arm’s length selfie. Yet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t resist trying during his recent visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park.

Former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, also visited another of Kenya’s elephant reserves, highlighting the huge threat the animals face.

As Kerry clearly found, a visit to the celebrated David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is both entertaining and educational, promising the ideal pre-safari primer. Home to dozens of infant elephants, this nursery-with-a-difference lets all visitors experience the magic of feeding time.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Visits Sheldrick WIldlife Trust

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie on a recent visit to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi. May 3, 2015. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Reuters


What you’ll see…

A flush of dust rises in a fine red cloud as the herd gambols toward us. Oltaiyoni and Olsekki chase each other back and forth. Young Mbegu faces up to Kauro, flaying her trunk playfully behind the flaps of his ears. The trumpet section comes alive with a high hoot.

What began as one long, orderly line of elephants quickly dissembles into a rollicking band of wrinkly hooligans. It’s Babar comes alive meets playtime for Elmer. It’s lunchtime for a herd of hungry baby elephants.

Since 1977, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully hand-raised more than 150 infant elephants in their Nairobi centre – most elephants rescued are orphaned by poachers (Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed for its ivory). Elephants typically stay in the orphanage around six years before released back into the wild.

elephant feeding at sheldrick trust

Feeding Time at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Photo by Leslie Woit

These magnificent beings are the world’s largest living land animals, their 200 pound birthweight a mere wisp of their eventual 15,000 pound comeliness. Highly social and tactile, not only do they respond to their names but each has its own bunk and human keeper to sleep alongside them in their stable at night. Their human “family” is encouraged to interact with and talk to the babies as they would their own: according the Trust, elephants can read a person’s heart and mind.

Once a day, visitors are welcomed to the orphanage to observe feeding time. This is just one of many meals: the youngest of the herd require bottle feeding no fewer than eight times per day. Micato Bespoke Safari guests often “sponsor” an elephant, a valued deed which earns them the opportunity for a memorable visit with their foster elephant during sponsors-only hours. A private visit of the facility is another treat Micato guests may like to request; the visits led by Dame Daphne Sheldrick and/or her daughter are a particular pleasure. Similarly, guests may choose to pay a visit to the facility in Tsavo, the second phase of transition for the elephants.

For now, the great midday spectacle: bottle feeding a garden full of baby elephants the size of Smart cars. Trunks twine agilely round milk containers while younger ones are hand-fed the finger-length nipples. Either way, leathery babies of varying bulks guzzle down their five-litre allotment in fairly uniform times of around 30 seconds flat.

elephant keeper and elephants at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

An Elephant Keeper at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust teaches a young orphan to mind her manners. Photo by Leslie Woit.

After lunch comes playtime. Kicking soccer balls, chewing on giant toothpicks, languishing under showers of cool earth shovelled onto their hides by the keepers.

The 18-month-old Arruba pauses at my feet, her long trunk swirling searchingly around my legs. Tusks smooth and white, dark lashes supermodel long. Her hide is soft as a giant Shar Pei puppy. For now, all safe and sound.


The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is on the edge of Nairobi, a short drive from downtown. DSWT baby elephants may be fostered for a minimum of $50 per year. 




Micato’s Man in Agra Knows the Way

Posted by: Micato

By Becca Hensley


Micato’s Man in Agra, Puneet Dan, enjoying the Festival of Holi

Puneet Dan knows how to wend his way through Agra. 

This vibrant, colourful city, best known for the Taj Mahal, is, after all, his hometown. So, it’s no surprise when Puneet uses his connections to show me some other eye-popping aspects of his residential turf. 

With glee, I return to the Oberoi Amarvilas, a palace-style hotel just steps from India’s most famous landmark. An opulent lodge, it presents views of the Taj Mahal from every room—a sight so stupendous that guests feel woozy with awe. After an adventurous ride from Delhi, in which my photographer, Kevin, insists we stop on the dusty road’s verge to take photos of a snake charmer and his dancing cobra, I am happy to reach this fanciful hotel.

I rush through the marble-sheathed lobby to take in the iconic vista, which can be seen through the panoramic windows of a colourful parlour or through the doors on a commodious deck. There, a short distance away, the Taj Mahal seems to be floating amid the clouds. It emits rose-colored rays that glitter like something bejeweled. But, that view only gets better upstairs in my suite. My personal balcony, on an upper floor, overlooks the icon, amid the hotel’s medley of swimming pools and old-style, manicured gardens. Ethereal, it exudes a discernible energy—and the sight of it awakens my long sleeping soul. That’s the power of the Taj Mahal.

But Puneet is powerful too. He urges me outdoors, away from the view that I had wanted to linger over. He urges me off my balcony, and out into the street. I follow him because he has the best laugh in India. And, an enthusiasm that is contagious. Puneet has plans. And, when Puneet has plans, you know something miraculous is in store.

We head away from the Taj Mahal to Kohinoor Jewelers, set in an unassuming building. I have no idea what to expect. But, in fact, as it turns out, the Taj Mahal has some hearty competition in Agra.

Known for their magnificent Mughal-style workmanship, Kohinoor has supplied the regal classes with magnificent jewelry for more than a century. Today, the atelier, storehouse, and boutique is helmed by a descendent of the first Kohinoor family—Ghanshyam Mathur. An artist in his own right, Mathur meets us at the door and beckons us into this Aladdin’s Cave of precious jeweled delights. While each stunning piece outshines the next, I pause to gaze at an ancient necklace so beautiful only a deity could pull it off. Composed of nine perfect emeralds, each one the size of fingerling potato, it also boasts twinkling rubies.

With trepidation, I try it on.

A magical bijoux, it transforms me—and for a minute I ponder its myriad stories. Mathur then leads us to the emporium’s back rooms to peruse other priceless artwork, including a century-old tapestry collection, dotted with precious crystals, made by his ancestors. 

The next day Puneet has another surprise. Always grinning, bubbly, bemused Puneet has infinite tricks up his sleeve. On previous trips we’ve been to the Taj Mahal, walked its grounds, photographed it at sunrise and sunset—even done yoga in its shadows. Honestly, I am hankering to go back—just to repeat a bit of poetry made palpable. But, as usual, the ever crafty Puneet has alternative plans. And, he can barely contain his excitement.

He picks us up before dawn and we walk up the street toward the Taj Mahal. Inexplicably, I am wearing a long, silk dress. And, as usual, my photographer, Kevin, his camera cases akimbo and his eyes like a thousand hummingbirds, seeking nectar (that is, photo ops), lags behind to ponder simply everything. “I am just waiting for something to happen,” he says.

And, it does.

Just as Puneet tells him, “Don’t do that,” Kevin kneels down to take a portrait of a monkey. The problem is that this monkey is angry—at him. He rushes us, teeth bared, a screech emitting negativity into the universe. I jump onto Puneet, Kevin leaps into the air, avoiding the monkey’s bite. We all scream. It is a most undignified trek to that Taj—but laughing, we carry on. (I make a note to self: Tell readers to avoid photographing the monkeys. “Don’t look them in the eyes,” says Puneet.)

We go beyond the Taj Mahal to the River Yamuna. This river, which flows behind the palace, is linked to the sacred River Ganges. There, on the bank, a very shoddy raft awaits. An oarsman, his head wrapped in a white turban, and a cigarette dangling off his lip, sits at attention. Another man, his smile as big as India, takes my hand, and helps me on. He lays out a towel to protect my silk dress. (“Why did I wear a silk dress?” I think). And off we go, just as the sun begins to rise. This is doing the Taj Mahal rogue.

“Are we allowed out here?” I scream, over the lapping of the waves and the furious clicking of Kevin’s camera.

“Of course not,” says Puneet. He shrugs. “But, this is India.”

Taj Mahal

Rowing past the Taj Mahal at Dawn.



Help Louise Leakey Build A Fence

Posted by: Micato

louise2Born and raised in Kenya, Louise Leakey represents the third generation of the world-renowned Leakey palaeoanthropologists. We’re honoured to have her guest-blogging for us, and for such an important cause…

I would like to start by thanking Dennis and Joy Pinto for their longtime support of our team Rhino Rouge in the annual Rhino Charge event, which in turn supports the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust.

Rhino Ark was founded by Ken Khule in 1988, in response to the grave crisis facing Kenya’s Black Rhino population in the Aberdare ecosystem, an important watershed and mountainous National Park.

Rhino Ark’s initial aim was to build an electric fence along several sections of the Aberdare National Park most threatened by encroaching farmland. The initial idea evolved into a much more ambitious task of encircling the entire Aberdare Conservation Area with a game-proof fence.

Today Rhino Ark’s mandate extends to seeking sustainable, long-term solutions to the conservation challenges of several mountain forest ecosystems and biodiversity, all threatened by increasing pressures of a rising population. Their goal is also to engage fence-adjacent communities in conservation.

In the beginning…

During the early days of the trust, Ken Khule, along with his Rally Enthusiast friends Rob Coombes and Brian Haworth, conceived a novel fundraising idea; an off-road motorsport event, which they named the Rhino Charge.

Their original idea involved an off-road race in a 4×4 vehicle to the highest altitude on Mount Kenya; however, this was not permitted by the park authorities at that time. The event was refined over the years into competitions requiring entrants to travel the shortest possible distance in a 4×4 vehicle in 10 hours, across challenging, trackless terrain, visiting a number of predetermined points, usually in a remote part of Kenya.

The Rhino Charge today is world-renowned for its toughness and has gained international acclaim. Limited to 65 entries to minimize impact to the terrain, the organisers have since introduced a preferential entry strategy favouring high value fund-raisers.

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The race…to find a solution

On February 4, 1989, 31 competing vehicles entered the first event, raising the first KES 250,000 for the Rhino Ark. With every subsequent event, this amount has increased and today raises over a million dollars for the Trust each year.

The fence line surrounding the Aberdares was completed in August 2009 and now Rhino Ark has moved on to the important task of fencing Mount Kenya as well as parts of the Mau. These are two enormously important water towers and are highly threatened by the ever-increasing pressure from humans and agriculture along the boundaries, as well as from forest fires set by illegal cultivators deep inside the forests.

The urgency of protecting these resources cannot be underestimated. As the forest boundaries are encroached, wildlife is increasingly vulnerable from poaching and the forest is gradually carved into illegal plantations, rapidly moving the tree line higher up the mountain slope each year.

More than ever, these developments warrant critical support to build protective fences. And the National Parks of the Aberdares, Mount Kenya, and the Mau Eburu Forest depend on the critical support of Rhino Ark to sustain this effort.

It is an honor to be part of a dedicated team competing to raise money for Rhino Ark. Our car will race again in the Rhino Charge event on May 31st 2015. Our all-girls team completes in a no frills, red 1974 short wheel base land cruiser. This tough car is expertly driven by Tanya Carr Hartley, and the rest of us run ahead and alongside finding the way to navigate the course.

The car traverses terrain that I certainly never imagined a vehicle could get across.

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We have winched it up hillsides from trees, lowered it down the steepest of hill sides, roped and swung like a pendulum around hill tops, and crossed rivers, sand valleys and mud.


It is always an adventure and we keep account of our experiences and personally thank all our supporters and send an account of our adventure. We can even be tracked live on the day.

Raising funds for these forest ecosystems in an important part of the solution. I would be grateful if you joined us.

To make a tax-deductible donation to team Rhino Rouge, which supports the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, click here.


Louise Leakey spent much of her childhood in the deserts of northern Kenya, uncovering clues of our past. Educated both in Kenya and in the United Kingdom, she completed her PhD at University College London in 2001. Currently she is a Research Assistant Professor at University of Stony Brook, and a Director of the Turkana Basin Institute. She’s also a National Geographic Explorer in Residence,  a Young Global Leader 2005, a pilot, photographer, sailor, and winemaker.