Micato Musings

Nairobi: Returning Home

We New York Pintos are good travellers. We pack fast (and plenty!), seamlessly hauling myriad bags through airports, and have perfected the security dance of removing shoes and laptops in a family-conveyor-belt fashion. We love a good flight, watch a movie (or two, if you’re a Pinto teenager), sleep like babies until touchdown in Heathrow, and repeat the process on the next leg of the journey.

The Wilson Aerodrome: Nairobi’s delightful hub of private bush planes

Finally, our goal, Nairobi. The faint wood-smoke scent that greets us on the tarmac welcomes us home, and the evening Kenyan air holds a sweet freshness. As some may know, Nairobi airport burned to the ground last fall, but a makeshift terminal was quickly fitted in a fortuitously-located oversized parking garage. The immigration lines were long, but not bad under the circumstances, and we were quickly rescued by Micato’s crackerjack airport arrival team, as are all Micato travellers.

Full disclosure: I love Nairobi. (This is Joy, the family wordsmith, speaking, but you’ll also hear from Dennis, and perhaps the children, Sasha (nearly 16), and Tristan (14) in the next few weeks.) I’ve been coming to Nairobi for 25 years, and the city has transformed into—and here I quote the New York Times — “a destination in itself. It has great restaurants, endless shopping, classy colonial-era hotels and plenty of wildlife within the city limits…” Don’t get me wrong—Nairobi isn’t beautiful like Cape Town or sparkling clean like Kigali, but it has a dynamic hip-and-happening new vibe. I always plan a few extra days in Nairobi—it’s where I get my best treasures from jewelry to artwork, and it’s a city bursting with a community of a fascinatingly engaged pan-African intelligentsia.

View from the air: Nairobi city limits and the hidden gem of Nairobi National Park

We also love the hustle and bustle of “Nana’s house.” Dennis’ parents Felix and Jane host every Micato traveller at their home, a sprawling, modern, Africa-meets-International Style home filled with a happy hubbub of action and people. Micato travellers are coming and going, the African gray parrot is squawking, the shy Alsatian is playing, Jane’s phone is ringing, neighbors are stopping by, and like every good African home, the cook is preparing heaps of food—and in Jane’s house, to fatten up the skinny Americans.

After a few days of catching up, we head to Nairobi’s sleepy Wilson Aerodrome— an airstrip charmingly reminiscent of a bygone era of flight—and board our light aircraft to a private game concession adjacent to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Park. After less than a minute in the air, we overfly the sharp border between the city and the unknown gem of Nairobi National Park, and just a few minutes later we’re oohing and awing at the astonishing beauty of the Great Rift Valley.

Our destination is Richard Branson’s one year-old tented camp, Mahali Mzuri. And wow! As you’d expect from anything with the Branson name, it is fantastical: outrageous tent architecture suggestive of space ships with full bells-and-whistles, stunning decor, to-the-minute cool, and oh-so-laid-back. A tad too laid-back, actually, in the service department, but we’re confident in the new manager’s plan.

Sir Richard Branson’s futuristic Mahali Mzuri

In the last ten years, the Maasai Mara area itself has undergone a stunning positive transformation: A little known fact is that it is one of the few game lands in East Africa that is actually increasing in size and wildlife numbers. This is thanks to the phenomena of enlightened Maasai elders joining together their tribal lands and dedicating them to wildlife. Enlightened and savvy, we might add—they’ve learned that wildlife pays for itself, and the entire Maasai community is benefitting from tourism revenues. Maasai stakeholders in wildlife conservation and tourism is a brilliant development of recent years, making a dramatic impact.

Enjoying a baby elephant walk, Micato style.

Branson’s camp is situated in a “group ranch” called the Motorogi Concession, but we’ve taken to calling it the Land of Multiples…we’ve been dazzled since we got here by a pride of 11 lions, a herd of 25+ elephant, a journey of 35+ giraffes, and that is just the beginning.

Stay tuned for more about the Mara in the next Pinto Dispatch … after which we’re off to Rwanda for some gorilla trekking.

We’re so thrilled that you’ve joined our journey!

Blog photos (the good ones, at least!) were snapped by Tristan, a serious photographer.

Weather Post Script:
For those headed to Kenya…it’s nippy! Perhaps even the chilliest we’ve been in 20 years of June safaris. Nighttime temperatures have probably dipped to the mid-50s, and during early morning game drives in open vehicles, we’ve been wearing heavy fleece jackets and wrapping up in blankets (provided to all Micato guests), but wishing we had brought our Patagonia down sweaters from New York. Pack warmly!

Post-postscript: More photos!
{scroll through or sit back, relax, and watch the show}

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32 Responses to “Nairobi: Returning Home”

  1. Anna Bright says:

    When anyone asks me what my hands down favorite trip has been, I will always say my Micato Safari to Kenya and Tanzania. I had an amazing time…made scrapbooks that make others drool. So to see your family having such a great time together is a delight to behold. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Karen strange says:

    Treasured monments to remember and cherish forever . I loved seeing Jane and Felix sharing their dream with the youngsters .

  3. Xan Curran says:

    So exciting! We have our trip booked for next summer! Love the pictures!

  4. Melissa Marsden says:

    When asked by friends about my experience on my Micato African adventure many years ago, I have a difficult time expressing my thoughts into words. For I found that all of my senses were continually bombarded by fabulous experiences, sights, smells, tastes, sounds and visuals. No where else on earth has given me the same feeling. Any traveler could not ask for more. I hope to experience it again in the future.

    I look forward to sharing your adventure. Thanks.

  5. Anne Hammer says:

    Thank you. Some day we’ll be there.

  6. Ruth says:

    We look forward to our journey in 2015, and am enjoying yours!

  7. Diana Scimone says:

    I am going to the Masai Mara in 5 weeks and was JUST texting with my family about clothes and weather when your blog post arrived — with the “nippy” weather report. We’ll dress warmly!

  8. Lise Millette says:

    I had been looking at The Micato Safari brochure for years now and I am dreaming about the day I will be able to go and share all this with you.

    Thanks for this!

  9. Sayydah Garrett says:

    Thanks for the invitation to your blog! Enjoy beautiful Kenya and Rwanda!

  10. Donna Ludlum says:

    Thank you for the beautiful Safari pictures, the baby elephants, the sunset, and Branson’s space tents. WOW.
    This definitely made me decide I need to return to Africa in May 2015 with another group. And I understand Felix and Jane celebrated their 60 anniversary in June.
    My love to them.
    Donna Ludlum,
    Little World Travel,

  11. Don and Renate says:

    What fun to see three generations of Pintos traveling in a country we have loved since living there too many years ago. Love the commentary and the photos and hope we have the opportunity to meet Sasha and Tristan and do one more safari. You all look great!

  12. eleanor galluzzo says:

    I was there 9 yrs. ago when I was 70 yrs. old. I travelled a great deal before the Micato Safari, but it was the ultimate experience, still talking about it. I am jealous, but have a great vacation with your Mom & Dad, and children.

  13. Barbara says:

    Hi Pinto family;
    My husband and I will be there in August. I am enjoying your blog and looking forward to our Trip with Micato. Have fun with your family. Barb and Bob

  14. Carlos Perez-Maldonado says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful Safari time with your Family. So jealous. I hope to be back to visit East Africa very soon with my family again. Your photos bring back great memories..

  15. Leland & Ann Behnken says:

    Your pictures took us back to our trip with Micato and wish we were there again. It was one of the most joyful we ever took.We would love to see the new camp you were at. However our age has limited our long trips. Sasha and Tristan have grown up since we were there. The Behnkens

  16. Mimi Almeida says:

    A Micato Safari is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. Love the photos. Hope to have the opportunity to visit Kenya again with Micato. Absolutely top of the bucket list – for a second and third time around! Thanks so much for sharing your family vacation with us.

  17. Myrna Oken says:

    So nice to be part of the Pinto Family even if it is only through your e-mails….. the only thing you are missing is…ME
    Life is to be enjoyed and savored….and you are doing it in the most delicious way….together!
    Tristan your photography is true art and truly is superb…someday you will grace the most important magazine with your talent!

  18. Anne Lopin says:

    Lots of good information! Yes, Nana Jane was so proud of Tristan’s photography when I was visiting Feb. 2013 and rightly so….

  19. Joyce Mason says:

    Oh, how we envy you all! What a beautiful sunset picture! The Masons

  20. Kathleen Wahab says:

    Thank you for sharing your family’s amazing experience in East Africa. In reading your blog, it takes us along with you on your journey hoping to soon travel with Micato…just as our clients are doing this October! Enjoy your family time and memorable lifetime experiences.

  21. Ann Marie Wood says:

    These beautiful pictures bring back wonderful memories of our safari with Micato in 2007. Best trip ever! We took over 4000 pictures (thanks to digital cameras) and have framed several dozen.

  22. Sara Carlin says:

    Love reading your blog and seeing the beautiful pictures. It makes me and my family very excited to finish our packing…we fly out tomorrow to start our own Micato adventure! So excited!

  23. Joyce M. Bowers says:

    It has been 9 years since our trip to Nairobi. I loved shopping for fabric with one of our guides ZAC on the last day of a trip of a life time.

  24. Janice S. says:

    Perfect in every way. Can’t wait for my trip someday!

  25. Alna Ekberg says:

    Just wetting our appetite for our September adventure. Can hardly wait!
    Alna and Ken Ekberg

  26. Judy Carlson says:

    Just returned from a Micato safari which was fantastic. But, after reading this and seeing the pictures, makes me wish I was there. Live it! Beautiful sunset picture!

  27. Randy Gauntt says:

    Your journey and photos bring back such wonderful memories! I still hope to enjoy another Micato tour one of these days. In the meantime I will relive it through your experience.

  28. Gail Rosenberg says:

    Super jealous! Continue to have a wonderful time!!

  29. Kathryn Zimm says:

    I’m so happy to go on Safari with you. I hope to be back to visit
    Soon and also bring my older boys. Africa will always be in my thoughts.
    Miss everyone at Micato.


  30. Betsy Domoto says:

    Thanks for sharing – my heart and soul ache to return to Kenya! There is no where on earth that can match it’s haunting beauty . The animals in their natural habitats – the hypnotic land – and the gracious warmth of the Kenyan people – tug at the heart strings – and forever call one back. Thanks so much for sharing your current adventures with us – and for being good stewards of that beautiful land .

  31. Frances Turk says:

    Soo jealous. The Micato Safari that I enjoyed in 1998 was the best trip of my life. My clients all rave about Micato.
    Have a wonderful trip.
    We will enjoy it along with the Pinto family through the blog.

  32. Joyce Mason says:

    Oh, how we envy you all! Quite a lovely sunset! The Masons

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