Micato Musings


Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Girl Enters Kenya Tree House As a Princess, Leaves as a Queen

  • June 8th 2012

On a starry February evening in 1952, Princess Elizabeth ascended into the leafy heights of a 300-year-old ficus tree in Aberdare State Park to attend a state dinner at the Treetops Hotel. The 25-year-old was on safari in Kenya with her husband of five years, Prince Philip.

They had no reason to hurry their meal that evening, overlooking the great expanse of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya beyond. Yet unbeknownst to them, many hundred miles away King George VI, Elizabeth’s father, was breathing his last. He died while they were at dinner, though Elizabeth did not hear the news until after she had descended from the rustling tree.

“For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen—God bless her,” wrote Jim Corbett, resident hunter at Treetops.

We can only imagine that fateful evening when Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. The thin spicy air of the Aberdare Mountain Range, scented of wild mint and bush sage. The far-off roar of a lion hunting in the night. The soft, mournful sounds of night birds, and the comforting stillness of the million and one stars glowing undiluted from the equatorial sky. The knowledge that her beloved father had died, and that she would return to Britain as Her Majesty.

Sixty years later, Queen Elizabeth II still reigns and the Royal Family continues their jaunts to Kenya—indeed, Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton on safari—and we can only imagine that both the place and the experience remain close to her heart. It’s been a long and fascinating sixty years, and to think, it all started in a tree house in Africa…

An Easy Way to Help Kenyan Girls Live Better Lives

  • October 20th 2011

868,000 Kenyan girls miss nearly a week of school each month because they can’t afford to buy sanitary pads.

Appalled at this number, Lorna Macleod, the executive director of Micato Safaris’ nonprofit arm, Micato-AmericaShare, founded a separate non-profit focused on getting sanitary products to girls who need them most. This program not only keeps at-risk girls in school, it also helps protect them from predation and sexual diseases. Thus Huru International was born.

That was in 2008, and Huru has been distributing kits containing reusable sanitary pads to girls in Kenya ever since, having put Huru Kits in the hands of over 20,000 girls. The kits are manufactured at a workshop based in the Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Centre, which is staffed by members of the community.  Huru Kits are distributed throughout Kenya with the assistance of more than 30 local partners. Kits are delivered through school-based information sharing events, which engage girls in discussions and activities focused on HIV prevention. In just three short years, Huru has found partnerships with many well-respected organizations, including Johnson & Johnson, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, among others.

Most recently Huru has partnered with the o.b. Brand on a Share-it-Forward campaign with the potential to raise $25,000 for Huru. To put that number in perspective, for every $25 donated, Huru can supply one girl with all the sanitary supplies (including underwear, reusable pads, soap and even life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention information) that she’ll need for between one and two years.

It’s a simple campaign—from now through December 5th, anyone who “likes” the o.b. Brand Facebook page may share a message about Huru’s mission with all their Facebook friends at Facebook.com/obmightysmall. For every individual that shares the message, o.b. will donate $1 to Huru. If the donation goal is reached, that means that 1,000 more young girls will be given the gift of education, safety and hope.

115 million children worldwide aren’t getting an education. Most of them are girls. Isn’t it time to Share It Forward?

Eat Well: South Africa’s Farm to Table Movement

  • July 7th 2011

“I serve the kind of food I know the story behind.” – Michael Pollan

Green tomato and garden peas; red pepper and rocket. You walk down the rows and inhale their fresh, spicy scent. Turn a corner and you’re in the herbs, nearly bowled over by the heady scent of basil. The sun is high, setting the craggy range of the Helshoogte Pass into sharp relief, and your stomach rumbles in response: lunchtime. You amble back to the Delaire-Graff Estate dining room – you’re about to eat vegetables picked from the garden you just strolled through, meats from the farms in the valley below, and seafood from the Cape, only a few miles away. It’s like living on a farm, without the early morning chores, dirty Wellingtons, and uncooperative tractors.

Lunch at Le Quartier Francais

This sums up the great appeal and joy of the farm-to-table movement, introduced to the U.S. by foodie celebrities like Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Michelle Obama. South African farms and wineries are on a parallel track, as Douglas Rogers reports in this mouth-watering piece for Travel+Leisure. He highlights Delaire-Graff Estate, among others, to show how far this movement has come in South Africa, and how grounded it is in the land and the people who work it.

Afrikaaner culture is very focused on the land, Rogers notes, and people in the Cape have been farming and enjoying the fruits of their labour for many years – especially world-famous South African wine. Vineyards, fortunately, happen to not only produce one of mankind’s favorite beverages, they are also quite lovely to look at, and this has been a boon to the quietly burgeoning South African farm-to-table movement. Vast swathes of land in the Cape Winelands have become luxurious getaways, with spas, pools, and screening rooms complemented by lush kitchen gardens, rolling vineyards and the unspeakably good food and wine the two produce.

South Africa's Cape Winelands

The setting is an ideal one for high-end travellers, eager to soak in the culture of the land but also requiring relaxation and comfort. At places like Le Quartier Francais and La Residence – both in Franschhoek and available for booking on a Micato bespoke safari – luxury reaches its zenith, but old Afrikaans traditions like smooth floors made of peach-pips and Cape Dutch-style architecture live on. Traditions here are not compromised by outside visitors; rather they are enriched by the pride of the local farmers, chefs and vintners. Farm-to-table brings local traditions straight to your plate. There is no better way to see South Africa.

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” – James Beard

Whether holidays or houses, Micato helps build dreams

  • June 16th 2011

“You will be at ease only in your own home” – African Proverb

As a safari company we have lots of practice helping people build their vacation dreams, and with our nonprofit arm AmericaShare we’ve learned how to help children build their futures. This past week, our New York office decamped to New Jersey for a day to build… a house?

That’s right, although our expert Safari Specialists know much more about luxury lodges and helicopter excursions then they do about hammers and shovels, they have nevertheless been trekking out to Paterson, New Jersey and working with Habitat for Humanity there for the last ten years.

Yet being an expert on Africa and volunteering to build a house aren’t as mutually exclusive as one might think. Of the hundreds of families that Paterson Habitat has helped, a significant portion of them have been Kenyan – in fact, 10% of all non-designated contributions go straight to their global partnership in Kenya. The direct cost of a Habitat house in Kenya is $1,000, so you can imagine how far even 10% of funds can go – HFH Kenya has helped to put a roof over the heads of 5,000 Kenyan families in the last 27 years alone!

In our experience in the Mukuru slum of Nairobi, where AmericaShare is based, we’ve grown used to the sight of ramshackle huts constructed of corrugated tin with rusted holes, each one-room building home to a multitude of family members. We’ve been inside some of them, stepping onto the clean-swept dirt floors, and marveled at the enduring smiles on the faces of the people who live here, making the best of what they have, as little as it may be.

Habitat has given our friends in Kenya, and people like them around the world, a reason to hope for something better. We were able to witness this firsthand in Paterson, as we dug holes and lifted cement blocks alongside local Habitat house recipients, who work for “sweat equity” on their new homes. One young woman spoke shyly about how excited she was for a real home to share with her mom, and the hope it gave her to someday realize her dream of working in the fashion industry.

Her words are echoed by the Kenyan’s who have received homes from HFH Kenya, with Paterson Habitat aid. A home can make a life, as Kisii, Kenya native Ruth Kwamboka Gisemba articulates perfectly:

“Like an old rugged cloth, my life was in a mess before I owned a HFH house.”

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them” -Henry David Thoreau

An Impossibly Beautiful Safari, and Beautifully Impossible Golf

  • June 2nd 2011

South Africa is renowned for many things: the work of native sons like Nelson Mandela and JRR Tolkien, hosting the 2010 World Cup, producing world-renowned wine, the enthralling mix of cultures – Kalahari Bushmen sharing a nationality with the grandsons of Dutch traders -  and having some of the most stunning and haunting landscapes on the planet.

Amidst all these wonders, South Africa’s world-class golf courses were once a well-kept secret. That is, until April of this year, when Johannesburg native Charles Schwartzel became the first golfer in the history of the Masters to birdie the final four holes and win the title.

The 26-year-old, who grew up on a chicken farm outside of the metropolitan bustle of one of South Africa’s most famous cities, has officially linked “golf” and “South Africa” in the minds of serious golfers the world over. Fortunately, Micato Safaris was ready for the sudden demand, stepping forward with a brand new itinerary: the South African Grand Golf Safari.

The courses in southern Africa are like none other, due in large part to the wild and majestic landscape. Serious and amateur golfers alike will revel in the stunning mountain views and lush wetlands on the Steenburg Golf Club, one of the country’s three best courses. The Montagu and Outeniqua courses at five-star resort Fancourt rival with each other for which has the most spectacular geographical diversity, but they also share the only TaylorMade Performance Lab in the southern hemisphere, where players can receive unparalleled swing analysis and custom fitting.

The Pezula Championship Golf Course provides breathtaking views of the South Cape’s craggy coastline and the Indian Ocean, and then it’s on to Legend Golf & Safari Resort. Legend combines an unimpeachable African experience – complete with opportunities to view rhinos, hippos, lions and leopards – with a truly unforgettable course, each hole designed by one of the world’s top professionals.

And still, we take you higher. Quite literally, actually. The Extreme 19 golf course has the highest and longest Par 3 in the world, accessible only by helicopter at more than 1,400 feet in the air. A tee shot takes a full 20 seconds to land on the green below.

The journey closes with a refreshing game blessed by the mists of Victoria Falls, at the Livingstone Royal Golf and Country Club. Founded in 1908, this course is a slice of old Africa, with a history rich in tradition and carried on by the likes of Charles Schwartzel, continuing to make southern Africa proud. The smell of fresh-cut grass blends with the headier scents of African flora, and as you inhale, smile, and swing, you just might birdie too.

A Once in a Lifetime Celestial Event in Africa!

  • January 13th 2010

For a moment in time—over eight minutes, in fact—people in Africa this week will see something rare and spectacular: an annular solar eclipse.

According to the NASA website, on January 15, 2010 an annular eclipse of the sun will be visible in Kenya as well as other parts of Africa. During an annular solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun, leaving only a small ring (or annulus) of light.  It will be the longest such eclipse of this century, so professional and amateur astronomers are understandably excited.

That includes Micato’s Safari Directors. In preparation for the big event, they have become armchair experts in this sort of thing—adding to their already encyclopedic knowledge in a variety of subjects. Guests on all our East African safaris will be treated to a once in a lifetime celestial show, in addition to the astounding wildlife show they can expect on the savannahs.

While Micato would like to take credit for arranging yet another special event exclusively for Micato travellers, this time we have to thank Mother Nature!

It is an exciting time in an extraordinary place.  (Be sure to wear your sunglasses!)