Micato Musings


Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

The Original DIY

  • August 13th 2015

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.

 

 

 

Help Louise Leakey Build A Fence

  • April 14th 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

Our Community Commitment

  • April 23rd 2014
Young Micato Traveller Olivia and South Africa "Hero" Rosie

Young Micato Traveller Olivia and South Africa “Hero” Rosie

From Micato’s first days in business nearly 50 years ago, we habitually spent time in Kenya’s schools and orphanages. These early visits were prelude to our founding AmericaShare in 1986 and creating the Lend a Helping Hand safari option, where travellers learn how our Harambee Centre is changing lives in the Mukuru slum. In South Africa, Micato guests visit the Khayelitsha Township outside Cape Town and meet Rosie, who wakes up at 3:30 a.m. daily to cook meals in her small kitchen for the neediest in her community.

For evidence that community visits impact our travellers, there’s no better example than 9-year old Olivia Berger, the youngest Micato guest ever to visit the Harambee Centre and Rosie’s Kitchen on two separate visits to Africa.

(more…)

Jane Pinto Tells All…

  • April 27th 2012

Jane Pinto tells all…about hosting a U.S. First Family in Tanzania, judging the Table Tennis World Cup, shepherding the multi-generational Pinto brood through Namibia and Botswana, and so much more…and that was only last year!

In News From Jane Pinto, the annual round-up from “Mama” about all that’s new and noteworthy at Micato Safaris, Jane also opens the Pinto family archives to the outside world like never before.

Relish seldom shared gems like the photo of Jane and Mother Teresa (right) or the recipe for potato bhajias that Jane previously held so close to the vest that procuring it took us many, many attempts.

Jane also reveals the answer to what is perhaps the most commonly asked question on our safaris: What does “Micato” mean? Contrary to popular belief, it is not a Swahili word meaning “my wildcat” or “world-class luxury safari.” It is not Swahili for anything. To hear Jane tell it:

In 1966 [Felix and I] moved to Nairobi for bet­ter schooling options for our children, and in the same year, purchased a farm in the suburb of Karen and a small tour com­pany: Micato stood for Mini Cabs and Tours. We sold off the cabs and focused on the tours.

And, for the record, “Micato” is no longer an acronym for the cabs or the tours…or anything else. The name, much like the company that Jane and Felix created around it, is yet one more unique piece of family lore that will leave you wanting even more news from Jane Pinto…

Louis Vuitton Knows Africa Is Not A Trip…It’s An Experience

  • February 2nd 2012

“A journey is not a trip. It’s not a vacation… It’s a process of self-discovery.”

So says Louis Vuitton in the company’s compelling video about the value of journeys, which struck a particularly lovely chord for us here at Micato when combined with their Africa -inspired 2012 spring/summer collection.

A journey is a true, authentic type of travel, bringing the traveller right to the heart of a place. We couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to travelling to our beloved Africa: a safari is not just a trip… it’s an experience.

“Every journey begins in Africa,” reads one of the Vuitton ads—an ad that supports Bono and wife Ali Hewson’s fair-trade clothing company, Edun. And strictly speaking it’s true—Africa is the cradle of mankind, the ground where human life began. This alone, Micato has always maintained, is a beguiling reason to visit the continent.

But “every journey begins in Africa” is true in another sense as well. From Kenya to Namibia, Rwanda to Botswana, this land has tempted explorers and adventurers for hundreds of years. Crusaders in the 12th century returned home with fantastic tales of beasts with impossibly long noses, larger than any creature they’d ever seen (elephants, of course.) In the 19th century, the immense unknown spaces tempted restless wanderers searching for the Last Frontier.

Dree Hemingway (Ernest Hemingway's great-granddaughter)

The true magic of Africa is in the very land’s steadfast determination to hold on to its glories. The crusaders and their way of life are long gone, but elephants still lumber across the savannah. Colonialism, thank goodness, is a thing of the past, and the infinite, virgin wilderness remains just as massive and unspoiled as ever.

The birthplace of humanity is a land of vast spaces, fierce wildlife, and wizened tribal elders with eyes that gaze into forever. It is undulating hills speckled with acacia trees, lions whose roaring shakes the windows, sunsets that turn the whole country red and gold. It is Maasai warriors dancing in flickering bonfire light, their shadows long on the ground.

Journeys have always begun in Africa, and they always will. So important is a journey of self-discovery to Louis Vuitton that the concept is one of the company’s core values. It’s safe to say that it’s one of ours, too. The mysteries of Africa run so deep that they remain largely unplumbed… and the only way to discover them is to experience this powerful continent for yourself.

The Hottest Travel Tip of 2012 – No Tips at All!

  • January 26th 2012

Picture it.

You’re lying on a chaise lounge on your tent’s private veranda, without a care in the world. Spread before you is the Maasai Mara, a green landscape that undulates into infinity. A herd of giraffe nibble on acacia trees in the middle distance. Elephants are silhouetted against the sinking sun. Hippos chortle and bubble in the waters of the Mara River below.

A waiter comes to bring a bucket of champagne. You thank him with a smile. And you didn’t have to move from your chaise lounge to find your wallet…

Earlier that day you said goodbye to your driver guide in another game park—that “thank you” was said with a hug and an exchange of emails. You’ve promised to send him the video you took of him dancing and singing a song in Swahili.

You sip from your chilled glass, sigh and stretch to the last rays of sun warming your face. You haven’t had this few worries since childhood.

And your wallet? That’s been tucked away in a series of room safes since you arrived in Africa—you haven’t had to use it once.

Sounds too good to be true? It is… unless you’re on safari with Micato. This year, in a practically unprecedented move, absolutely every tip is covered on your safari.

Yes, we’re covering ALL tips, even those to your Micato safari directors, drivers, and guides—something virtually no other tour company in the world does. Also included are gratuities to the Micato concierges as well as the staff you’ll meet at every lodge, camp, and hotel during your safari. 

So imagine it. Throughout your safari, every “thank you” will be said not with cash, but with a handshake or a hug. In other words, friendship—the best thanks of all and with Micato, the only thanks necessary.

What’s on Your 2012 Bucket List?

  • January 5th 2012

The newest edition of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die was released before the holidays, and we were delighted to find Micato Safaris listed as the tour operator of choice in one of our favourite game-viewing locations, the Maasai Mara.

This is the first update to the original 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, which was released in 2003—coincidentally, also the year Micato won the first of its eight Travel + Leisure #1 World’s Best Awards. Travel writer Patricia Schultz and her team of researchers compiled the first edition as a geographically organized list of the best cultural, natural, historical and thrill-inducing sights and experiences in the world. It was an instant hit and a #1 New York Times Bestseller. It’s no wonder: the title alone is a magnet to those with even a drop of wanderlust in their blood.

Presciently, the first edition of 1,000 Places also came out a full four years before the movie The Bucket List hit theaters and made the term an instant shorthand for a personal list of things each of us might wish to see or do before we kick the bucket.

The new edition has been updated with recently-introduced experiences, heretofore closed areas of the world, and hidden wonders. Certain existing sections have been refined. The up-to-the-minute best hostelries are featured. And Micato is honoured to have been included on the world’s most widely-shared bucket list.

Indeed, we’re noticing that travel writers everywhere are compiling their top bucket list-worthy destinations for the new year. And we couldn’t have been more pleased to discover that we’d been included on another as well—Forbes.com journalist Larry Olmsted included Micato Safaris in his round-up of the top ten bucket list trips for 2012.

In fact, he was kind enough to write: “I would only travel to Africa with Micato Safaris…! I would not go with anyone else…”

Needless to say, while we’re happy to be on every traveller’s bucket list, we want to move the possibility of safari from your “wish list” to your “to do” list for 2012. Take a look at our safaris and give us a call—we’re experts at bucket list wish fulfillment.

Safari Holiday Gift Guide

  • December 22nd 2011

The Micato offices are buzzing with holiday cheer. From New York to Cape Town, Nairobi to New Delhi, everyone is talking about the best gifts for their loved ones and each other, and the highest item on the list is always safari gear.

We don’t mind admitting it: we’re a bit obsessed with safari life. Khaki clothes, Bushnell binoculars, lightning-fast cameras and Africa-themed books are usually the things that we end up exchanging during the holiday season. Red Maasai shukas (cloth wraps) also go over well –the color is festive as could be.

Fortunately we have the Micato Safari Store, which stocks everything from multi-pocketed photographer’s vests to head-lamps to Teva sandals. But there are other presents we love to give too, including handy convertible pants and cozy fleece vests, camera filters and lenses for the shutterbugs in the family, travel games, maps and even safari-handy apps for technophiles.

Our gifting lists have grown by leaps and bounds. We had just hunkered down to organize our lists and share them with you. Then we heard the news: BBC Travel had beaten us to the punch, crafting a superb gift list with a piece de resistance of a hot-air balloon safari with Micato.

As BBC says: Best. Gift. Ever. Well, it’s hard to argue with that.

Kenya Creates a New National Park: Setting Aside Even More Land for Wildlife

  • December 8th 2011

Christmas has come early for Kenya’s wildlife. This year, the towering giraffes, lumbering elephants, leaping gazelles and sauntering big cats have been given the greatest gift that Kenya’s government could give them—its protection.

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki affirmed the country’s commitment to conservation this past November, when he designated a 17,100 acre piece of land as Laikipia National Park. Top priority for this park? Opening relevant corridors to wildlife migration—a key piece of the conservation puzzle for grazing animals like wildebeest and Cape buffalo, as well as the predators that stalk them as they migrate.

This new park is a sparkling addition to Kenya’s already quite brilliant crown of national parks, from Amboseli and the Maasai Mara in the south to Mt Kenya and Samburu in the north. These parks are known for their magnificent and abundant game. Of course, wildlife has no borders—animals can be found roaming freely throughout Kenya. The downside of this is that sometimes migrating herds find themselves on the highways and byways of the populated portions of the country or worse: in the crosshairs of a poacher.

The need for proper migrating pathways is so pressing that the government even constructed an underpass just for migrating elephants, which opened almost exactly a year ago. The biggest land mammal in the world, a herd of migrating elephants presents a daunting challenge to city planners. The government hatched this conservation scheme, and the results were astounding: the elephants compliantly used the tunnel, and both villages and elephants were saved.

With the dedication of Laikipia National Park, Kenya is again asserting the country’s commitment to this one goal: that its people and wildlife coexist safely and harmoniously.

“The government is convinced and committed to wildlife conservation in the natural habitat,” asserted the President, assuring the press that Kenya has more than adequate land to protect its wildlife as well as house and feed its people.

Laikipia National Park is ideally situated between two of our favourite private reserves in Laikipia Plateau—Loisaba and Lewa Downs—and thus can act as a bridge of safe crossing for migrating animals. It’s also a stunning new destination for anyone staying at either adjacent private reserve. The land is breath-takingly beautiful, dotted with a mix of acacia and prickly-pear cactus and capped with a massive sky. The plateau is also at quite a high elevation, with views of Mt. Kenya, so the evenings in Laikipia are crisp and cool and the big sky is thick with stars. This is a magnificent place, and the government’s commitment to keeping it that way is truly admirable.

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?