Micato Musings


Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

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?

Micato’s Africa, Through the Eyes of Three Journalists

  • July 28th 2011

In the flurry of activity that surrounded our eighth Travel+Leisure “World’s Best” win, we were remiss in sharing some truly great recent articles on the Micato Safaris experience. Here are a select few that highlighted for us some of the rare and precious glories of safari:

  • Great, great, great, great migrations. The pure pleasures of an African safari are legion, but Sarah Gold focused in on one in particular in her article on the World’s Great Animal Migrations for Travel+Leisure – the magnificent wildlife. The Wildebeest and Zebra Migration that she highlights is one of the most spectacular sights on the planet:, whether you’re witnessing thundering herds galloping across the plains or hundreds of creatures pausing for a morning snack on the savannah. Being there for this timeless journey from August through September makes visiting Kenya and Tanzania an automatic line on anyone’s bucket list.

 

  • Love on an exotic holiday. Luxury and the romance it yields is the focus of Rick Shively’s piece on Africa as a honeymoon destination for Recommend. The timeless romance of Africa has been well documented, from “The African Queen” to “Out of Africa,” but even without cinematic proof few would argue the point after waking beneath an ethereal canopy to coffee delivered on fine china and a view of the sun rising over Ngorongoro Crater, or from behind Mt. Kilimanjaro.

 

  • Friends in a foreign land. When Becca Hensley went on a Micato bespoke safari for San Antonio Magazine she found what she expected – wildlife in abundance and unbridled luxury. But she was surprised and thrilled to discover that it was the people of Africa that made her trip glow, especially her ever-present guides, who became friends. More than just unparalleled game spotters, her guides were also founts of information on topics ranging from photography to poaching, stars to social systems, and their conversation was as refreshing as the cocktails they mixed. In Hensley’s own words:

“They are everyman’s gateway to transformative African adventure. In short, they give us the gift of the bush. And that’s something worth squealing about.”

 

And there you have a trifecta of safari delight, brought to you by three lovely writers. Thank you Gold, Shively and Hensley for bringing the joys of safari to life with your words – we look forward to seeing your readers out in the bush for the real thing!

Meander to Mombasa When Next in Kenya

  • July 21st 2011

Offshore in Mombasa, Kenya. Flickr/Mckaysavage

One of the better-kept secrets in our beloved Kenya is the coastal city of Mombasa, roughly 300 miles southeast of Nairobi. Make the journey and you’ll be rewarded with white sand beaches as only the Indian Ocean can deliver them. And if you’re an architecture fan, we’re certain you won’t tire of taking in the Arabic and Portuguese influences that pervade the buildings here.

One of Mombasa’s most beautiful buildings is Fort Jesus,which was recently declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The military fort was built in the 1590s to protect the city, and its design reflects “the Renaissance ideal that perfect proportions and geometric harmony are to be found in the human body,” according to UNESCO. If you visit you’ll also note that the moat is still intact, which is not something you see every day.

Fort Jesus in Mombasa. Flickr/snowflakegirl

Beyond the picturesque beaches and honoured buildings, Mombasa is a friendly, fun city that sometimes flies under the radar of our travellers, who tend to add a Zanzibar side trip to their safaris when they’re in need of an Indian Ocean getaway. We love Zanzibar, too, of course, and perhaps if Mombasa had had a Billy Joel song named after it, it would be just as popular. That said, if you want to head off the beaten path to a coastal gem, we would be delighted to add Mombasa as an extension to your safari.

We Did it Again! Eight Wonderful Years of Being Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best

  • July 14th 2011

“Becoming number one is easier than remaining number one.” – Bill Bradley

In 2003, Micato made it to the top of Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best list for the first time. One win might have been called serendipitous; the consistency of eight wins, however, has certainly dispelled any such notion!

The trick, as noted by former U.S. senator, Olympic gold medalist and Knicks forward, Bill  Bradley, is remaining number one. After our first win, we kept our noses to the proverbial grindstone to prove that the #1 spot really belonged to Micato.

Steadfastly striving to be the best does pay off, and this year we are both proud and humbled to be Travel+Leisure’s #1 Tour Operator and Safari Outfitter again, for the eighth time. This award—a result of an extensive Travel+Leisure reader’s survey—has always meant a great deal to us because the opinions of our guests are, and always will be, the truest measure of our service.

As a family-owned and operated company, we have something very personal at stake. Indeed, Micato’s reputation is virtually interchangeable with our own. We are grateful every day to be doing what we love—sharing our treasured homeland—and we are committed to always offering the best to our guests. It’s said that “a winner never stops trying,” and we couldn’t agree more.

Thank you for voting for Micato year after year. You and your fellow travellers are what inspire us to provide the “World’s Best” tours and safaris to our guests each and every day.

Micato’s winning secret: treat guests like the family we are. As we celebrate where we are, a look back at who we are….

Enjoy these photos of the Pinto family through the years:

L to R: Anna, Felix, Jane, and Dennis at the Taj Mahal, circa 1960s

L to R: Felix, Anna, Dennis, and Jane on the cover of Travel Agent Magazine, 2002

L to R: Tristan, Joy, and Sasha breakfasting in the Serengeti, 2003

L to R: Jane, Sasha, Felix, Dennis, Joy, Anna, and Tristan picnicking in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, 2010