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What to Wear Out There: Safari Packing Tips from the Expert

  • January 16th 2015

by Leslie Woit

A member of the Micato founding family, Joy Phelan-Pinto wears many hats: chief creative officer, style czar, and packing expert, having been to more than 123 countries throughout her career. We recently sat down with Joy to pick her brain about the Three Cs of Safari Style – comfortable, casual, colour sensitive — and other tips for packing like an expert for an African safari.

I’m ready to pack. Where do I begin?

The hardest part is not to over pack. The tendency to over pack stems from thinking you’re going to be changing your clothes more than you are. Often on safari you’re too busy, you’re getting back late from the afternoon drive, or you don’t want — or need! — to change for dinner.

You’ve been known to encourage a policy of “light luggage, light heart, lots of bangles”…

Absolutely! Of course it depends on the camps—for some of the elegant, owner-hosted camps, I’ll usually pack a dress—but dressing for dinner is generally unnecessary. Safari is much more relaxed than many think. My method of “dressing” for dinner is to pile on a few extra bangles and maybe a Maasai beaded necklace.

How’s the weather?

Kenya and Tanzania are the lands of eternal spring but there is more variation in Southern Africa. But since the weather varies little throughout the year, and it’s rarely all that hot, I take one pair of shorts, maybe two, since I know that for the 6am game runs it’s cooler and I’m not putting shorts on. Convertibles can be a great alternative, too. I also pack one or two casual skirts and one dress. The rest are blue jeans and khakis.

About the khaki, will I feel foolish in all beige?

Does it have to be Marlin Perkins in head-to-toe khaki? No! But will you feel like a local in khaki? Yes. All the old safari hands in Africa wear khaki. The walking safari guides will definitely encourage you not to wear bright colours and studies have shown the animals notice bright colours. It is absolutely true that in East Africa lions will shy away when they see red, instinctively fearing you’re a Maasai warrior with a spear.

 

Joy Phelan-Pinto, Micato Safaris

Safari Style. Joy Phelan-Pinto and Dennis Pinto on Safari in Africa.

What do you take in the game drive vehicle?

Juggling a purse and a camera on my lap in a vehicle can be awkward so I always carry a collapsible bag or backpack to hold all of my stuff in one place on the vehicle floor. And I have neck cord for my sunglasses.

What items have you packed that you could have done without?

Too many shoes! The type of shoe is more important the quantity. When you’re sitting in a vehicle for stretches of time, you want something comfortable. If you’re like me, you may be jumping up on the seats to get a better a view of the ellies just off the road in which case you’ll want shoes you can easily slip on and off. For me, clogs are indispensable. And you don’t necessarily need great walking shoes every day, although hard-soled shoes are important. I learned this dancing around a camp fire with a Samburu chief when a one-inch thorn from an acacia tree went right through my sneaker sole into my foot…

Fold or roll?

Not only am I a roll-it person, I’m a stuff sack person. Any small bag would do but I strongly advise against using plastic Ziploc bags since they take 700 years to disintegrate. Stuff sacs are readily available, even on Amazon, and can be used forever. I put everything into colour-coded sacks— socks are blue, underwear is red, etc., making it it simple to find what you’re looking for in a small space. I learned this from travelling with children: three days into a trip they’ve turned the suitcase into a hurricane and I end up forever repacking the whole bag to get it all to fit back in.

What about electronics?

We’ve got that down to science. All the cords and chargers go into one stuff sack – the yellow one, for the power of the sun. The other indispensable item we travel with is a power strip. Outlets are never in a convenient spot in a hotel room and this way you won’t forget a cord hidden somewhere the room, and you only need one adapter plug for the wall.

Ive heard contrasting views on taking donations for school children?

We discourage handing out gifts directly to children, but giving school supplies such as pens and pencils to a school, church or tribal elder to distribute is a lovely gesture. Having a Polaroid camera to share photos with the kids is fun as well.

We’ve found the gift the children most appreciate is the company of our travellers, which is why we build a visit to the Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Community Centre into virtually all of our safaris. The interaction is an amazing experience for the children and our guests.

Whats the last step to your packing?

Once you’ve packed, remove one thing from each pile — then you’ll have space to shop. I do my best shopping in Nairobi: from jewellery to art, there are interesting colours and creations from unique artisans to tribespeople who all go there to sell where they can be closer to the distribution centres. You don’t regret what you did buy, you regret what you didn’t buy!

If you’re still struggling with how to pack or what to pack, call our Safari Experts at 1-800-642-2861.  If you need to flush out your wardrobe and are looking for tried and tested safari clothing and accessories, have a look at the Micato Safaris online safari shop.  

Lala Safari! (Safe travels, in Swahili)

 

 

The Micato One for One Commitment

  • April 22nd 2014

If you’re not familiar with the Micato One for One Commitment, the concept is simple. For every safari sold, Micato pays the fees required to send an African child to school—a child who would otherwise stay home due to extreme poverty.

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How to Pack Like An Old Safari Hand

  • November 4th 2011

Wildlife. Captivating, prodigious, eternal wildlife. It draws you to Africa. But there’s one safari beast that may vex you more than any other.

We are, of course, talking about packing.

Let’s face it, nobody likes to pack, and packing for a safari seems particularly daunting. We understand. We’ve been there. And we here at Micato have tamed the packing beast.

We’ve experimented tirelessly with how to pack (Hint: rolling your clothes actually saves more space than folding) and we even equip all our guests with a safari bag for their smartly-rolled belongings. And of course, the Pinto family and the rest of the Micato team have extensively field-tested what to pack, resulting in the constantly evolving packing lists that we send to our guests.

Much of what we recommend in the way of clothing and supplies likely wouldn’t surprise you. But over the years we’ve learned that some items that may not seem obvious are ones we simply wouldn’t want to do without. Here are five of our top-secret essentials.

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Not All Safari Vehicles Have Wheels

  • August 4th 2011

If the only place you’ve been on safari is in your dreams, during your dreaming you’ve no doubt imagined yourself on a game drive in a safari vehicle. And what would your dream safari vehicle be like? Ours, we hope.

Close your eyes and conjure the image. An ultra-soft seat with a headrest. Roomy interior. Above-average suspension. All combining for a very comfortable ride across the African plains.

Now imagine something else. Not all safari vehicles have wheels, at least not in Micato’s Africa.

A favourite vehicle among our guests is a hot air balloon, particularly when it’s floating over the sweeping savannahs of the Maasai Mara. We’re happy to offer the balloon ride as an extension or as an inclusion in our Micato Grand Safari.

Two of our sweetest safari rides have hooves. Every chance we get we create opportunities for our guests to safari by horseback, such as the guided rides through the Grootbos Nature Reserve on our South African Sweeping Sojourn. And our bespoke safari guests heading for the far reaches of Kenya naturally want a more customized ride, and that often involves a camel who with coaxing will convey you across the acacia-dotted Nandanguru Plains.

All of our safari vehicles get proper care and feeding of one kind or another, but the ones we fuss over the most are our dear guests, especially those who prefer to safari on foot. Yes, we’re stretching our definition here, but if you’re hiking, that makes you the vehicle, doesn’t it? And when it comes to hiking, nothing quite matches the simple yet spectacular thrill of tracking gorillas in Rwanda.

Don't miss the nine lions lounging behind Dennis and Sasha!

Clowning on the savannah

Dramatic Mahali Mzuri

What a pool! Daytime temps warmed enough for a plunge.

Like oversized kitties, these young males played, crouched and pretended to hunt while we watched.

A hippo on an unusual daytime stroll with birds on his back.

The Mara teems with elephants of all sizes,

Ladylike giraffes browse at the tips of acacia trees.

Where else could this be but Africa?

We hope visions of these traditional and “alternative” vehicles fortify your dreams and that upon waking you’ll think of us, as we’re fairly certain we can make your dreams of safari come true.

Happy 50th Birthday, Maasai Mara. You Look Great For Your Age.

  • May 26th 2011

Looking fifty is great if you’re sixty, comedienne Joan Rivers once said, but we don’t think our beloved Maasai Mara has too much to worry about when it comes to looks.

This breathtaking wilderness of the Serengeti plains dates back centuries, but the fact that it was only established as a reserve in 1961 is little known. It’s a fact we’re happy to celebrate. The Mara may be the heart of most of Micato’s East Africa safaris, but it’s also our home.

Micato_Safaris_Maasai_Mara

The hauntingly stunning Mara is storied for its sweeping savannahs and the hundreds of thousands of creatures tramping along its ancient migratory routes. If within a single morning on safari you’re angling to see the entire “Big Five” – for the record, African buffalo, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and lions – you’ve come to the right place.

Every superlative used to describe the Mara’s beauty is accurate. But for Micato, its innermost beauty resides with its people, the Maasai, which is why we arrange for our safari guests in Kenya to meet at least two Maasai Elders.

Language barriers prevent most travellers from actually talking with Maasai Elders, but while in Nairobi, our guests will have the chance to chat with forward-thinking English-speaking elder Simon Lenini Ole Kassi. Later, when we take you to a Maasai village, you’ll meet a less worldly elder and his family. The contrast won’t be lost on you.

Step inside the village mud huts and you’ll notice that they’re simple and unadorned. The same can’t be said of the Maasai, bedecked with brightly coloured beads and robes as well as face paint, a nod to the fact that the Maasai are warriors and were once considered fierce ones. But their warmth and hospitality will move you like no other experience on safari.

Micato_Safaris_Maasai_Village

Visiting with the Maasai is just one way to harmonize with the beauty of the Mara. Your moment will come. It may happen when you’re spying crocodiles serenely basking in the sun or while you’re just as serenely floating over the Mara in a hot-air balloon. Or it’ll be after your game drive while you’re sipping a cocktail high upon the Mara Escarpment at sunset. Or, perhaps you’ll have one of those precious morning moments, devoid of human voices, when you step outside your tent and hear hippos bobbing and snorting in the river below.

Whenever and however many times it happens, we guarantee that you’ll fall in love with the Mara as we have, and as all Micato travellers have before you.

Happy Birthday, Maasai Mara. We wish you many happy returns.

Triptophan?

  • December 3rd 2009

It happened this week:  a sudden spike in brochure requests and calls had us wondering if the Holiday Turkey Effect goes beyond mere post-Thanksgiving sleepiness.  Could it be that it awakens a desire to travel?

A closer look revealed something even better.  The holiday elves at Bing featured Travel+Leisure’s recent article “15 Life-Changing Trips” that highlighted Micato’s popular tree-planting initiative—a favourite with guests.  Plus, we have other ways that travellers can make a difference, even before they set foot in Kenya.  Thoughtful ways to assist include donating a book to the new library we’re building in one of Kenya’s most impoverished areas—with a $10 donation.  Or for something with a really big impact, sponsor an orphaned child to attend boarding school for a year (or more!).  Micato’s AmericaShare foundation offers a number of opportunities to join our work, and at costs that fit every holiday budget.  Read about How We Give Back or visit AmericaShare to learn more.

A wonderful start to the holiday season— Travel+Leisure and Bing’s mentions of Micato’s volunteer opportunities had our phones lit up like a Christmas tree!

Welcome to Micato Safaris Blog

  • October 19th 2009

lion-and-cub-yawning

Welcome to Micato Musings.  Soon, this will be a place for us to share some of our stories, questions, thoughts… the general meanderings of the Micato mind.  We look forward to interacting with our guests and friends on this blog, so please check back soon.

Thanks for visiting!

Micato Safaris

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