Micato Musings


Jun

28

The Elusive Leopard Tells All

Posted by: Micato

Elusive. That’s me. Solitary, secretive, nocturnal… notorious for my stealth: the life of a leopard is much like that of a reluctant member of the royal family. So why am I writing a blog post for Micato Safaris? Well, it’s primarily because I just want to be left alone, and the rest of the Big FiveElephant, Lion, Cape Buffalo and Rhino—would not stop bugging me until I wrote about myself and completed the collection. So to get a little peace and quiet, I agreed to spill my secrets.

They Also Call Me:

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Chui. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Nkwe. In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Ingwe; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Jagluiperd. (Which is sort of a funny mix between jaguar and leopard, isn’t it? We’re actually closely related.) My family members make all sorts of noises when they want my attention, from roars to grunts, but we’re famous for our purrs, which sound like someone sawing.

Best Places to Find Me:

This may impress you: my family has the largest distribution of any wild cat—East, Southern and Central Africa are the places where I thrive most, even in weird habitats where other large cats have long since disappeared. You can find me in such disparate places as Mount Kenya and Kruger National Park, and everywhere in between: I love the savannah and the rainforest equally. However, we haven’t heard from any of the North African family members in a long time, and I’m sad to say that they’re probably extinct.

I even have family members in Asia, though that portion of my family is small and scattered. You can find us in India, Southeast Asia, and China. I even have cousins in Russia who live in temperate forests, which get as cold as -13◦F. They don’t mind a bit—they have the most privacy of all of us. My theory as to why leopards are everywhere? Because we need so much space. Male leopards generally have a home range between 12 and 30 square miles, and there is rarely ever any overlap. I’m a lady, thus I don’t have qualms about making my home territory on a piece of land that overlaps a male’s home—as long as he doesn’t crowd me.

How to Find Me

Despite my family’s favourable numbers we are, as I said, reclusive. And if you want to follow suit, here’s a tip: learn to climb. This ability is something I’m known for. I rest in trees, lick myself clean in trees, drag my food up into trees to eat, jump up to 10 feet to get up onto a tall branch of a tree, and can even climb down trees headfirst. The black rosettes on my fur look a lot like the shadows of leaves, and my gift is to blend right in.

If you really want to see me (and I know for some of you it’s an obsession), stay at a lodge or camp that has a leopard blind. These fine people have learned that I like to do my eating in trees, where I can get away from those pesky other animals, so they hang meat right where I can smell it. You see, there is a limit to my solitude—I suppose I’ll let you see me in exchange for a side of beef.

Most Embarrassing Facts:

Quite honestly, nothing. I’m an all-star athlete—great at hunting, climbing, swimming, and running—and there’s no denying that I’m gorgeous. My lovely silhouette has been used as an emblem for sports teams and coats of arms in Africa, and I’ve been depicted in the art of places where I used to live but haven’t visited in ages, such as Greece, Rome and even England. Some call me proud—the Cape Buffalo even calls me a snob—but really I’m not. I’m just realistic about my talents and looks. And modest.

Favourite Food:

I love the hunt. LOVE it. Thus I’ll eat anything from tiny dung beetles to 2,000 pound eland—whatever allows me to exercise one of my favourite skills: stalking my prey with complete silence, then pouncing at the very last minute. Day-to-day I eat mostly antelopes and monkeys, but I’ve been known to catch rodents, reptiles, birds, fish and even smaller predators, like jackals. I even had an uncle who caught and ate a crocodile. Seriously. Don’t mess with leopards.

Everything Else:

Type: Mammal

Diet: Carnivorous (these brilliant teeth aren’t just flair, you know)

Average life span in the wild: Twenty years

Size: Between four and six feet long, plus the tail, which can be up to four feet long!

Weight: For myself and the rest of the ladies, we’re small: between 50 and 130 pounds. Males are bigger—they can get up to 200 pounds. All told, though, we’re the smallest of the big cats in our genus (Panthera), the other three being tigers, lions and jaguars.

Protection status: We’re classified as “near threatened” which makes me nervous…

Group name: A leap! Because we’re so darn good at jumping up trees, at our prey, and away from poachers.

Jun

08

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

Posted by: Micato

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…

May

30

Secrets of the Rhinoceros

Posted by: Micato

Sure, I heard that my fellow “five” were blogging for Micato. The lion, the elephant, and the Cape buffalo all had plenty to say—but like many rhinos, I seldom speak unless spoken to. However, the Cape buffalo pressured me (he is SUCH a bully), but by then I had already made up my mind to deliver Micato’s first ever blog post from a Rhino.

What They Also Call Me

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Kifaru. In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Nkombe; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Renoster. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Tshukudu. I don’t usually answer to any of these names though—like I said, I usually keep to myself.

Best Places to Find Me

It depends on who you’re looking for. Personally, I’m a Black Rhino, and my family and I can be found in Tanzania, parts of Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa. Although this sounds like an awful big range, there are still very few of us—about four thousand in the wild. You certainly have to look hard to find us, although if you visit a rhino conservancy you have a much higher chance, as those rangers monitor my whereabouts. I don’t like having so much to-do about things—it’s a little embarrassing—but I guess it’s what we have to do to stay alive these days.

My cousin, the White Rhino, has a bigger immediate family—about 17,000—which makes them the most numerous of all the rhinos in the world! They’re mostly in South Africa, though they can also be found in Namibia and Botswana. There is a subspecies of White Rhino called the Northern White Rhino, which is nearly extinct. Some humans have just reintroduced this rhino to the wild, in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It seems like they’re doing ok so far—as long as they can keep poachers out.

What You’ll See Me Doing

Eating leaves or wallowing in mud, alone. As a male, I particularly like to keep to myself. The women and babies will sometimes gather together in groups, but only for short periods of time, until the babies are big enough to not get chomped by a croc. Adult rhinos have no natural predators and we don’t do any hunting, so there isn’t much need to gather in big groups. In fact, it’s probably best if we don’t. I’m…well…ok, I’m aggressive. I mean Incredible Hulk-style aggressive, to the degree that sometimes I attack trees or termite mounds for no reason at all. It’s no surprise then that Rhinos have the highest rate of mortal combat for any animal—50% of males and 30% of females die from fighting with each other. “Dysfunctional family” is an understatement for us.

Most Embarrassing Facts

Oh man. Can I tell you a secret? The reason I’m such a loner—and probably why I’m so aggressive too—is that EVERYTHING feels like an embarrassing fact.

First off, I’m an odd-toed ungulate. That means I have a hoof with an odd number of toes on it, like a horse. Secondly, I have a weight problem: I’m the second-largest mammal on the planet. The first-largest animal is the elephant, but she doesn’t need to be embarrassed because she’s nice and smart, which makes up for it. Me, on the other hand, I’ve got a really small brain. Seriously small. And bad eyesight. Also, no front teeth.

Gosh, I don’t even know if I can finish this blog post, I’m so embarrassed now. Oh, I’m almost done? Well, ok then, I guess I can go on.

Favourite Food

Leaves, branches, fruit—all that good stuff. This is why I have a pointy, prehensile lip, the better for stripping branches. The White Rhino, on the other hand, eats grass, and that’s why she has a long, flat lip—the better for clipping. That’s also why she’s called the White Rhino—it’s because English-speaking humans misunderstood her original Dutch name, which was Widj (Widj means wide, as in wide-lipped), and started calling her White Rhino. Which is silly, as anyone can see that her skin is grey just like mine.

Everything Else

Type: Mammal

Diet: Herbivorous

Average life span in the wild: 35-50 years—that’s assuming that I don’t get poached or killed in a fight with one of my brothers.

Size: I’m about five feet tall, and between 11 and 15 feet long. The White Rhino is the same length, but generally taller (around six feet). Like I said, we’re big.

Weight: 1,900 to 4,000 lbs, on average. The White Rhino, if you can believe it, gets even bigger—up to 10,000 pounds! That’s a lot to carry around

Protection status: It’s critical. The categorization differs for the different subspecies, but basically all rhinos need help. The problem is our horns. Certain people insist that they make good medicine—in many parts of Asia they grind rhino horns up and use the powder to reduce fevers and stop convulsions. But honestly, my horn is made of the same stuff as your fingernails and hair (keratin), and you don’t see anybody grinding up fingernail clipping for medicine, do you? NOT a good reason to hunt us, in my opinion.

Group name: A crash, which adequately describes what happens when we hang out—fighting, fighting and more fighting. And you wonder why I’m a loner?

May

24

A Few Minutes with a Cape Buffalo

Posted by: Micato


People get all excited about the lion, Mr. King of the Jungle, and are SO impressed by the elephant, the world’s largest land mammal. But what about me? The Cape Buffalo? Hello? I’m one of the Big Five, too! So I asked Micato Safaris if I could do a guest blog post, and they generously obliged.

What They Also Call Me

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Nyati. In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Inyathi; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Buffels. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Nare—they also have a separate name for my little son, the buffalo calf, who they call Natshana.

Now, when it comes to my family members, well…the herd is so close that we rarely need to speak, we usually just KNOW what the other buffalo is thinking. But when something specific needs to be expressed, I’ll usually hear about it via a bellow, grunt, honk or croak. People say it’s similar to how human males communicate at the gym.

Best Places to Find Me

We are everywhere in East and Southern Africa: Chyulu Hills, Serengeti, Samburu, Etosha, Okavango Delta… wherever there is grass to eat and wide-open plains to exercise in, seriously I’m not picky. My only caveat is that I need to stay close to water—have to hydrate every day!

What You’ll See Me Doing

Hanging out on the savannah with a bunch of big guys, because (ahem) in my family I’m in the sub-herd of high-ranking males, which means (a) I’m important (but you probably already knew that), and (b) I get first pick of the ladies in the herd. The ladies are, of course, the core of the herd, with their kids—I’m an old-fashioned, chivalrous kind of guy.

You can tell I’m important by the thickness of my horns, and I use those bad boys to fight off any other males who try to challenge me. You can catch me sparring with my horns a lot—either for play or in an actual battle for dominance (which I obviously always win.)

When not fighting or eating, I’m on the alert for any distress in my family. We’re tough, as you can tell, and not easy to hunt—taking down one adult buffalo requires the hunting prowess of multiple lions working together. However, our calves are more vulnerable, so we cluster around them whenever possible, and come to their defense as soon as we hear the call (as illustrated in the famous Battle of Kruger.) This is part of why we’re known for our altruism—it’s rare that any male in the wild would protect a calf that wasn’t his own.

Most Famous Admirer

Ernest Hemingway. As one of the Big Five—the five most dangerous and difficult animals to hunt—I posed a rare challenge to that great writer, who travelled to Africa in the bad old days when big game hunting wasn’t controlled, and my family constantly had to fight off hunters. Thank goodness things are more controlled now, although I still work out regularly, flexing my muscles and jogging the plains, just in case I have to charge someone to protect my family.

Like all big game hunters, Ernest loved and feared me in equal measure, and even wrote a whole story starring me, called “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” I’m not sure how many copies it sold, but I hope not a lot—I mean, guys, I DIE at the end. Worst. Ending. Ever.

Most Embarrassing Facts

None.

Ok, ok, I’ll give you just one. My temper. When I feel threatened I am quick to go on the offensive: lions, leopards, crocodiles—I’ve attacked them all. Amongst African humans, I’m known as “Black Death” or “Widowmaker,” and they’re not joking. It’s an embarrassing personal trait, but also a useful one—it’s why I’m the only member of the exclusive Big Five club that isn’t classified as endangered or vulnerable.

Favourite Food

Mmmm, grass! That’s all I eat, and all I ever will. Tall, coarse grass is my favourite treat, which makes me a popular guy on the savannah, since my family and I act as lawnmowers, clipping down great swathes of dense grass and exposing the gentler green ground-cover below for the grazers with more delicate palates (ahem, antelopes—wimps!)

Everything Else

Type: Mammal

Diet: I’m a vegetarian, but that doesn’t make me nice, ok? I can wrassle with the best of them.

Average life span in the wild: About 18 to 20 years old

Size: My family members are all within the range of 5 to 11 feet long, and 3 to 5 feet tall—but don’t let my short legs fool you, I’m still fast… and pretty darn huge.

Weight: 1,100–2,000 pounds (gentlemen, like me, are larger than the ladies). For someone who’s about four feet tall, this is inarguably a lot. And that’s all muscle!

Protection status: According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, I am in the “Least Concern” category, which means that they were worried enough to check on me, but when they saw that my family and I were doing pretty well they decided they didn’t have to fret about us anymore. At least, for now—as long as there’s plenty of grass to eat, and those darn hunters stay off my back.

Group name: “Herd” is most common, although people also refer to us as “a gang” or “an obstinacy.” The last also means “a state of stubbornness,” which seems most appropriate. I dare you to argue with me about it!

May

17

Confessions of a Mama Elephant

Posted by: Micato

Good morning everyone! Yes, I am a mama elephant. I asked the Micato Safaris writers to transcribe a blog post for me, as my flat feet are terrible for typing. After all, why should those vain lions get all the press?

They Also Call Me:

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Tembo, or Ndovu (they like me so much, they named me twice!) In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Indlovu; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Oliphant. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Tlou. But when anyone in the family needs me, they usually just amble over and cuddle—I am a mom, after all.

Best Places to Find Me:

I ought to be clear about who I am, exactly. You see, there are smaller Asian elephants in India and Sri Lanka—I’m not one of them. There are also African forest elephants, who crash around the forests and jungles of West Africa—I’m also not one of them. I’m an African bush elephant, so my kids and I spend our days in the glorious parks of Southern and East Africa: Amboseli, Kruger, Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Samburu, Okavango Delta… if it’s savannah or bushveldt, I’m there.

What You’ll See Me Doing:

Usually you can find me eating, but I also love to bathe and swim, and if you want to hang out with me your best bet is to spend some time near the rivers and lakes of Southern and East Africa. Just be aware if you’re sitting in “the splash zone”: each of my kids can suck up to fourteen litres of water into their trunks at once, and they love to play…

How My Family Is Like Yours:

I’m always with my family, too, so if you visit me you’re sure to meet everyone. As a mama elephant, I spend my days with all the other ladies and their babies. They boys get a little feisty and controlling around age fourteen, so that’s when we kick them out on their own. Male elephants are loners—your typical cranky bachelors, always fighting with each other—though sometimes they’ll get together with other males and cruise for ladies up and down the savannah. But the women are very close; in fact some female elephants have died from loneliness in captivity. This is why human organizations like David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust are so important—orphaned baby elephants need special help, because they’re so used to having a big family around them.

I’m the matriarch of my family, which means I’m the oldest and biggest, and everyone follows me. If mama isn’t happy, nobody’s happy, and that’s the truth!

Most Embarrassing Facts:

Oh my goodness gracious, really? Well, ok, I suppose I can spill a few beans. Let’s see…

I’m the largest land animal in the world, which already is kind of embarrassing (though also impressive, you have to admit.) I somehow have to keep this giant body working and moving on an all-vegetarian diet, plus feed all my wee babies (ok, my 200-pound babies—they’re still wee to me). So for about sixteen hours a day, you can find me eating. In fact, I only sleep for about two hours a day… all the rest of my time is taken up by eating, bathing, and taking care of the kids.

Also, well, there’s another draw-back to being so gosh-darn big: I can’t run or jump. I pretty much just have two gaits: either I walk, or I walk fast. To be fair, when I get mad (and when you mess with my kids, I get furious!) this fast walk is certainly speedier than your run. In fact, humans have clocked me at 25 mph when I’m charging, which is not too shabby for a 6-ton mama, wouldn’t you agree?

And one more thing: thick skin. This actually doesn’t embarrass me—I’m proud of my one-inch thick flesh. Nothing really bothers me—not bugs or acacia thorns or sitting on a pokey log—because I’m so difficult to hurt. Hence, I’m a pretty mellow gal, unlike my excitable neighbors, the antelope. This is why some people call elephants pachyderms, which means “thick-skinned.”

Favourite Food:

Elephant grass. You have to love a food that’s named after you, don’t you think? And anyway, if I don’t like it, who will? Elephant grass is tough to eat and to digest, and with my crazy digestion system I’m one of the only animals on the savannah that can handle it. I know, I know, it’s very predictable—mom eats all the left-overs. I’m fine with that!

Just to keep this big ol’ body going, I have to eat 300-600 pounds of food a day, which means I can’t be all that picky anyway. I’ll eat acacia leaves, herbs, tall grass, fruit, shrubs… whatever I can get!

Everything Else:

Type: Mammal

Diet: Vegetarian (if I was a biologist, I’d say “herbivore”… but I’m an elephant, so I say whatever I want)

Average life span in the wild: 50-70 years (we’re the oldest animals on the savannah!)

Size: About 12 feet tall. It’s too bad we don’t have thumbs; we would have been great at basketball.

Weight: Don’t ask. I’ve broken every scale I’ve ever stood on! But people say that we range from 12,000-14,000 lbs (which is 6-7 tons). To put that into perspective, I weigh about the same as a hundred grown men, all piled up.

Protection status: Vulnerable. Our beauty is our curse, as my family members have been hunted for our gorgeous tusks for decades. Ivory, schmivory—doesn’t it look better on me?

Group name: “Herd” is most common, but I prefer the lesser-used “Parade”—because every day is a celebration when you’re in an elephant family.

May

10

A Taste of Namibia

Posted by: Micato

Africa is home to the largest land animal in the world (the elephant), the longest river in the word (the Nile), the oldest human fossils (Ardi, a 4.4 million year old skeleton found in Ethiopia), and several wonders of the world (including the Rift Valley and Victoria Falls). It’s an amazing continent, and one we’re very fortunate to know like the backs of our hands.

Nevertheless, Namibia still manages to surprise and enchant us with its breath-taking natural wonders. From the shipwrecks on the Skeleton Coast to the pink and orange towering dunes of Sossusvlei, this land is more like a dream than anything else. Care for a taste of a Namibian safari? Here are just a few of our favourite facts about Namibia… careful, they’re sure to whet your appetite for the real thing!

  • The Namib Desert is between 80 million and 55 million years, depending on which geologist you talk to. Either way, the Namib is the oldest desert in the world.
  • The “Moon Landscape” is an inhospitable area of the Namib that is formed by granite which pushed up from the Earth’s crust some 500 million years ago.
  • Namaqualand is arid and dry for the majority of the year, but in spring a sudden transformation occurs: hundreds of thousands of orange and white flowers bloom, transforming the dry, empty land into something more often seen through a kaleidoscope.

  • The Fog Beetles, endemic to the Namib, have backs covered in hydrophilic bumps and hydrophobic troughs. These cause humidity from the morning fogs to condensate into droplets, which roll down the beetle’s back to its mouth.
  • The Skeleton Coast can experience more than 180 days of thick fog a year, hence the name—more than a thousand shipwrecks litter this coast.

  • Ships wrecked on the Skeleton Coast can be found as much as 50 metres inland, as the desert slowly moves westwards into the sea.
  • The dry inland of Namibia is home to baboons, giraffes, lions, black rhinoceros and springbok, all of whom get most of their water from wells dug by the baboons or elephants.

  • In April 2008, a 500-year-old shipwreck containing Iberian coins, bronze cannons, copper, and ivory was found in the Sperrgebiet (a region on the Diamond Coast).
  • Southern Namib comprises a vast dune sea with some of the tallest and most spectacular dunes in the world, ranging in color from rose pink to deep red to vivid orange. In the Sossusvlei area, several dunes exceed 300 meters (984 ft) in height.

  • Namibia’s Succulent Karoo, a portion of the Kalahari Deset, is home to fully one third of the world’s succulent plants—nearly half of them are only found in the Succulent Karoo.
  • The bizarre Welwitschia plant—with its strap-shaped leaves that may grow several meters long—is considered a living fossil, and is found only in the Namib Desert.

May

03

Greetings from a Lion

Posted by: Micato

Jambo from Kenya! Today we have a special treat for you. One of our Safari Directors left his  laptop unattended out in the bush, and returned to find that the blog post that he’d been preparing to writea well-researched piece on lionshad already been written… by a lion! Read on to get a rare perspective on the king of the jungle, written with his own paws (we assumeunless he got a monkey to do the typing.)

Well hello everyone! Yes, it’s me—the King of the Jungle! Which is a bit of a misnomer, as I actually spend most of time in the savannah… but we’ll get to that.

They Also Call Me:

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Simba (but of course, any Disney fan knows that). In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Imbube; in other parts of South Africa and in Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Leeu. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Tau. At home, the kids call me “Raaawwwr!”

Best Places to Find Me:

Well, that’s easy—the best place to find me is near a Micato jeep! No kidding, it’s almost spooky how good those Micato guides are at figuring out where I am.

But if you want me to be a little more specific… well, at one point in history my cousins and I were found all over Africa and Asia; we even hung out in Greece for a while (there was some pretty yummy goat to be found there.) I’m sad to say that most of my northern cousins—lions subspecies quite similar to me—are now extinct, and there’s only a small group of them left in India’s Gir Forest. You can still come visit me, though, in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly east and southern Africa. I especially enjoy spending time in savannahs and bushveldt, so the Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and Kruger are some of my favourite places to set up shop.

My immediate family is pretty diverse. If you want to visit some of my favourite siblings, I’d recommend stopping by to see my sisters in Linyanti Plains, Botswana, who are known as “surfing lions” because they hunt hippos. Crazy girls, I tell you. There are also my shy brothers who hang out with me in Kruger National Park, the white lions—I don’t envy them the amount of grooming they have to do to keep their coats so white. And I have some tough brothers in Kalahari Game Reserve, who you’d know as the black-maned lions. You should definitely spend some time with them, if you have a chance.

We’re all night-owls, so you can find us on the move in the early morning on the way home or at dusk on the way out for a hunt. And I’ll admit it… in the daytime you might catch me sleeping under an acacia tree—it’s the best shade in the savannah.

Most Embarrassing Facts:

What? Well, ok, hmmm…

I’m pretty lazy, for starters. Usually I sleep for 18-20 hours a day, which doesn’t leave me much time for hobbies—kind of explains why you don’t know any lions who knit or play guitar.

Also, I have one of those voices that really carries. I can’t help it! When I get going and really let out a good roar, you can hear it up to five miles away. I’m the loudest of all the big cats, and I usually only roar at night, so if it wakes you up from your peaceful sleep, I’m sorry.

Sometimes I get teased because the lady lions do all the hunting, but that doesn’t actually embarrass me. Those women bring home delicious food, and I have to admit, I get pretty overheated if I do too much work, since I have this huge mane (which is useful for impressing girls and intimidating rivals.) I’m pretty satisfied with my gal bringing home the bacon—and speaking of bacon…

Favourite Food:

Broccoli.

Ha, just kidding! No way would I eat broccoli. I’m all meat, all day, baby. Some of my favourite meals are wildebeest, impalas, zebras, and buffalo. If I’m feeling peckish and just need a little snack, I’ll settle for springbok or Thompson’s gazelle. And man, I do love warthog—it’s savannah bacon!

 

Everything Else:

Type: Mammal

Diet: Carnivore (well, obviously)

Average life span in the wild: About 16 years

Size: We range from 5-7 feet long and 3-4 feet tall. The longest of my ancestors—we called him Grandpa Kubwa—was 12 feet long! He was, I’m sad to report, shot and killed in Angola in 1972.

Weight: Well that’s a rude question—oh, alright… we range from 300-550 pounds. My heaviest ancestor—Grandpa Nono—was almost 700 pounds! He passed on in 1936 in South Africa.

Protection status: Vulnerable (even though we look tough, we’re sensitive—lions need love too!)

Group name: Pride (which says it all, don’t you think?)

 

Apr

27

Jane Pinto Tells All…

Posted by: Micato

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…

Apr

19

Using a Smartphone in the Bush

Posted by: Micato

The pleasures of safari are many… and the absence of a ringing, buzzing, beeping phone is one such. The interruptions on safari are far more interesting: a distant lion roar, the sight of an elephant quietly feeding property few yards from your hammock…you get the idea. The collective natural song of the bush has long survived without brassy ringtones.

That said, many travellers do desire a way to keep in touch with family and friends—even business contacts—while in the bush. So, although being “off the grid” is an appeal for safari travellers, we’d like to offer some handy tips for those of you who want to stay connected, but don’t want to be blindsided by astronomical phone and data charges after you arrive home.

Before you go:

1)      Consider your needs: Do you want to able to both make and receive calls? Do you only want to text? Do you need internet? What about GPS? Make a list of all the things you want to be able to do or have access to while in the bush, and then…

2)      Contact your cell phone provider: Policies and fees vary by provider, and it’s essential to know what works for your particular phone. You can research online— visit AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon or Virgin to find handy, detailed webpages for travellers—or call your company to find out what your options are (phone numbers will be on the website, and often vary depending on where you live.) Remember: even if your service plan includes international roaming, that doesn’t mean that it is the most reasonable option.

3)      You have options. If taking your current phone on safari just doesn’t seem like a viable option (if your everyday phone doesn’t have its own international card or the capacity to be fitted with one, it’s probably already a non-starter) there are many other options for staying in touch. You can buy a calling card or rent an international phone. If you have a laptop that you want to bring for other purposes, you can very easily  talk to friends and family via Skype or Google Voice.

In the bush:

1)      Know how to turn off “data roaming.” Unfortunately, just because you’re not using it doesn’t mean your phone isn’t active. It’s a good idea to turn off “data roaming” and “data synchronization” on your phone whenever you’re not using the internet or an application. You can usually find these options under “settings” on your phone. Find out how to do this before you leave.

2)    Monitor your mobile data usage. Smartphone apps for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry can track your data usage, which is incredibly handy. If you have internet access, you can also visit the website of your provider, log into your account, and check your data usage this way.

3)    Consider Airplane Mode. If you just want to use the internet and don’t need to make calls or use apps, Airplane Mode is ideal. It turns off the cellular and data radio but leaves your Wi-Fi receptor on. This solution only works if you’re at a lodge, hotel or camp with Wi-Fi, so ask your Safari Director or Guide first. Just using Wi-Fi, you can use services like Skype and Google Voice to call friends and family overseas for a fraction of the cost—or free!

Your last option, of course, is to skip all the hassle and leave the phone at home. It’s a daring move, in this day and age, but the benefits of essentially being incommunicado stretch far beyond mere financial savings—something that hits home when you’re lying in a hammock overlooking a gently flowing river, listening to hippos chortle and bubble below and birds singing in the trees. A butler brings you a refreshing cocktail, and a gentle breeze whispers in the acacia trees, bringing scents or eucalyptus and sweet wild mint. At these moments, email should be the last thing on your mind…

Apr

12

Your Own Home in the Wild

Posted by: Micato

Greet the dawn on your sea-view veranda in Cape Town with a delightful breakfast cooked by your personal chef. Sip cocktails brought by your private butler as you lounge beside your pool, watching as the giraffe walk by in the majestic Kenyan landscape that seems to exist only for you. Dinner is a family affair, just you and your travel companions laughing and sharing stories in the glow of a thousand candles.

Have everything—from the menu to the bedding to how many cubes of ice in each drink—tailored exactly to your expectations and desires. It’s your home, after all—at least for the duration of the holiday.

Exquisite properties all over Africa are building homes for exclusive use—turning an already sumptuous experience into something sublime. There’s a home for every kind of traveller, from the savannah in Kenya to the bushveldt in South Africa; the sophisticated Cape Town to the adventurous Kalahari Desert—just tell your Micato Bespoke Safari Specialists a little bit about yourself, and they’re guaranteed to find the ideal combination of private ranches, family homesteads and upcountry estates.

Make Memories as a Family

Children delight in eating passion fruit picked off their own tree with help from the butler at Loisaba Cottage in Kenya, or playing Marco Polo in their own pool at Singita Serengeti House in Tanzania, their happy shouts silenced by the awe-inspiring spectacle of a herd of zebra rushing across the plains. And everyone in the family revels in the experience of sharing the landscape with a herd of resident elephant at Camp Jabulani’s Zindoga Villa in South Africa—one of the beauties of the private bush home is the guarantee that your only neighbors will be fascinating wildlife.

Revel in the Romance

It’s no surprise that Prince William and Kate Middleton spent a large portion of their engagement safari at Lewa House—stunningly beautiful and private, couples can while away the days here horse-back riding or flight-seeing in a bi-plane together—much like Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in Out of Africa.

Honeymooners may find bliss in the airy Molori Clifton, a private home with panoramic views of the ocean and Cape Town, where “your song” can be playing in every room thanks to iPod docking stations, and the infinity pool beckons. Or celebrate your anniversary at Ol Malo House in Kenya, where you lounge together in a hammock, watching the animals pass by without a care in the world.

Whatever your desires, we can guarantee one thing: your Micato Bespoke Safari Specialist can find the exact right property for you.

“I fell in love with Africa long before I ever went there. When I got there it felt like coming home.” ~Jane Goodall