Micato Musings


Posts Tagged ‘African safari’

A Few Minutes with a Cape Buffalo

  • May 24th 2012


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!

Confessions of a Mama Elephant

  • May 17th 2012

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.

A Taste of Namibia

  • May 10th 2012

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.

Greetings from a Lion

  • May 3rd 2012

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?)

 

Using a Smartphone in the Bush

  • April 19th 2012

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…

Your Own Home in the Wild

  • April 12th 2012

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

Why Africa Packs Appeal for Writers

  • March 1st 2012

Why does Africa pack such appeal for writers?  Perhaps it’s the wealth of the region, its surface thick with fantastic plants and animals, its underbelly crusted in jewels. Maybe it’s because the continent is the cradle of mankind and as such, perpetually nurtures us.

For Micato, the writerly appeal comes from the simple expanse of it all. Africa is a land where it is easy to get lost, in the best sense of the word. In the bush, disconnected from the noise of everyday life, much about the self is cherished, and discovered, and rediscovered.

And this was the appeal for two of our favourite explorers and memoirists as well: Beryl Markham and Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway: “This Girl Can Write Rings Around All of Us”

Africa for Markham was home. It was the place where she learned to train horses and fly planes; where she fell in love and married not once but three times; and where she faced almost certain death more times than she could count. It was in Africa that she befriended legendary authors such as Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince), and it was where she became an author of some renown herself, with her startlingly fresh and gripping memoir, West with the Night.

This memoir was admired by none other than Hemingway himself, who wrote:

“Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West with the Night? …She has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl… can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers… it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

Who Loves Africa More?

Hemingway’s own African explorations were characterized by a gruff machismo that serves as a counterweight to Markham’s wry humour and exuberance. In the autobiographical Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway, in his trademark serious, short prose, recounts days of hunting elusive kudu in the bush. And because he is there for only for a short time, he yearns to stay:

“All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa.  We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.” —Green Hills of Africa

Markham, on the other hand, grew up in Kenya from the age of four, and loves Africa in a steadier, less yearning way. In West with the Night, she writes:

“Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla, an escapist’s Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a shiny new one. To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just home.”

Views on Hunting

The writer’s thoughts on hunting were also vastly different. For Hemingway, hunting was his sport of choice and a source of pure poetry. For Markham, it was a source of money and the object of some derision.

Markham spent many years of her life piloting hunters high above the countryside, spotting elephants and making impromptu landings. Flying was her passion, and hunting was a funny thing that men did:

“I suppose if there were a part of the world in which mastodon still lived, somebody would design a new gun, and men, in their eternal impudence, would hunt mastodon as they now hunt elephant… At least David and Goliath were of the same species, but, to an elephant, a man can only be a midge with a deathly sting.”—West with the Night

Between Markham’s irreverence and Hemingway’s solemnity, we have a full picture of the glory that is—and has always been—the wilds of Africa. The savannahs, bushveldt, deserts and beaches invite wanderers and dreamers. The people, the animals, the landscape… The very air in Africa has an unparalleled richness and freshness. This land sparked two of the best memoirs the world has ever seen, and we feel quite sure that there are more and better yet to come. Could yours be one? Join us in Micato’s Africa and find out…

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.

Staff on Safari: Seeing Mt. Kenya on Horseback

  • January 19th 2012

I prefer to walk or bicycle whenever possible—that’s partly why I’m a converted New Yorker. Fortunately, options on safari with Micato are as varied as you want them to be. While preparing for my safari it was the alternative game-viewing opportunities that I looked forward to the most, but one stuck out for me especially: horse-back riding. I hadn’t been on a horse since I was twelve, but when our group arrived at Mount Kenya Safari Club on a fresh, misty day in November, I decided to give it a try.

As it turns out, horseback riding is the best thing to do when you’re 7,000 feet above sea level in Central Kenya. My guide was a taciturn young Kikuyu man named John, and one other member of my party joined me—a more experienced rider named Steve. Steve and my horses were named, respectively, Nat King Cole and Caspar. They were both gentle and sweet, and Caspar had a fondness for meadow grass that he indulged in whenever possible. Appropriately geared up, we ambled off of the Safari Club’s extensive property and into the montane forest.

The author on "Caspar"

The air was rich and spicy with the scent of cedar trees and sweet mint bushes, grounded by the earthier smells of wet grass and horse. Herds of zebras clustered together in the clearings, incongruous in the highly English-looking meadows.

Through the trees was the faint blue silhouette of Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa (after Kilimanjaro), and the highest in Kenya. It felt good to be sitting tall, using my body to guide Caspar, and breathing in this impossibly clean air.

John pointed silently to the right—there was a rare albino zebra, white with very light brown stripes, just standing and staring at us, munching grass. A waterbuck, big in the chest and shoulders, jumped out and ran past the unfazed zebra. They were all so accessible, being eye-level with my horse. The wildlife was just an added bonus. I was focused on Caspar, remembering how to post, and grinning uncontrollably at being out on a horse with these green mountains and mist, cedar trees and baboons.

Yes, I also rode camels, but that's another story...

I was still grinning a few hours later when we trotted back up onto the Club’s grounds, passing the hedge-maze and the pool and coming up to a stop in front of the main lodge. Sadly, I parted from Caspar and headed into the lodge, a structure seeped in the history of past guests, including Bing Crosby and Winston Churchill. I had missed high tea, but the woman waiting on me, knowing that I had wanted the experience, brought me my own pot of tea and a slice of chocolate cherry cake. It was exquisite, just like the rest of the day.

Post by Mary Mann, Micato New York staff writer

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.