Micato Musings

Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

Whether holidays or houses, Micato helps build dreams

  • June 16th 2011

“You will be at ease only in your own home” – African Proverb

As a safari company we have lots of practice helping people build their vacation dreams, and with our nonprofit arm AmericaShare we’ve learned how to help children build their futures. This past week, our New York office decamped to New Jersey for a day to build… a house?

That’s right, although our expert Safari Specialists know much more about luxury lodges and helicopter excursions then they do about hammers and shovels, they have nevertheless been trekking out to Paterson, New Jersey and working with Habitat for Humanity there for the last ten years.

Yet being an expert on Africa and volunteering to build a house aren’t as mutually exclusive as one might think. Of the hundreds of families that Paterson Habitat has helped, a significant portion of them have been Kenyan – in fact, 10% of all non-designated contributions go straight to their global partnership in Kenya. The direct cost of a Habitat house in Kenya is $1,000, so you can imagine how far even 10% of funds can go – HFH Kenya has helped to put a roof over the heads of 5,000 Kenyan families in the last 27 years alone!

In our experience in the Mukuru slum of Nairobi, where AmericaShare is based, we’ve grown used to the sight of ramshackle huts constructed of corrugated tin with rusted holes, each one-room building home to a multitude of family members. We’ve been inside some of them, stepping onto the clean-swept dirt floors, and marveled at the enduring smiles on the faces of the people who live here, making the best of what they have, as little as it may be.

Habitat has given our friends in Kenya, and people like them around the world, a reason to hope for something better. We were able to witness this firsthand in Paterson, as we dug holes and lifted cement blocks alongside local Habitat house recipients, who work for “sweat equity” on their new homes. One young woman spoke shyly about how excited she was for a real home to share with her mom, and the hope it gave her to someday realize her dream of working in the fashion industry.

Her words are echoed by the Kenyan’s who have received homes from HFH Kenya, with Paterson Habitat aid. A home can make a life, as Kisii, Kenya native Ruth Kwamboka Gisemba articulates perfectly:

“Like an old rugged cloth, my life was in a mess before I owned a HFH house.”

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them” -Henry David Thoreau

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.


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.


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.

Kenyan Coffee is King

  • May 12th 2011

“Among the numerous luxuries of the table … coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility.” – Benjamin Franklin

Before you open your eyes, you can smell the warm, sweet aroma of coffee brewing. You stretch and smile, remembering as you exit your dreams that you’re actually living one – you’re on safari. The steaming, rich brew is placed quietly on your bedside table, and you open your eyes to the opalescent light of the Kenyan dawn.

Why do we love coffee so much? Perhaps because we share a birthplace with this nectar of the gods, juice of productivity. Just as human beings began to stand, walk and run on the African continent, coffee too began growing there.

Legend has it, in fact, that the near-mystic properties of coffee were discovered by an Ethiopian goat-herder, who found his goats dancing beneath the moonlight. Believing the source of their joyful energy to be the red berries they were consuming, he threw caution to the wind and ate a berry too. He danced, and mankind’s relationship with coffee began.

Kenyan’s began cultivating coffee in 1893, and the deliciously unique berries that they produced gained so much renown that coffee quickly became the country’s main cash crop. Coffee connoisseurs talk about Kenyan coffee with reverence, their eyes glazing over as their minds wander back to their most recent steaming cup of the rich and aromatic brew.

Kenyan coffees are remarkable for their bright, berry-like acidity, somewhat heavy body and mouth feel, and clean wine-like sweetness – like a fruity Cabernet Sauvignon.

Not just a pretty aroma and full body, Kenyan coffee is also remarkable for it’s production system. Coffee in Kenya is grown on small co-op farms, processed, and marketed under an auction system – Kenyan coffee beans are auctioned in Nairobi every Tuesday during harvesting season. Samples are available to bidders prior to the weekly auction, and the highest bidder gets the lot.

This system rewards quality, and it is us, the drinkers of coffee, our eyes closed and hands cupped around the mug as the fragrant steam rises to our nostrils, that benefit. Drinking coffee on safari is especially surreal, surrounded by the wilderness sounds so familiar to that goat herder of yore, the first consumer of the world’s favorite beverage. It might even move you to dance.

Micato’s original home is Kenya. For great coffee in Nairobi, we recommend Java House – you can even bring a bag home (or two, or three…)

If you’re going on safari with Micato in Tanzania, you will have a chance to stay a night at an actual coffee plantation – the Arusha Coffee Lodge.