Micato Musings


Posts Tagged ‘Luxury’

India: Brought to You by Micato Safaris

  • April 6th 2012

Vibrant. Colourful. Spicy. Spontaneous. Enchanting.

These are the words we use to describe India, though there are times—standing on top of a craggy mountain in the north, paddling down a gin-clear channel in the south, or watching a saffron-tinted, ash-scented ceremony on the Ganges—when we have no words at all. Two-sided India, as much clamour as serenity, regularly leaves us speechless.

“Why is an African safari company talking about India?” you may be asking yourself. The answer is simple: because Micato Safaris also operates in India. While Africa is our home and safaris are our passion, Micato’s founders, Felix and Jane Pinto, were born in Kenya of Indian heritage, and have sojourned frequently throughout their lives to their family’s ancestral home in Goa, India.

Felix and Jane founded Micato Africa in 1966 and built the safari outfitter into a revered name in the world of travel. With son Dennis at the helm in the 1990s running Micato USA, the company grew into the leading purveyor of ultra-deluxe safaris with an impressive list of clients that included virtually 100% of the world’s most renowned luxury cruise line calling in East and Southern Africa: from Cunard to Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, Holland America, and others.

The cruise lines were so thrilled with the exceptional level of serviced provided by Micato in Africa that they approached Dennis with a rare proposition: if Micato would open a tour operation in India, they would support it with their business in order to receive Micato service and standards in that area of the world.

And so Micato Safaris in India was established with legendary Indian travel industry veteran, Cecil Haidar Ali, as General Manager. Cecil’s son and daughter would eventually join Micato as well, and the Haidar Ali family, just like the Pintos in Africa, offers Micato travellers unique, insider access to their homeland.

In India, a country where connections and family ties make all the difference, this is invaluable. Luxury cruise travellers eagerly queued up for Micato’s overland India excursions, and the word spread…. Soon the Micato India team found themselves operating over-the-top, private bespoke journeys for private, individual travellers as well.

It began twenty years ago, and today Micato’s bespoke journeys in India are still the best in the business (and we don’t mind saying so!) They are jointly hand-crafted by the Haidar Alis—who know India like the backs of their hands—and the Pintos, who know the desires and needs of their travellers, many of whom have become life-long friends.

Balmy beaches. Tigers in teak jungles. Crisp pine air in the mountains. Yoga with a guru. Snake charmers in the bazaar. Bollywood razzle-dazzle. Colonial games of polo and cricket. Dinner in a palace—with a Raj. And of course, curry, chili, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cardamom and clove…

Experience India as family friends of the Pintos and Haidar Alis… only with Micato Safaris.

Micato’s Africa… by Helicopter!

  • January 11th 2012

Your helicopter grazes the leaves of a montane forest, thick with the hoots of monkeys and caws of birds. Remote deserts undulate off into infinity. Jewels of lakes teem with green crocodiles, or shine pink with flamingos.

Yes, we said your helicopter. Because while a Micato safari provides a lifetime of exhilaration, a Micato safari by helicopter literally takes exhilaration to a different level, making what once may have seemed inaccessible perfectly accessible.

The Pinto Family, left to right: Joy, Sasha, Tristan, and Dennis, and their pilot

The fact is, Micato has been arranging helicopter excursions for years, but recently we’ve seen an increased demand from our guests for this exceptional experience.

Imagine. In a helicopter, Africa’s majestic landscape is entirely yours. As you soar through the sky—flying low with doors open—you may see all manner of wildlife, from galloping herds to predators on the prowl. And the scenery is breathtaking. Your pilot cuts deftly between two towering kopjes, and you marvel at the landscape seen from this new and unimaginable angle.

Victoria Falls, seen from a helicopter

What makes your helicopter ride not just joyous, but convenient, is your ability to stop on a dime. From the rim of a crater to the top of a mountain, and everywhere in between. You might wish to visit a far-flung village, have sundowners on the steepes of a snowy mountain, or picnic near a gin-clear and isolated rock pool.

Having a personal chef cook your catch would likely provide enough fodder for a story to tell, but what if you caught that fish directly from your helicopter? And why not? Your wish is our command — that’s the beauty not only of an exclusive helicopter excursion, but of everything we do here. With Micato, by helicopter, the sky truly is the limit.

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.

Micato’s Top 4 Vacation Activities to Beat the Winter Blues

  • September 15th 2011

Wrapped up in boots and parkas, scarves under our noses and hats pulled down over our ears, it’s hard to believe that some of the world is lounging pool or oceanside. This is what makes winter travel so special, as vacation comes to mean something more: you’re not just vacating your home and lifestyle, you’re leaving behind a whole  season.

And though the sunny, muggy weather of late may speak otherwise, now really is the time to begin planning winter excursions to exotic locales south of the equator. Once your dream escape is planned, you can sit back, sip your hot chocolate, and enjoy the brisk fall to come, knowing that, as the days get shorter and darker and the cold really descends, you will be winging your way to the white sands of Zanzibar, the golden savannahs of Kenya, or the gentle, rolling green of South Africa’s wine country.

To help inspire your planning, here are our top four safari experiences for curing the winter blues:

4) Meander down the Garden Route

South Africa is diverse, with a wealth of ecosystems and species, some unknown anywhere else in the world. The Garden Route famously encompasses many of them within its ten nature reserves, including 300 species of birds, the indigenous Cape Fynbos Forest, bays where southern right whales come to calve, and sanctuaries for both monkeys and elephants. Beautiful coastal towns tempt along the way, the wineries and farms that ring them promising luscious meals and memorable evenings.

3) Get lost on the ancient Isle of Spices

Zanzibar… the name is a vacation in itself. From the bustling spice markets in the old bazaar to the bewitching magic of the jade-green Jozani forest, alive with rare colobus monkeys jumping from tree to tree, this truly is a destination unlike any other. Add to this tastefully luscious boutique hotels atop peaceful white beaches—snorkeling, boating and diving aplenty—and you’ll forget that winter even exists.

2) Hot-air balloon over the famed Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara has one of the largest concentrations of animals in the world, and the best way to view them inconspicuously is at dawn, floating above the savannah, with the rush of the balloon’s flame removing the need to speak as you take in the rich panorama of life spread below you. After watching the predators of the night slink off to bed and the herds take over, munching dew-fresh grasses, you’ll be greeted upon landing by an elaborate champagne breakfast in the bush.

1) Canoe through the Okavango Delta

The floodplains of the Okavango are true virgin wilderness, where the only sounds are the light splash of paddles and the call of an African Fish Eagle sighting a Tigerfish–the birds are your only fishing competition out here. An estimated 200,000 large animals call this place home at different times of year, including elephants, hippos, lions and baboons. Stay in one of the Okavango’s beautiful tented camps for a true experience of Micato’s Africa—a place where authentic experiences and true luxury meet.

The Lure of Southern Africa: A Different Kind of Safari

  • September 2nd 2011

Pristine wilderness populated by thousands of animals is the constant in both East and Southern African safaris. The regions share endless stretches of wild land, lions stalking prey, lumbering hippos, and curious giraffes. Where they diverge is in the myriad activities available in the south. The countries of Southern Africa have come into their own in the past few years, offering diversions unique to this land, a sparkling jewel at the base of the continent.

Perhaps you’d care for a trip to Cape Town, a sophisticated city that is Africa’s most sought-after destination for a reason. In just a day, you can visit two oceans and view wildlife as diverse as baboons and penguins. Stroll the old Victorian streets of Simon’s Town in the morning and after lunch paraglide off of Lion’s Head with unbelievable views of the city—the sweeping ocean in one direction, the vast wilderness in the other.

Table Mountain beckons beyond Cape Town and the sea

Whether diving with sharks and learning to surf (not, of course, in the same place!) or taking a ferry from the famed Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to the legend-soaked Robben Island, which was once used to hold political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and current South African President Jacob Zuma, all types of travellers are sure to find a thrill in Cape Town.

For those seeking more pastoral pleasures, an idyllic destination is not far away. The Cape Winelands is not only stunningly lovely but also offers some of the world’s best vintages and hostelries, from boutique hotels to intimate farmstead-style lodges. The  fertile countryside not only yields world-class wines but also scrumptious farm-to-table meals, made with vegetables and herbs hand-picked from the garden, fish from the nearby sea, and local meats. A sojourn in South Africa’s Winelands should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list.

Private dinner in a wine cellar

And while you’re making said list, don’t forget to add one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Victoria Falls, the Grand Canyon of waterfalls. Hang-glide over the roaring falls and discover the true meaning of the word “awesome” or swim safely to the very edge in the famous Devil’s Pool. Because of the constant mists, this area is particularly cool and green, which makes it an excellent spot for golfing, tennis, and long walks in the rainforest, exploring this misty land of hippos and elephants, vervet monkeys and fish eagles.

The grandeur of Victoria Falls

Southern Africa’s active diversion are countless: fishing from helicopters, flight-seeing from bush planes, climbing Namibia’s gigantic sand dunes, exploring the Kalahari Desert by camel and quad bike, or gliding through Botswana’s Okavango Delta in a dugout canoe.

For a vicarious taste of travel in this unplumbed land, you can follow Micato’s own Pinto family as they explore the hidden corners of Southern Africa in distinctive Micato style (i.e. in absolute luxury). Perhaps it will inspire you to make your own trip south of the equator and into adventure beyond your wildest dreams…

Micato’s Africa, Through the Eyes of Three Journalists

  • July 28th 2011

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

  • July 14th 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy these photos of the Pinto family through the years:

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

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

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

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

 

Eat Well: South Africa’s Farm to Table Movement

  • July 7th 2011

“I serve the kind of food I know the story behind.” – Michael Pollan

Green tomato and garden peas; red pepper and rocket. You walk down the rows and inhale their fresh, spicy scent. Turn a corner and you’re in the herbs, nearly bowled over by the heady scent of basil. The sun is high, setting the craggy range of the Helshoogte Pass into sharp relief, and your stomach rumbles in response: lunchtime. You amble back to the Delaire-Graff Estate dining room – you’re about to eat vegetables picked from the garden you just strolled through, meats from the farms in the valley below, and seafood from the Cape, only a few miles away. It’s like living on a farm, without the early morning chores, dirty Wellingtons, and uncooperative tractors.

Lunch at Le Quartier Francais

This sums up the great appeal and joy of the farm-to-table movement, introduced to the U.S. by foodie celebrities like Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Michelle Obama. South African farms and wineries are on a parallel track, as Douglas Rogers reports in this mouth-watering piece for Travel+Leisure. He highlights Delaire-Graff Estate, among others, to show how far this movement has come in South Africa, and how grounded it is in the land and the people who work it.

Afrikaaner culture is very focused on the land, Rogers notes, and people in the Cape have been farming and enjoying the fruits of their labour for many years – especially world-famous South African wine. Vineyards, fortunately, happen to not only produce one of mankind’s favorite beverages, they are also quite lovely to look at, and this has been a boon to the quietly burgeoning South African farm-to-table movement. Vast swathes of land in the Cape Winelands have become luxurious getaways, with spas, pools, and screening rooms complemented by lush kitchen gardens, rolling vineyards and the unspeakably good food and wine the two produce.

South Africa's Cape Winelands

The setting is an ideal one for high-end travellers, eager to soak in the culture of the land but also requiring relaxation and comfort. At places like Le Quartier Francais and La Residence – both in Franschhoek and available for booking on a Micato bespoke safari – luxury reaches its zenith, but old Afrikaans traditions like smooth floors made of peach-pips and Cape Dutch-style architecture live on. Traditions here are not compromised by outside visitors; rather they are enriched by the pride of the local farmers, chefs and vintners. Farm-to-table brings local traditions straight to your plate. There is no better way to see South Africa.

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” – James Beard

An Impossibly Beautiful Safari, and Beautifully Impossible Golf

  • June 2nd 2011

South Africa is renowned for many things: the work of native sons like Nelson Mandela and JRR Tolkien, hosting the 2010 World Cup, producing world-renowned wine, the enthralling mix of cultures – Kalahari Bushmen sharing a nationality with the grandsons of Dutch traders -  and having some of the most stunning and haunting landscapes on the planet.

Amidst all these wonders, South Africa’s world-class golf courses were once a well-kept secret. That is, until April of this year, when Johannesburg native Charles Schwartzel became the first golfer in the history of the Masters to birdie the final four holes and win the title.

The 26-year-old, who grew up on a chicken farm outside of the metropolitan bustle of one of South Africa’s most famous cities, has officially linked “golf” and “South Africa” in the minds of serious golfers the world over. Fortunately, Micato Safaris was ready for the sudden demand, stepping forward with a brand new itinerary: the South African Grand Golf Safari.

The courses in southern Africa are like none other, due in large part to the wild and majestic landscape. Serious and amateur golfers alike will revel in the stunning mountain views and lush wetlands on the Steenburg Golf Club, one of the country’s three best courses. The Montagu and Outeniqua courses at five-star resort Fancourt rival with each other for which has the most spectacular geographical diversity, but they also share the only TaylorMade Performance Lab in the southern hemisphere, where players can receive unparalleled swing analysis and custom fitting.

The Pezula Championship Golf Course provides breathtaking views of the South Cape’s craggy coastline and the Indian Ocean, and then it’s on to Legend Golf & Safari Resort. Legend combines an unimpeachable African experience – complete with opportunities to view rhinos, hippos, lions and leopards – with a truly unforgettable course, each hole designed by one of the world’s top professionals.

And still, we take you higher. Quite literally, actually. The Extreme 19 golf course has the highest and longest Par 3 in the world, accessible only by helicopter at more than 1,400 feet in the air. A tee shot takes a full 20 seconds to land on the green below.

The journey closes with a refreshing game blessed by the mists of Victoria Falls, at the Livingstone Royal Golf and Country Club. Founded in 1908, this course is a slice of old Africa, with a history rich in tradition and carried on by the likes of Charles Schwartzel, continuing to make southern Africa proud. The smell of fresh-cut grass blends with the headier scents of African flora, and as you inhale, smile, and swing, you just might birdie too.