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I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
These words from great American writer Susan Sontag have likely stoked the flames of wanderlust more so than any other quote in recent memory.
But, being as everywhere is a big place, our teams at Micato Africa and Micato India are happy to narrow it down a little.
The Micato Hot List is our annual round-up of the best things to see and do on safari as well as some of the best places to stay while you’re seeing and doing them. And needless to say, Micato Safaris can book them all for you.
Every Micato East Africa safari, be it a Classic, Private Classic, or Custom safari adventure, is accompanied from beginning to end by a highly-credentialed Micato Safari Director. Why? Africa is no place for a patchwork itinerary. To that end, here are some of our favourite (of many) experiences you can have with Micato Safaris in East Africa.
Let’s face it, private conservancies in Africa are awesome. They’re vast. And they’re thronged with animals (and not people) as far as the eye can see. So after a day on safari when you really, truly want to get away from it all, you can slide into an edenic swimming pool that you have entirely to yourself because that pool is part of a private estate you have to yourself, with a butler, personal chef, and other staff that tend to your every want and need.
That’s the case at Laragai House, built as a country retreat for the brothers Valentine and Michael Cecil, both British lords. For many years the brothers and their friends and families enjoyed Laragai House’s “African Baronial” luxury (and doubtless enjoyed awakening each morning with bang-up views of the Laikipia Plateau’s private Borana Conservancy and regal Mount Kenya to the south). Their tradition of aristocratic elegance and no-nonsense comfort persist in this exclusive-use gem, remindful of a lushly gardened English country manor with eight uniquely furnished, interconnectable bedrooms that have fireplaces, en-suites with rain showers as well as copper bathtubs, from which – if you’re a bath person – you can spy great game through your floor-to-ceiling windows.
Read more about the other splendid safari villas and estates Micato guests enjoy taking over here.
During African safaris of yesteryear, Hemingway sought simplicity and solitude while well-heeled adventurers roamed the ancient plains in search of wildlife.
They came to the Maasai Mara.
Micato guests come here still, for the same reasons, laying their heads in camps and lodges situated to provide that perfect amalgam of peace and adventure many of us seek, especially now.
Mara Nyika is one such camp, nestled in a gentle stream-cleaved valley bordering the magnificent Mara. Privacy seekers and romantics alike will appreciate that the camp welcomes a mere 10 guests at a time, and we certainly appreciate that Mara Nyika firmly checks the “luxury in the wild” box: From the bubble-inviting, stand-alone copper bathtub and the fine Belgian linen robes, to the well-stocked writing desk and generously provisioned explorer’s wet bar, it’s as is if the Baroness of Out of Africa-fame herself were responsible. In fact, we have Great Plains style-and-conservation maven Beverly Joubert to thank for each and every awe-inducing design element.
Game viewing here is literally in your backyard, as a stay at Mara Nyika grants you access to the 50,000 animal-thronged acres of Naboisho Conservancy, where giraffes lope, the elies lumber, and a distant lion’s roar may just rattle the ice in the cooling Dawa by your side.
And like many of the lodges with which Micato prefers to do business, Mara Nyika gives back to the community, using lodge revenue to help support both local Maasai families and the Mara’s wildlife.
Read more about our beloved Maasai Mara here. Also watch a cute video of animal babies in the Mara here.
There is something about a walk in the wild.
Sensations are plentiful: the solid sound of your feet landing on the eternal African earth, the tickle of the savannah grass against your fingers, and the feeling of the rough grooves left in a tree by an elephant’s tusk.
You are not only seeing wild animals, but actually trekking through their world. These are among the many reasons Micato guests love bush walks, and we’re pleased to report that our friends at Elewana Serengeti Pioneer Camp are introducing them.
You can take a bush walk in lots of places. But the vast, golden, animal-thronged plain of the Serengeti isn’t lots of places: it’s the place from which legions of safariers, including the creators of “The Lion King,” have drawn inspiration. During your walk you may spot a mother giraffe and her calf loping along in unison, or zebras grazing in the morning sunshine. You’ll learn about the unique African plants and their many uses for both the animals and the people who live here. But mostly, you’ll relish the silence, and during a walking safari the silence is complete… it’s as if you are walking in a cathedral, its vault the blue firmament above, its altar the panorama of primeval beauty all around.
Also earning a spot on this year’s Micato Hot List is Mwiba Lodge. Perched on a bouldery, tree-shaded kopje overlook-ing a river gorge, Mwiba is a little island of serene civilization and luxury in the midst of the Serengeti. Its 10 tented contemporary suites are superbly equipped, and well situated to capture the Serengeti’s epic sunsets and sunrises.
During Micato’s 56 years in business, hot-air ballon safaris have quietly and gracefully — like the ride itself — evolved from a “nice to have” safari experience into a “must have.” Therefore, our list of favourite places to balloon safari continues to grow.
Mist covers the earth like a blanket, gauzy grey sheets over the dewy ground, made even more ethereal by the peaceful hush of dawn.
Your pilot lets the fires blaze into the expanse of balloon above you, and suddenly you’re aloft. It’s an exhilarating feeling, dream-like, as you become feather-light and float above the world. As you look out over the seemingly limitless horizon, the sun rises and spreads liquid gold across the landscape.
You glide effortlessly in silence, struck by the spectacle beneath you. As for the finer points of that spectacle, well that all depends on where you take your hot-air balloon safari.
While ballooning over the Maasai Mara or Serengeti, you might spot a group of strolling giraffes, zebras galloping, or wildebeest ramming their heads in a battle of wills—Africa’s timeless drama playing out just as it has for millennia.
Upon touching down, you satisfy your hunger the Micato way: A bubbly breakfast on the savannahs, sitting on a grassy hilltop and watching the world wake up around you, while you sip fresh-brewed coffee and eat eggs cooked to order.
And if you want to take to the skies over Akagera National Park in Rwanda, Micato can arrange that, too.
During a balloon safari of the Okavango Delta, you’ll see an oasis of smoothly meandering waterways, lagoons bubbling with hippos, and idyllic mini savannah islands in a way few ever get to see them. Floating over the desert, dunes, and salt pans of Namibia, you’ll feel like never before that you’re orbiting another world.
Just as Micato is synonymous with African safaris in the travel world, we’re submitting to you, not for the first time on this list, two more synonyms: India and Micato.
It’s still dark here in the old marble quarry hills of Jaipur as long crimson flames shoot into your balloon, transforming it into a brightly coloured globe, straining at its leashes, wanting to soar. You step into the gondola, and effortlessly arise.
Your pilot, a young fellow who spends half the year wafting over the Loire Valley, lets the balloon soar freely, taking you high over the Jaipurian countryside. The red Rajasthani sun appears on the eastern horizon, lightening the sky and your already soaring spirits.
And then you slowly descend, flying low over awakening India. You see neighborhoods coming to life, fly over grand monuments and dusty roads, hear dogs bark and motorcycles rev up. A shy young lady on her way to school shifts her books around so she can wave at you. A lady on a housetop stops putting up laundry, smiles, and continues her work. A bicycling boxwallah glances up, and peddles onward.
Your pilot chooses a landing spot, alerts the trailing ground crew, and sets you down in a field with barely a jolt. As the ground crew deflates the balloon and packs it up, you say goodbye to your new friends, savouring a brightly novel Indian experience.
Another uniquely Indian experience happens around dawn – and yes, most memorable ballooning does happen during this gloriously wee hour –when you can float over the tropical Sal forests of Bandhavgarh.
During this ride, the rising sun casts its rays upon the mystery and the secrets that this jungle hides. An aerial view of the restricted zones of this national park area is a truly an exclusive experience for nature lovers, and if the odds are in your favour, you might from the air spot one of the Royal Bengal Tigers that calls this jungle home.
Downright cosmopolitan experiences await in Southern Africa, as do forthright safari ones, like time well spent in widlife-rich Kruger National Park. Please do ask our Micato Safari Specialists about any one of these novel experiences.
Stand-up paddleboarding has been a thing for longer than you might realize. Anglers have been fishing from the tops of boards for ages and African warriors piloted them, too, using their spears as paddles.
What has perhaps always been true is that a beginner who pays attention to a few basic instructions about how to stand, crouch, paddle, and overall keep one’s balance can manage to remain standing and enjoy the scenery on their first outing.
And when it comes to scenery, we’d be hard pressed to come up with a more delightfully grand scene than Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, whose two-mile loop of gentle canals are ideal for practicing your ability to paddle and stand at the same time.
A convenient and exceptional place to stay while we arrange your paddleboarding and the multitude of other things to see and do is the One & Only Cape Town, which has long been modern but recently completed a major refurbishment.
Nearly a century ago, Kruger National Park welcomed its first visitors, who rode the rails here and, when night fell, would sleep aboard their train parked on the Selati Bridge, scenically hovering over the Sable River.
With a vigorous nod to this history and the inherent romance of luxury train travel, Kruger Shalati rumbles onto our list and comes to a full stop in the very spot the trains of yesteryear used to park.
Except this is a permanent parking place. With glass walls, the luxe 31 rooms up here on the bridge permit perfect views of the river and the surrounding splendour of Kruger.
If spending the night aboard this fantastical train on a bridge packs appeal, contact one of our delightful Micato Safari Specialists about how to make it part of a Southern Africa safari with us.
You used to need a password to be granted entry to this speakeasy, but nowadays you just need to know that you can access this not-so-secret gin bar by walking through the chocolate shop that fronts it.
If that’s not enough intrigue for you, the building that houses the bar used to be a mortuary, and you can sort of tell from the old-timey tile floors, walls with all manner of exposed brick that almost tell stories on their own, and an impish cocktail menu that includes “quack medicinal remedies” among its more than 100 gins, most of which are proudly made in South Africa.
A visit or two to the Gin Bar can be easily coupled with a sublime meal at Epice, one of our favourite restaurants in the Cape Winelands. And there are several swell bases for exploring town, but the two rise to the top of the Micato Hot List this year: Le Quartier Francais, whose newly-introduced four quarters suites have separate lounges and sleep guests on an ample king bed as well as a double sofa bed for any children lucky enough to accompany you; and Leeu Estates in Franschhoek, which easily pulls off a hospitality trifecta: Sublime, modern suites, vineyards perfect for walking, birding, and picknicking, and a dynamite restaurant, La Petite Colombe.
If you’re going through this Hot List sequentially and you just read about the artistry that is South African gin, we hasten to add that we adore South Africa’s wines, some of which you might find in your local liquor store, but more so we hope you sample them in the fine restaurants where Micato guests dine.
(Not incidentally, on Micato Southern Africa Custom safaris, we pick up the tab for meals in any local restaurant. And at mealtimes, we cover regional wines, beer, and bottled water. Heck, in Southen Africa, spirits are often included, too.)
Now that we’ve mentioned gin, wines, and what we like to call The Micato Differences, let’s move on to South African brandies — which are wines, too — and, which we feel more people should be drinking and celebrating. And our favourite place to do that is Stellenbosch.
Micato can arrange for you to go on a brandy crawl of sorts around town or, if you literally want to be hands on, we can set you up at a place where you can blend your own brandy – eating canapes to fortify yourself, of course – and, if you wish, bottle and label your own personal brandy blend. After which, you can have fun imagining how to answer your dinner party guests back home who ask, “Who makes this sublime brandy?”
Talking about Botswana and not cooing over the Okavango Delta would be like extolling New York City without talking up Central Park. There are so many good ways to safari in this boundlessly beguiling place, and we love them all.
Elephants, leopards, lions, buffalo, giraffe, painted dogs, and rare antelope like eland, roan, and sable. You can see them and multitudes more creatures within the southern reaches of the Selinda Spillway.
You can see them all at Okavango Explorers Camp, the new kid on the Delta, opening in July 2022 under the watchful eye of filmmaking conservationists Beverly and Dereck Joubert, founders of Great Plains Conservation.
You can explore the Okavango Delta by air, land and sea – namely, by helicopter and hot-air balloon, by safari vehicle and foot, and, famously, by mokoro (dugout canoe). Read more about the Okavango Delta and how to see it with Micato Safaris here.
Africa is our homeland but India is Micato’s ancestral homeland. Our roots in India are deep and our love for it is great, as this selection of adventurous and iconic experiences will bear out.
Just as Micato proudly considers India one of its homelands, so does the majestic and elusive Bengal tiger.
A tiger safari could well earn a permanent place on the Micato Hot List, as could our favourite place to find them: Ranthambore National Park in eastern Rajasthan, an area that once served as the hunting grounds of Jaipur’s maharajas. Government-led conservation efforts, begun under the auspices of Project Tiger in 1973, are working to raise tiger numbers, but your chances of seeing a tiger or two are still pretty darn good with a Micato Travel Director by your side. As you motor through the thickly forested park you may also chance upon leopards, hyena, jackals, spotted deer, sloth bears and all manner of birds and reptiles.
As for where to stay while you’re tiger safariing, the lovely and convenient Aman-i-Khas, on Ranthambore’s threshold, easily earns its spot on our list. This ultra-luxurious camp has air-conditioned tents, each with soaring canopies draped in true Mughal style. While not on safari you can indulge in a swim or spa treatment or sit around the fire pit, cocktail in hand, to recount your astonishing sightings at the park.
Imagine waking to the sight of peacocks prancing amongst your 26 lush acres of gardens and to the smell of a made-to-order Maharaja-style grand breakfast, all while you revel in your personal cocoon of luxury known as the Umaid Bhawan Palace. Constructed in the early 20th century, it was once considered to be the largest private residence in the world — it’s currently the world’s sixth largest — the hotel retains the original architecture of the princely age, replete with rich interiors and antique furniture, to bring the heritage of the royal clan of Jodhpur to life. Part of the palace continues to be the principal seat of Jodhpur’s erstwhile royal family, and your part will be the perfect place to enjoy Rajasthani luxury and Indian hospitality. And of course, it’s a swell base from which to explore the Blue City.
An experience like no other awaits – a helicopter flight eastwards to the Everest Region. Fly past some of the world’s highest and most famous peaks, including the one and only Mount Everest. The panorama is breathtaking, with the peaks bathed in the light of the early morning sun. The destination is one of the world’s highest full-service resorts. Ensconced in comfort and overlooking one of nature’s most spectacular sights, we honestly defy anyone who makes this journey not to be wowed.
Exquisite and pristine, Ladakh is some 12000 ft above the Greater Himalayas. Should you join Micato India here, you’ll be dazzled by starkness of the landscapes.
And, you may well be dazzled by a snow leopard or two.
Like its shy cousin, the African leopard, the elusive snow leopard quietly roams Ladakh, through its high valleys and across its cliffs. On your privately-guided expedition you’ll seek out these leopards, along the way ogling gemstone-blue lakes, virgin sand dunes, and snow-capped mountains. As we trek, other characters will put in appearances, including the Tibetan antelope and Tibetan hare, shapo (wild sheep) as well as all manner of birds, so bringing a camera with an above-average zoom lens would not be out of the question.
Experience the journey of a leaf from its growth, plucking, withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting, to the time it is converted into the wonderful and, to many, indispensable concoction we all know as tea.
And where better than to flex newfound tea-blending skills than Darjeeling? Here you can blend your own tea under the expert guidance of the tea connoisseurs at Glenburn Tea Estate. Started by a Scottish tea company in 1859, Glenburn eventually passed into the hands of one of India’s pioneering tea planting families – The Prakashes. Sweet bonus for tea lovers: You can overnight in this fragrant, verdurous tea estate.
Micato has been a Zimbabwe fan for a while. For a quick idea why, have a look at the places we spotlight in our Passage Through Botswana and Zimbabwe safari. But something very new is happening in this country, and we’re happy to tell you about it.
Taking over a vast piece of land to protect its endangered animals is what conservationists do.
Great Plains Conservation did it quite successfully in 2017 when they acquired the 280,000-acre Sapi Reserve, ending nearly seven decades of open season hunting on the creatures who live there.
All that hunting means that Sapi is underpopulated. As it happens, Savé Valley Conservancy, more than 500 miles north of Sapi, is overpopulated.
This gave our friends Dereck and Beverly Joubert at Great Plains an idea:
Move 3,000 creatures, including 400 elephants as well as buffalo, lions, rhino, giraffes, zebra, impala, and multitudes more from Savé to Sapi.
The move, which will happen through 2023 in cooperation with the Zimbabwe Parks Wildlife Management Authority, and with support from donors, will be one of the largest wildlife relocations in history.
And you can have a front row seat, spending time with the relocation team as they guide rhinos into paddocks and very carefully and lovingly shepherd the other aformentioned creatures to the Sapi Reserve, where not incidentally you will be staying: Tembo Plains, a brand-spanking-new Great Plains camp perfectly situated so you won’t miss a moment of this historic wildlife translocation.
If any or all of these experiences pack appeal, a Micato safari specialist can get you there. Contact us in whatever way you like so we can plan your Micato Hot List adventure together.