Sometimes Micato Safaris makes a list, in the sense that we make it onto one. Say, the Travel+Leisure list of World’s Best Safari Outfitters, which we’ve made many times… 10 of those times making it to the #1 spot, more than any other travel company in the world.
And, sometimes, we literally make a list, like the one that follows: The Micato Hot List, our annual list of the very best things to see and do in Africa, experiences that wouldn’t be quite the same — and in many cases wouldn’t be possible — unless you have them in Micato’s Africa.
“Choppering through otherwise impassable valleys… rivers of treetops racing by beneath you as Samburu cattle herders smile skyward and wave, conjures an emotional rush difficult to describe, and possible only in Africa,” journalist Alexandra Kirman writes in Fortune.
And we couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re soaring above treetops, exploring the slopes of Mount Kenya or the thundering waters of Victoria Falls, hovering over fantastical flocks of flamingoes that make Lake Bogoria’s blue waters turn pink, or delving into South Africa’s Blyde River Canyon, there is nothing quite like flightseeing in Africa in your own private helicopter.
Not incidentally, Kirkman was on safari with Micato when she made that observation, so we’ll sharpen our point and say there is nothing quite like flightseeing in Micato’s Africa in your own private helicopter.
Micato is one of the first safari outfitters, for instance, to offer unfettered access to the best game viewing in Tanzania by using helicopters to access areas where the wildlife is most plentiful. Micato guests often take off near the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and touch down for game drives wherever animals are most concentrated.
When your private helicopter touches down anywhere in Micato’s Africa, you will be greeted by more than the spectacular scenery. For example, with Micato, you can land in one of the remotest parts of Kenya – inaccessible by roads — and meet members of the Pokot community, who don’t mingle with Westerners all that often. It’s a privilege and by nearly any measure one of the most exclusive travel experiences in the world.
And whether you’ve landed on the side of a mountain or a small private beach, beside one of the Okavango Delta’s beguiling waterways or inside the Zambezi gorge, you can be certain a sublime meal, with flutes of Champagne proffered within a few feet and a few seconds of your landing, will be on hand. And should you wish it, Micato can arrange a private photo shoot to capture this singular day when you saw the vastness of Africa in all of its unforgettable majesty.
How many people have the chance – even for just a day or two — to live the life of a modern-day Indiana Jones in the most exciting archeological setting possible? Not many, which is why fossil hunting with the Leakeys easily earns a spot on the Micato Hot List.
Micato Safaris guests can study fossils during exclusive one-on-one time with the Leakeys, the undisputed first family of paleoanthropology. Micato has a unique connection with the Leakey Family, which enables guests to have an experience at the Turkana Basin unlike any other. On this one-of-a-kind Northern Frontier Expedition, Micato guests see the basin’s storied dig sites and spend time with Louise Leakey and the knowledgeable team there, learning about human history in the place where human history pretty much all began. Micato will fly you by private helicopter, of course, over the Great Rift Valley, seeing many a flamboyance of flamingoes as you glide skyward towards the Turkana Basin.
You can train for a marathon from the confines of your local parks and city streets, but imagine for a second that you’re in paradise. And for the purposes of this example, paradise is the Laikipia Reserve and you’re keeping pace during your run with your newfound friend from the Samburu tribe.
That’s pretty much what you see in the photo above. A Micato guest determined to continue her marathon training while on safari asked us if there was any way she could work out in some of the same lands of the great Kenyan marathoners and we said, of course.
If you want to kick it up yet another notch, Micato Safaris can customize a running safari along the lines of Running with Kenya’s Elite Athletes.
And, if you happen to be enjoying game viewing in the Lewa Conservancy, Micato can also arrange for you to participate in the Lewa Marathon. This is a race for the hearty; the course literally takes runners over the river and through the woods as well as along the savannahs, with the occasional painted dog, hyena, leopard, and lion making appearances to cheer runners on. Guests can do a full- or half-marathon or run shorter parts of the course, and, naturally, entry fees help support worthy conservation initiatives across Kenya. Many of Kenya’s elite runners – some of the very same who dominate the New York City Marathon — compete in the Lewa Marathon, and running this race with Kenya’s Gold Medal winners is as exhilarating as it is unique.
Within Nairobi National Park is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya’s foremost animal orphanage and conservation foundation. David Sheldrick was a leading conservationist and founding warden of Tsavo National Park. The Trust was established in his memory by his wife, Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who steadfastly oversaw the Trust for many years until her passing in 2018. For more than four decades Dame Daphne was a recognized authority on successfully raising, and re-integrating into the wild, infant elephant and rhinoceros orphans.
The orphanage is in every way a magical place, from the earthy smell of mud and its impossibly rich colour to the perfect light in the daytime sky to the sublime quiet – quiet, that is, until our private parade of elephants in many sizes, including several adorable small ones, is summoned by the orphanage’s dedicated, doting handlers. You’ll be entranced, watching the elephants trumpet and bicker and play, and then, if you wish, you can quietly stroll among them, as these gentle creatures are well habituated and welcome your companionship, selfies, and any inclination you may have to affectionately stroke their remarkably tough skin. Our guests relate to us quite often that time flies during this visit, so by all means, relish every second.
A moment of Zen with our elephant friends. Sound on, please.
What makes this experience even more special is when you have elephants all to yourself. Micato can successfully arrange difficult-to-secure private audiences with the elephants.
What was once a vast lake in Botswana two millennia ago is now the vast and seemingly endless Makgadikgadi Pans, which you can boldly traverse by quad bike, racing across 600 square miles of untouched land. Micato guests revel in the wide-open spaces around them, and, no joke, can look to the horizon and see the curvature of the earth.
You can also pilot your own All-Terrain Vehicle across the relentlessly gorgeous Laikipia Plateau in Kenya. Intrepid Micato travellers search the plateau for game, likely not having to look too doggedly: The herds and big cats will nonchalantly go about their business as you go about yours.
We can arrange for ATV adventures in Nambia, too.
If you wish, whether you’re in the middle of the desert or, really, nearly any destination where Micato goes, we can arrange a night in a Star Bed—usually on a raised platform situated in complete safety and seclusion, providing a thrilling open-air experience. Layers upon layers of stars glitter above you while you lie there, admiring the moon and naming the constellations as you slide into your dreams.
We had expected to be awed on safari by the mountain gorillas, but those eyes! We hadn’t anticipated those questioning brown eyes, quietly gazing at us as if seeking a connection. Hiking the misty slopes of Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains, where the late Dian Fossey studied gorilla behavior for nearly 20 years, fulfills its exotic promise. It was inspirational, emotional, and profoundly fulfilling—perhaps the most magical few hours of our lives. – Joy Phelan-Pinto
Joy goes into more detail about her moving encounter and you have possibly heard similarly evocative testimony from others who have spent time with the gorillas, but the most frequent description of the experience you’re likely to hear is, you really have to be there to know. Which sounds a bit smug, but in the case of Rwanda’s gorillas, is absolutely true.
Coming face to face with Silverback Gorillas, close enough to hear each other breathe, is a singular experience. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda – and trust us, this is not hyperbole — is among the most exclusive encounters in the world: Only a dozen habituated gorilla families live in the country’s lush Parc National des Volcans, and no more than eight people may visit any given gorilla family each day.
Even a gorilla on a snack break is riveting in Micato’s Rwanda.
The money Rwanda earns from gorilla treks helps protect and grow the gorilla population and enables the country to pay for classrooms, health centers, housing, and more for the community. As Joy notes, these are the very same rainforests where primatologist Dian Fossey lived with the gorillas and wrote her legendary book Gorillas in the Mist.
Making a Rwanda gorilla trek a Micato Rwanda gorilla trek is that we can make your trek through these lush, gorilla-rich mountains private just for you group. As part of your gorilla immersion, Micato can also arrange private VIP visits to the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossy Gorilla Fund, a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art facility for the study and conservation of our beloved gorillas. During a tour of campus — adjacent to Parc National des Volcans — you’ll see rare artifacts from Fossey’s two decades of communing with the gorillas, some of the quarter million native plants preserved here in the campus grounds – a literal living laboratory – and, on the virtual side, you can partake of augmented reality experiences in the campus’s immersive theater.
Many of us likely know the benefits of having a beach to ourselves, at least for that few minutes before the silence and sandy serenity are shattered by the arrival of, you know, people. That won’t happen on the devastatingly beautiful dunes of Micato’s Africa, at least if we have anything to say about it.
The leisurely pursuit we wish to pair with our beloved dunes is sandboarding. It’s an especially popular pastime in Namibia, where Micato Safari Directors can escort you to scale dunes big and small.
If our dunes appear steep to you, well, sure, they can be.
But it’s all good. Whichever dune you scale with Micato will be exhilirating but, we promise, not too scary. And if you’re wondering whether this is an activity suitable for tweens and teens, well, it certainly is. Children can sand board with ease side by side with their families…
… or just with mom watching.
For those who want to combine a day of sand boarding with cultural immersion, we have a private excursion that might just pack appeal: Part of Africa’s fabled and aptly-named Great Rift Valley, the lesser-known Suguta Valley is one of the remotest, driest, and most beautiful places in Kenya. What we have in mind is that you would touch down here — by helicopter, of course — and then sand board the valley’s giant sand dunes at your leisure. Once you had your fill, Micato would fly you to the hard-to-find singing wells, where Samburu tribesman sing as they source water for their livestock, using buckets – passed hand over head – to haul up water that’s 50-75 feet below the surface. It’s an experience that’s as moving as it is unforgettable and if you’ll forgive our invoking this bromide once more, you really have to be there to know just how moving an experience this is.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years, 18 of them at Robben Island, which was fully decommissioned as a prison in 1996, when it was named a national monument and, in 1999, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re in South Africa, sure, you don’t need Micato to arrange your visit to Robben Island – the prison and its grounds will move you no matter how you get there – but we’re going out on this little “why would we say that?” limb to underscore how strongly we feel that you so do want Micato to arrange this visit.
Here’s why: While the public tour of Robben Island is good, the Micato-arranged private tour is better. Your guide will be a former political prisoner of the island, so you can already begin to imagine how astonishingly authentic and expansive his first-hand tales will be of prison life on the island.
You will see things visitors on the public tour won’t see and you likely won’t encounter the public tour crowds during your private walk, either. Pending availability, Micato guests meet Christo Brand, one of Mandela’s white jailers, and receive a copy of Brand’s book. And when you spend the day the Micato Way, you will traverse the island by cozy private vehicle – group tours travel on enormous buses – exploring the island village and its environs at your own pace.
One benefit of visiting Robben Island privately, without feeling rushed by the most impatient person in any given group, is you get to explore a part of the island experience that really needs to be talked about more, the limestone quarry down the road from the prison. Mandela and his fellow prisoners would be walked there daily, but you’ll be brought to the quarry by vehicle.
What makes this quarry inspirational in a way unlike any other you’ve possibly seen is that Mandela and his fellow political prisoners turned it into a “university,” since it was the only area of the prison where their conversations weren’t continually monitored. The cave is almost considered the birthplace of freedom, since many of the “classes,” where some of the prisoners learned to read and write, were held inside this cave – which also served a bathroom as well as a shelter when it rained.
Mandela and fellow former prisoners returning to the island built a pile of stones as a memorial to their struggle. And so we submit, you will feel the impact of this remarkable story far more forcefully if, when you visit, you can have the entire quarry to yourself for a little while.
Mandela rather famously said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and we can think of no better segue to the most exclusively-Micato entry on this list, the experience of witnessing first-hand the groundbreaking, life-changing, heart-swelling work undertaken every day by AmericaShare, the non-profit foundation of Micato Safaris, and our affiliate, Huru International, of which Micato is a major donor and proud supporter.
While visiting the Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Community Centre in the heart of the Mukuru Slum, Micato guests will visit the libraries and computer labs – funded largely by Micato travellers – and meet the student beneficiaries of our education programmes, which include a School Sponsorship Programme and The Micato One for One Commitment.
Huru International keeps girls in school during their periods by supplying them with reusable sanitary pads, produced in Huru’s Global Heaquarters in Nairobi, using proprietary technology developed by Huru. To date more than 300,000 girls have been the recipients of over 2,100,000 reusable sanitary pads.
As for the experience itself, Micato guests visit Huru Global, which employs more than 100 Kenyans. There you’ll meet the young women from Mukuru who are trained to sew sanitary pads, school uniforms, and, during the height of the pandemic, 100,000 face masks for distribution to the community.
Additionally, the Huru Skills Development Program has trained 300 impoverished young women to use industrial sewing machines, making them highly valuable skilled employees for Kenya’s burgeoning textile industry. This visit is especially meaningful to families with teenagers/young adults who get to interact with young Kenyans.
Another exclusively-Micato experience for our Southern Africa-bound guests is a visit to Red Hill. Micato-AmericaShare’s educational outreach in East Africa inspired them to find a community in South Africa where they could have a lasting impact, and they chose Red Hill, a community south of Cape Town with 1,500 makeshift households. Red Hill doesn’t have much in the way of community services, so AmericaShare established the Red Hill Library and Community Centre.
Red Hill has come a long way from its beginnings as a modest little library. A lab outfitted with computers offers classes to the community, where trained librarians and other dedicated staff offer résumé writing classes and enable community members to apply for jobs. Micato staff also lead literary and numeracy classes to students as well as creative writing workshops, knitting circles, and more.
Micato travellers enjoy seeing all of this activity when they visit Red Hill, and among their favourite activities is reading with the community’s younger children in the welcoming indoor and outdoor meeting places here, especially a new serene outdoor deck.
Watching and photographing safari animals in their natural habitats is naturally a major expectation of any safari goer, regardless of which safari outfitter they travel with. And you shouldn’t believe any safari company that promises you what animals you’ll see, and we’ll stop well short of doing that here.
That said, Micato has highly-credentialed Micato Safari Directors and Driver-Guides who lead our journeys every step of the way and also have a knack for getting our guests to the right place at the right time, or so our travellers say:
Timothy Leperes, our Safari Director, was filled with knowledge and always happy to share. He and the drivers were amazing in their ability to find hidden animals and birds. — Delight Willing
Our safari director, Johnson, was absolutely THE BEST EVER!!! He had a magical way of finding the animals and provided so much background by way of stories and information that we left with not only great memories but also better educated in the culture, lifestyles, animals and so much more. — Rachel Reuter
Our drivers had a sixth sense spotting so many amazing animals and birds. Even our own eyes became sharper. — Pat Tipton
This sixth sense was on display during another safari, according to a guests recently on safari to celebrate their 30-year wedding anniversary. As a special anniversary present, their Micato Safari Director and Driver-Guide managed to whisk the couple to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater just as a mama zebra was giving birth.
And here, as Micato guests watched, the baby zebra stood on its own for the first time.
“Sixth sense” is a turn of phrase our guests use a fair amount – when Micato was voted the #1 World’s Best Safari Outfitter for its aforementioned record-setting 10th time, one voter who travelled with us offered that “Micato seemed to have a sixth sense for anticipating our needs. It was really something.”
If any or all of these experiences pack appeal, a Micato safari specialist will arrange them for you. Contact us or have your travel advisor get in touch so we can plan your Micato Hot List adventure together.