Micato Perfects the Safari

Travel agent safaris in Nairobi and Kenya

By: By Gayle Christensen, Alamo World Travel

Lodge Micato Safari // (c) 2009
Our tented accommodation at
Elephant Bedroom Camp in the Samburu Reserve

As a travel agent steeped in decades of Europe’s castles, cathedrals and cobblestones, I accepted with a mixture of strong curiosity and mild foreboding Micato’s kind invitation to participate in its recent Bespoke Familiarization Safari. Would accommodations be comfortable? Would the safari be strenuous for septuagenarians like us? Would we be successful in seeing wildlife? Would we learn something of Africa’s culture? These and any other concerns were swiftly quieted as we became totally immersed in our journey.

Our trip began and ended in Nairobi, where we were warmly received at the Norfolk, Kenya’s oldest hotel. Chartered planes flew us to three of Kenya’s finest properties for two-night stays. Each property is unique for its setting, its variety of animal and bird life and for its vegetation. A highly experienced safari director accompanied us throughout the trip.

A typical day on safari begins with a 6:30 a.m. game drive. From six-person state-of-the-art safari vehicles equipped with binoculars and ice chest, we observed every manner of wildlife, birds and plants, all ably identified by our knowledgeable driver guide. Returning to camp, a hearty breakfast awaited us. Outdoor lunches also afforded viewing opportunities from the comfort of our campsite. Late afternoon, we made a second game drive, ending with “sundowners” (cocktails) either at camp or in the bush, prior to a several-course delectable dinner.

Every game drive was successful, thanks to the skill and discerning eye of our driver guides and their knowledge of the animals, their habits and habitats. Our proximity to the animals was astounding. We observed quietly, always respectful of their space. We watched in rapt attention as lion cubs devoured a recent kill while the cubs’ mothers slept or watched nearby.

Each of our three safari accommodations offered every amenity. Elephant Bedroom Camp, located in the Samburu Reserve, was a well-appointed tent property. Each tent comprised a bedroom, dressing room, shower and toilet. From its terrace overlooking the Brown River, we observed herds of elephant. Here, game drives revealed baboon, oryx, dik-dik, impala, giraffe, Cape buffalo, lion and crocodile as well as a myriad of birdlife. At night we heard mysterious jungle noises.

Our second property, Loisaba Lodge, was dramatically situated on the Laikipia Plateau. Each room had a private deck overlooking the plains that stretch to Mount Kenya. Its 62,000 acres housed a wide variety of wildlife. Game drives produced giraffe, elephant and Grevy zebra. On an early morning bush walk, our guide identified animal tracks, bird sounds and curious plants. Loisaba Lodge had a pool, tennis court and can arrange such activities as horseback riding, rafting and ballooning.

Maasai Mara National Reserve // (c) 2009
Lion viewed during game drive in
Maasai Mara National Reserve

Our last stay was at the Mara Safari Club, located in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The Maasai Mara, home to lion, elephant, zebra, hippo, cheetah, leopard and rhino, is among the world’s richest wildlife reserves. This property of luxurious tented accommodations offers every amenity. Here, several members of our group enjoyed hot-air ballooning, arranged by the hotel. We all visited the nearby Maasai tribal village, a rich cultural experience.

There are other pluses to a Micato safari. All departures are guaranteed. All programs are fully escorted. All meals and transfers are included, as are gratuities except those to drivers and safari director. Prior to travel, we received an extensive reading list, a packing list, safari bags, hats and flashlights.

In 2008, about 20 percent of Micato guests were repeat travelers. A Micato safari will appeal to birdwatchers, photographers and botanists — anyone with an appreciation and love of nature. Not surprisingly, Travel + Leisure magazine has named Micato “Best Tour Operator in the World” for the past six years. Yet, not content to rest on its laurels, Micato has added for 2009 Bespoke Adventures, customized upscale programs which will include a private plane adventure, corporate jetting across Africa on a private plane, trekking Mount Kilimanjaro and a wedding safari.

Felix and Jane Pinto founded Micato 40 years ago. The Pintos live in Nairobi and continue to be deeply involved in managing Micato. Their legacy is their pet project, America Share, which is dedicated to aiding Kenyan women and children. Our fam group visited America Share in Nairobi and was touched by the difference this program has made.

General information for travel agents: a visa is required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kenya. This can be obtained on arrival at rate of $50. United States currency in small denominations and credit cards, particularly Visa, are widely accepted. No shots are required at this time, but malaria pills are recommended.

www.micato.com

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