Virtuoso Global January 2019 How will Micato Safaris change your life? Let us count the ways.

How will Micato Safaris change your life? Let us count the ways.

The sight of wild lions never fails to impress.
The sight of wild lions never fails to impress.

A safari in Africa may be one of the most overwhelming types of vacations to plan. That’s because, for many people, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip – which means the pressure is on to make it absolutely perfect. Micato Safaris, a luxury family-owned outfitter that’s been organizing journeys in East and South Africa for the last 50-plus years, more than meets this challenge. Whether they’re planning classic small-group itineraries or fully customized private tours inspired by specific interests like birding or mountain biking, Micato aims for life-changing adventures without the angst. Here’s how they do it.

1. Embrace the power of two.

With so many amazing safari destinations – Botswana! Kenya! South Africa! – the biggest hurdle may be choosing just one. Luckily, Micato Safaris makes it easy for travelers who want more, with four popular East Africa journeys that go to both Kenya and Tanzania. The 15-day Micato Grand Safari, for example, spends six days at three luxury camps in Kenya, including one in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, before visiting two of Tanzania’s most prized game reserves: the Serengeti (home to the great wildebeest migration) and Ngorongoro Crater (an enormous, wildlife-filled caldera where you can spot black rhinos). Micato also makes it possible to take in two separate regions with the 17-day African Splendor trip. It begins in Southern Africa, with two days each exploring Cape Town and Victoria Falls, and ends with East African highlights: Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti, and the Maasai Mara national game reserve, where you’ll meet local villagers.

Lunch at Ol Jogi Ranch in Laikipia, Kenya, is an elegant affair.
Lunch at Ol Jogi Ranch in Laikipia, Kenya, is an elegant affair.

2. Keep things in the family.

Micato Safaris was founded by Felix and Jane Pinto, third-generation Africans whose passion for what they do is abundantly clear – and something those traveling through Nairobi will witness firsthand. That’s because the Pintos meet each and every guest for a meal, be it breakfast at Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel or dinner in their own home. “They understand how special the safari experience is, but they also want to leave each safari-goer with the feeling of warm hospitality,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Susan Ferrell, who divides her time between North Carolina and Florida. In fact, during a lunch at their home, the Pintos surprised Ferrell’s husband, who had just celebrated a birthday, with a cake and singing by the staff. As Ferrell puts it, “They always make sure that each guest feels welcomed.”

A safari director <em>and</em> a driver guide lead every Micato safari in East Africa.
A safari director and a driver guide lead every Micato safari in East Africa.

3. Perk up.

When you’re traveling with Micato Safaris, abundant amenities make for a seamless and worry-free getaway. For starters, everything is included. You won’t have to pay for a single meal or drink (even beer and wine), and on a custom getaway, you can dine at any restaurant you want without receiving a bill at the end. And there’s no tipping, ever, so forget about bringing extra cash and figuring out who to tip. “Micato, more so than any other tour company, allows its clients to truly enjoy their vacations without having to think of anything but the experience itself,” says Virginia-based Virtuoso advisor Rhona Wendler. “You really cannot put a price on the freedom you are given by Micato to 100 percent immerse yourself in the trip.” And on every East African safari, travelers are accompanied by both a safari director and a driver guide. “They take charge, and it’s their responsibility to make sure you’re seeing what you are there for and getting close to the animals,” says New York City-based Virtuoso advisor Andy Pesky.

Ol Jogi Ranch is home to Grevy’s zebras, rhinos, and thousands of giraffes.
Ol Jogi Ranch is home to Grevy’s zebras, rhinos, and thousands of giraffes.

4. Steer clear of the crowds.

When on safari, there’s nothing more disappointing than spotting a wondrous wildlife moment – a lion napping in the shade or a cheetah enjoying some just-caught prey – only to wait in line behind other vehicles for a close-up view. To avoid these crowded situations, Micato sometimes helicopters guests to remote areas with a high density of animals but low numbers of visitors. They also partner with lodges that sit on their own private reserves, allowing for special activities such as walking safaris and dining right in the bush. Ol Jogi Ranch, in Kenya, for example, is located on 58,000 acres exclusively available to guests – along with the 65 rhinos and 5,000 giraffes (among other wildlife) that call it home.

A hot-air balloon floats above a large wildebeest herd.
A hot-air balloon floats above a large wildebeest herd.

5. Go high and low.

Most safaris keep the same schedule: early-morning drives, lunch and rest, evening game drives, sundowners, and dinner. Not so on a Micato safari. Guests have the option to experience the breathtaking natural environment in various ways, including a hot-air balloon ride over the Maasai Mara, which Pesky can vouch for firsthand. “It was sensational from beginning to end,” he says. “It gives you a different perspective of the magnificence of the landscape and how wide open it is.” Ferrell, who has also taken the hot-air balloon ride, can’t stress the importance of these experiential extras enough. “If you are on safari for six days, after a while you’ll want to do something different,” she says. “A walking safari puts you at eye level with animals, while the balloon ride does the opposite. And on a horseback ride, you may end up ‘herding’ giraffes, as I did on my last visit.”

Students are all smiles at the Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Community Centre in Nairobi.
Students are all smiles at the Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Community Centre in Nairobi.

 6. Do good.

Ever since Micato founded its nonprofit arm, Micato-AmericaShare, more than 25 years ago, the company has helped improve the lives of young people in Nairobi’s Mukuru slum by sending a child to boarding school for every safari sold. You can also sponsor individual students – so far Virtuoso travelers have sponsored 172 students – and even visit them at school when in Nairobi, as Pesky did with his grandson. “He said to my wife and me, ‘I now realize how lucky I am,’ ” he remembers. “That in itself made it so worthwhile.”

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