Since early childhood I have had a strong fascination with Africa.   “Out of Africa” was one of my favorite movies along with any Tarzan or jungle film I could get my hands on.  So I can’t believe this is my first Safari, but so glad we finally booked one.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I can’t say enough about this adventure or the wonderful travel company we used, Micato.  We were lucky to have their best guide, Kennedy, who anticipated our every need, made the entire trip easy, fun, and an adventure!

First some planning tips on clothing, insect repellent, packing…

Clothes, Insect Repellent, Misc. Tips

  • Insect Repellent Clothing
    • Exofficio – great company for BugsAway® apparel with Insect Shield® to protect you against insect bites.  We purchased their shirts, pants, hats and scarfs.
    • Orvis – also carries insect resistant clothes, socks as well as bandannas, which is great protection for your neck.
  • Insect Repellent
    • Buy insect repellent spray and spray whatever clothes you have that aren’t already insect resistant.
    • Pack tons of Deet wipes, 30%, so you can coat any exposed areas.
  • Clothing Colors
    • All clothing should be khaki, olive, tans or browns as other colors have adverse effects on the animals.
    • White increases your viability, bright colors frighten animals, and black and blue attract the Tsetse flies in Tanzania.
    • Camouflage is prohibited.
  • Packing
    • Purchased mesh packing cubes for the trip, as they were recommended by a friend, and I won’t travel anywhere without them.  Made packing and unpacking at the camps so easy.  I packed related items in each (IE:  underwear in one, shirts/tops in another, pants in a third…). 
    • Leave all JEWELRY at home (do not wear your wedding rings or anything else of value).
    • You are limited to a 33-pound luggage restriction, but since laundry service is available at every lodge and camp you can have your clothes washed as often as needed
  • Misc.
    • Individual disinfecting wipes – after you apply Deet or wash your hands in tap water you want to clean your hands before touching your face or eating.
    • Currently – US dollars are accepted everywhere so no need to get any local currency.

The Safari

I interviewed 15 Safari companies, narrowed it down to five, which I then sent to my husband and friend who was joining us.  We independently did our own final research and decided on our top choice.  It was unanimous, we all chose Micato!  And we all chose “The Hemingway Wing Safari“.

We began our adventure in Nairobi, where we were met at the airport by the Micato team, driven to our hotel, Norfolk Fairmont, and greeted the next morning by the founders, Felix and Jane Pinto.  We arrived a day early so over the next two days we had lunch at the home of  Felix and Jane, visited the Giraffe Center and the Baby Elephant Rescue Center, and then off we went on Safari.

This was the first time we traveled with a group (had only done one tour previously in Egypt, but it was a private one).  We chose the small group tour that consisted of 12 people (we were four in our group) and were nervous about who the others would be.  But did we luck out, they were all great – fun, funny, and people we would love to see again (and hopefully we will as we exchanged contact info and already have plans to meet two of them in NYC).

Our group with Kennedy!

The Safari

  • Samburu National Reserve – we flew to Samburu , which is everything I dreamed Africa would be.  Our camp, Larsen’s,  was set in the park on the bank of the Ewaso Nyiro river, and we could watch the elephants walking riverside from our terrace.  The animals could wander in the camp, which included a large bull elephant (below), baboons and tons of monkeys.  Was a bit unsettling when I looked out the mesh window in our tent and saw this big guy walking a foot from me (they call him Obama!).  And that was followed by a very large Baboon staring at me through the mesh front door.  Not to mention the numerous monkeys that jump all over your tent, and if you don’t zip up and lock the zippers, you will have them paying you a visit (seems they love Malaria pills and anything sweet).  One of our friends took an afternoon nap, didn’t fully zip the opening, and woke up to the sounds of a visiting monkey who stole his Vitamin C Packs and fled!   Felt much more comfortable seeing the animals from the safety of our Jeep.  We wanted to see the “Big Five” and the game drives the first two days brought us up close and personal with most of them.

  • The Maasai Mara – in the northern part of the Serengeti is the Maasai Mara with the richest wildlife in Africa.  Our base, the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, was surrounded on three sides by the Mara river – filled with Hippos.  Our drives were in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, a landscape of grassy plains and rolling hills, crossed by the Mara and Talek rivers.  We saw lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, hippos and the very rare white Rhino (they aren’t white, it refers to their square upper lip mouth). We were able to walk though the wilderness to view the two white Rhino’s (this species is nearly extinct, due to rampant poaching for rhino horn, and this male and female are protected round-the-clock by armed guards) and were able to get up close and personal as they are the most social of all rhino species.

The annual migration of wildlife between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya takes place between July and October …and we caught the tail end watching the Wildebeest’s come home.  The area nearby is dotted with villages of Maasai people and some of the most beautiful sunsets you will ever see.

  • The Serengeti – The Elewana Serengeti Migration Camp was our favorite lodging.  Located next to the Grumeti River it is is home to resident hippos that bark and wallow all day and night.  One was right outside our terrace when we woke up – what we initially thought was a rock, then noticed it had ears, and then stood up and began to stroll.  OMG is all I can say.  The hotel is multi-terraced with a small number of luxury tents, wrap-around verandas, and multiple outdoor areas to sip cocktails.  Having drinks on one of them at sunset we saw a baby Serval.  Without thinking we rushed over to get  better look and luckily it quickly ran off (as the mother must have been nearby!)  Cocktails were followed by dinner, which I never imagined could be of this caliber.  All the meals were excellent at the Camps, but this chef was by far the best and we hated leaving the camp and his cooking.

  • The Ngorongoro Crater – We stayed at The Manor at Ngorongoro, which was set in the Ngorongoro Conservation area and looks over the rolling valleys of coffee plantations.  You drive up a long, winding mud track until you finally arrive at the large, impressive, main colonial looking building that is The Manor.   From there we visited the Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands that together form one of Africa’s most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous crater is Ngorongoro, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and home to the highest density of big game in Africa. Ngorongoro is justifiably one of the continent’s most famous safari destinations, and hence the most crowed.  We hardly saw other vehicles at the other parks but here we hit a traffic jam!   We climbed to the crater’s rim, well over 7,000 feet, and then we zoomed back down to the lush and park-like floor for wild game views.
  • Lake Manyara – well known for the tree climbing lions, the soda ash lake and its flamingos.  The lake is in a closed basin with no outflow, fed by underground springs and by several permanent streams and rivers that drain the surrounding Ngorongoro Highlands, but the vast majority of the inflow (over 99%) comes from rainfall. The lake’s depth and the area it covers fluctuates significantly.  In extreme dry periods the surface area of the lake shrinks as the waters evaporate and at times the lake has dried up completely.  These alkaline flats sprout into grasslands, attracting grazing animals, including large herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra.

The Accommodations

The majority of the accommodations were luxury Tent Camps with all the amenities of a hotel but with the feel (and sometime more than just the feel) of being “out in the bush”, the perfect combo.  The only non-tent quarters was the The Manor lodge, where we stayed in one of the 10 cottages, with indoor and outdoor fireplaces and private decks that overlooked the beautiful gardens and expansive views of the estate.

More Great Photos From Chuck!

Local native garb

Samburu, sub-tribe of the Maasai

Denise and Bobby – our wonderful traveling companions!

Salty aren’t we!  Siwezi kusubiri kurudi Afrika…

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