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One of the ultimate trips a traveler can take is an African safari. So many people, from an early age, dream of going on one, often inspired by movies (like Born Free and ahem, Lion King) or books (like Out of Africa). Safaris are not cheap and some people save for years to make it happen. A trip to Africa is not a trip to New York City so I highly doubt you’ll just jump online, do a quick search and book. There’s lots of planning involved so who are you going to call once you have all that money set aside? Who do you trust to help you co-ordinate the journey of a lifetime? Well, after my wife and I traveled to East Africa last week with Micato Safaris, I can confidently say that you should be calling them (Tel: 212-545-7111).

If you happened to be following along with our travels in real-time via my Facebook page and/or our Twitter feeds (here’s Natalie’s) then you know we had an amazing and truly unforgettable experience. FYI: Our trip was sponsored but their prices begin at $7,500 per person for a 10-day safari.

Below are 12 reasons why you would want to choose Micato Safaris for your next African safari.

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1. Awards
Yes, sometimes magazine awards can be nothing but fluff since some companies hire good PR firms with connections. But it’s not trivial when a company wins year after year and is recognized by not just one of the top magazines, but all. As you will see written on Micato’s safari jeeps and the pins their guides wear, they have been voted the #1 World’s Best Safari Outfitter by Travel+Leisure for a record nine times. They also have four Condé Nast Traveler’s World Saver Awards and they’ve won three different best categories from National Geographic Traveler: Best Outfitters on Earth, 50 Tours of A Lifetime, and 10 Guides Who Make the Trip. Now that’s impressive. But do keep reading since I haven’t even gotten to the real reasons you should choose Micato Safaris for your next African safari.

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2. It’s a family business
Micato Safaris was started by Felix and Jane Pinto in 1966. The happy couple is from Kenya, they have been married for 58 years and they have lots of love for their homeland, which is apparent to anyone who meets them. You will no doubt witness this firsthand because every Micato trip includes a lunch or dinner at the Pinto’s private home, usually the first day you arrive in Nairobi. Unfortunately, Natalie and I arrived a day late (she was working and I was attending the naming ceremony of the Royal Princess with the Duchess of Cambridge). But Felix and Jane came out to the domestic airport to meet us when we were transferring to Tanzania. These days, their son Dennis, along with his wife and sister, run the company


3. Pre-trip goodies
I don’t want to ruin the surprises for you but a Micato safari begins way before you even leave for Africa. Leading up to our safari we received four packages — everything from pre-tour documents (including step-by-step instructions on how to get your visas, what shots you need and a packing list) to suggested safari gear. There were also some gifts to amp up our excitement; they’ve definitely turned building anticipation into an art form.

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4. Guaranteed departures
Some companies will cancel a trip if not enough people sign up. Not Micato. I was told they have never canceled a trip. If you sign up for a published trip then you are going, even if no one else does. Every departure is 100% guaranteed, even if it’s just you and your loved ones.

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5. They don’t sub-contract out
What’s nice about Micato is that all of their staff actually work for the company, unlike many tour operators (especially safari companies), who merely act as booking agents and turn over the actual operations to local companies to handle the tours. You won’t find any vehicles with Micato magnet logos that can be quickly replaced with another tour company because they own all of Micato’s safari vehicles. Their logos are painted on and they have 300 employees who work for them and no one else.

6. Micato hires locals
One of the biggest assets Micato has is their local employees. They invest in the country so their employees are highly trained locals who speak multiple languages, are expert safari guides, trackers, drivers, and tour leaders.


7. Knowledgeable safari directors
Micato was the first company to have a highly credentialed safari director to accompany every East African safari. They pick you up at the airport and are with you every step of the way until they drop you off at the airport for your journey home. Even if you’re going to multiple countries or visiting national parks that require use of their own guides or rangers, Micato directors still go along for the ride. Our guide was named Philip and I could not stump him on anything. I asked him questions about every kind of animal and their habits, the trees, plants, you name it. He knew it all and then some. I noticed that everyone knew him in Kenya and Tanzania and I think part of that might be because of the little things he did for them … like bring them the unopened in-flight meals so they didn’t have to buy lunch. He’s a great guy!

8. No tipping required
There’s no tipping on a Micato safari — from beginning to end. All gratuities are included, from porters to waiters. That right there saves you an additional $600-$800.

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9. First rate lodges
According to Larry Olmsted from Forbes.com, “Micato has a longstanding relationship with the top luxury lodges. They also have a unique product called the ‘Bespoke Collection,’ accommodations consisting of private ranches, family homesteads, and country estates throughout Kenya and Tanzania, many within private game reserves, to which Micato guests have exclusive access. Like many special touches Micato offers, this is only possible because of the Pinto’s deep roots and friendships in the African community. And from a strictly business perspective, ultra-luxe safari lodges like Singita, Royal Malewane, Londolozi, Ulusaba, and Xaranna are far more likely to offer flexibility and upgrades to a company that does a large volume of business with them year in and year out.”

On our trip, we stayed in four different lodges and hotels. We stayed at Hemingway’s in Nairobi the first and last night of our trip. Then Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara followed by Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri Kenya Safari Camp (we were the first guests to stay there) and the new Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania (stay tuned for more on this but for now, here’s my post on our incredible hot air balloon safari.)

10. They have lots of customers, including celebrities
Micato serves 5,000 to 7,000 customers a year, which says a lot right there. But you might also be impressed to learn that when many of Hollywood’s celebrities or Washington’s politicians want to go on an African safari, they choose Micato. They won’t disclose any names but after doing a quick Google search, I learned that Will Smith, President George W. Bush and family, Natalie Portman, and others have all done Micato safaris.

11. Micato’s 24-hour concierge team
Want a security blanket? Micato has concierges available 24/7 in Nairobi, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Arusha. They are able to meet last minute, unexpected, and unusual requests. It also helps that they are on a first name basis with the best bush pilots, hot air balloon owners, naturalists, scientists and so on. When Natalie and I landed in Nairobi, we were greeted by one of their concierges the moment we stepped off the plane. She took our passports and escorted us past the line to baggage claim while she dealt with our entry stamps. That takes pull.


12. 1 for 1 program
Of course, I saved the best for last. Micato’s non-profit arm AmericaShare has been around for 25 years. For every safari they sell, Micato pays all the expenses to send a child to school for 12 years. Yes, public schools in Kenya are free but children from the slums don’t go because they can’t afford the uniforms, books and other expenses. They also have other programs, which every safari guest to Nairobi will see firsthand.

Good to know:

  • 50% of Micato’s tours are bespoke.
  • April and the first part of May is the rainy and low season, making it the cheapest time to go.
    June to October is the dry and high season in East Africa and the best time to view game.
  • Once you get to Nairobi, Micato organizes everything else including three to six flights, which eliminates twenty hours of driving. They are referred to as “winged safaris.”

Below are some of the images from our safari but there are plenty more in these stories:

Have you been on a Micato safari? Do you agree or disagree with my 12 reasons you should choose Micato for your next African safari?

WANT TO GO? If you’re interested in planning a trip like this or exploring other high-end vacation options, please contact my travel agent partner, Royal Travel & Tours by contacting Kendra Thornton at kthornton AT royal-travel.com or call 800-747-7695 ext. 108.

Richard Branson's Mahali Mzuri Kenya Safari Camp 2013. Credit: Johnny Jet
Richard Branson's Mahali Mzuri Kenya Safari Camp 2013. Credit: Johnny Jet


14 Comments On "12 Reasons to Choose Micato Safaris for Your Next African Safari"
  1. Katherine Belarmino - Travel the World|

    I long to go on an African safari. I have bookmarked this company for future reference. I love that they are family owned, and the 1 for 1 program is fantastic. It looks like you and your wife had a beautiful trip. Maybe for my 40th birthday…

  2. Anonymous|

    My husband and I looked for a safari company about 1.5 years ago. All that I read about Micato sounded great. We took our safari in June, 2012. The survey given to us at the end of our trip asked if the safari met our expectations. We said “no.” It far exceeded our expectations. We found out that Micato also does custom India trips. We made the decision to use them. We did not even look at other companies. My husband died in October. I still plan to make that trip to India and I am using Micato.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband but happy to learn you are still traveling.

      1. Jackie|

        Just wanted to let you know that your kind response went to the wrong person. I didn’t make that post.

  3. Jackie|

    Love reading about your adventure and seeing the photos. However, paying $15,000/day is above the budget of most. We spend $2,000/day for luxury cruising but cannot imagine what would be worth the additional $13,000/day. Happy that you and your lovely wife were able to have this experience.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Jackie,

      It didn’t cost $15,000 a day for two. Their safaris begin at $7,500 for 10days.

      1. Jackie|

        Oh, I misunderstood. $7,500 per person for 10 days is much better:-)

  4. Grace Parent|

    We went on the Micato Tanzanian Spectacular Safari in January 2014. Everything was fabulous except the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. It was not up to the 5 star standard that Micato claims. The entire experience was mediocre and the rooms were unbearably hot with windows that did not open and no air conditioning!

  5. victor|

    There are so many tour companies in Kenya but micato comes on Top. They don’t sub-contract the Safari which many tour companies do. I would recommend micato anytime. Kudos John for the extensive and well-informed review!

  6. TravelTurner|

    Seems pretty high for a safari in Kenya. In Tanzania, you can get high quality first class safaris for about 2200 per person for the same period. And park fees are double and sometimes triple that of Kenya including the operating costs are higher.

  7. Sandra|

    My husband and I took Micato to Tanzania and Kenya 20 years ago. They were fantastic. They even made sure that people arriving early and leaving late were cared for. Nice to see that you still go to the Pinto’s home. We are considering taking extended family on safari with the in the future.

    1. SadSafari|

      The following is my opinion and based on my experience with Micato. The wildlife in Tanzania far surpasses what you will see in Kenya. Avoid Nairobi at all costs, the city is dangerous and filthy.

      I recently returned from The Stanley Wing Safari by Micato on June 14, 2015. What a waste of money! I wouldn’t take another trip with them if they offered me one for free. I spent 3 times more for this vacation than I ever have in the past and it was miserable. The Sopa Lodges are a joke. I’ve had beef jerky that was more tender than their steaks.

      Highlights: The guides and drivers were wonderful, but I will never understand the rave reviews regarding this company. The price is outrageous for what you receive. Coming home was the highlight of my vacation.

      Advice: I would not recommend Micato. Lodging was mediocre at best. Cost for vacation: $11,935 for the safari as a solo traveler, $1,950 for internal airfare, $535 for the extra night at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, $1,009 for travel insurance, $470.02 for visas (a company they recommended), $100 for the required yellow fever vaccine and $3,056 for international airfare for a grand total of $19,055.02. If I had waited a couple of weeks to travel, the price for single occupancy would have increased from $11,935 to $14,835.

  8. Fletcher magers|

    As far as toiletries go, there’s not much I’d change from my usual packing habits. I usually bring a bar of soap instead of shower gel (can be used to hand wash dusty clothes) and a Diva cup to avoid buying pricey tampons abroad — but neither of those are for everyone.

  9. DS|

    Here’s my review: Don’t Use Micato for a Bespoke Safari

    Here’s the thing about Micato: they will say anything to you, including by lying to you in writing, in order to get you to sign up with them.

    My wife and I, along with her parents, went on a 10 day bespoke safari to Tanzania and Kenya. Two of us are very active, so the only reason we chose the bespoke option, which costs more, was so that we could do some walking during our safari. We said this to our liaison, Meg Buffkin, several times. After she heard our demands, she said in writing that our trip would include walks during our safari. Here’s the thing – when we showed up in Nairobi, Micato pretended they had never heard these demands, and they had no plans to take us on any walking safaris.

    Importantly, that lie is just one of many that Meg told us. She told us that upon arrival in Nairobi we would have a driver at our disposal to go wherever we wanted. My wife had been to Nairobi previously, so she knew appropriate shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Instead, Micato held us captive for the first day, demanding they take us where they wanted, which included a terrible restaurant that was essentially inedible. Micato also refused to let us go on a hike in Nairobi until we figured out a hike for ourselves that was totally safe. Still, MIcato tailed us back to our hotel without letting us walk by ourselves around the very safe suburb of Karen.

    Then, after hearing some of our wrath, our wonderful Micato guide, Tim, figured out a couple of small walking options during our safari. After we stayed at a lodge in Tanzania, a local worker took us on a stroll through her in town. When we got back to Kenya, Tim figured out a way to get us to walk for about two hours in a faraway corner of the Mara. These were hardly what Meg had promised us initially, and hardly satisfying during an otherwise completely sedentary 10 days, but Tim did a nice job of trying to accommodate our requests.

    My wife also explained to Meg that we do not believe in tourism that objectifies cultures. Unsurprisingly, Meg ignored this demand and put a tour of a Masai village on our itinerary. Some folks like the awkward objectification of the Masasi culture, but we do not. That didn’t stop Micato from trying to force us on their itinerary despite claiming the bespoke option lets us do the planning.

    To be sure, Micato is great at spotting wildlife, providing you with luxury lodging, and serving excellent food. But here’s the thing, any number of other companies can provide that same service. Micato prides itself on the “Micato difference,” but in our case, the Micato difference turned out to be based entirely on lies and failed promises.

    Choose Micato at your peril

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