“Peaceful” isn’t the word that comes first to my mind to describe coming within 18 inches of a leopard while bouncing down a ravine in a Jeep, but if you ask Michelle Holmes to describe her recent African safari, “peaceful” is the word she uses most often to describe the experience.
Holmes, Manager of Loyalty & Leisure at Travel and Transport, recently took a two week Micato safari to Kenya and Tanzania. With local, knowledgeable guides, Holmes traveled by plane, hot air balloon and truck to visit Aboseli National Park, Samburu National Reserve, Massai Mara National Reserve and Serengeti National Park. Each stop brought its own character—new ecosystems, new animals, new campsites and new adventures.
Each overnight site has its own character, from magnificent gardens at the Hemingway Nairobi to the unparalleled views of Larsens Camp in Samburu. The safari party got up close and personal with dozens of different species. Holmes laughs as she remembers resting outside while watching the animals drink at a nearby river, only to wake as her husband shooed away the baboon that had wandered over to her chair for a visit.
Within each reserve, the truck drivers communicate over two-way radios to find the best animals. The experience is highly personalized, as the drivers focus on finding animals that safari-goers haven’t yet encountered. Hearing about a nearby pride of lions, including some cubs—a slightly more difficult item to cross off the safari bingo card—Holmes’ truck raced to the scene only to find fifteen trucks already there. Luckily, the mother lion didn’t seem disturbed by the attention, the appearance of safari trucks being an everyday occurrence in her life.
Holmes, however, rarely felt the presence of other safari parties. Partly due to her decision to travel in the low season, the lack of other tourists led Holmes to develop a heightened sense of the vastness of Africa.
Despite all the wonderful animals—the rare Rothschild giraffes, forgetful warthogs, wildebeests, red dust-covered elephants, grinning hyenas, Cape buffalo, baby lions and more—Holmes says her experience on safari was “all about the people and the culture.” Micato Safari profits benefit local communities. Safari-goers have the wonderful opportunity to participate in this giving-back first-hand by visiting a Massai village, schools and community centers.
Among her remarkable experiences, Holmes and her safari visited a Micato-built community center in a crowded, run-down and impoverished area of Nairobi. Browsing the books of the community library, Holmes came across a compilation of inspirational images and messages from people all over the world. Leafing through the book, she realized that the images were familiar. Four years prior, at a conference of travel and leisure specialists, Holmes drew a rainbow, accompanied with an inspirational message at a session. She knew her picture and words were going to Africa, but she had no idea that, in a community center in Nairobi, she would open the book to the rainbow she’d drawn years ago.
Holmes praised the Micato employees at every location. From locals hired to use their sling shots to keep monkeys from stealing their food to the knowledgeable guides, she felt their experience only enhanced hers. After asking if he ever got tired of doing the same safari, one guide said, “No, we see it different every time because we see it through the eyes of our clients. We see their sense of awe.”
After exploring four preserves Holmes maintained her sense of awe at the grandeur of African nature. She’s planning her return already, saying, “You can leave Africa, but you can’t get Africa out of you.”
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