Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas in my heart, as is Africa

I can't believe it's been a year since my last post. I guess that comes with the territory. But I wanted to share something we've done for Christmas.

We had been discussing the holidays a while ago, and thinking maybe rather than traditional gifting to each other, we'd like to do something different. Mom came across an idea - to gift a goat. Through some research (thank you, Alton Brown), we discovered Heifer International, an organization dedicated to ending world hunger through some amazing sustainable methods (like local community involvement, gift animals that can "pass along" to others through offspring, etc.). More research confirmed that this is an outstanding organization (shout out to my friends who helped - you know who you are!).

My correspondence with Heifer was wonderful. A particularly helpful gentleman, Tom, guided us through the process. In short order, we had made our pledge to sponsor the cost of two dairy goats, one for a project in Kenya, and the other in Tanzania (obviously we're drawn to these locations, but there is a need for so much throughout the continent). We just received the gift cards and notes in the mail, and they are awesome. We are so excited to share with friends and loved ones how we are helping a community through a gift that absolutely will keep on giving!

And of course, I think we've made some more friends. I explained to Tom how, particularly at Christmas, are hearts and minds travel back to the Micato safari experience, and how life-changing it was. Mom is drawn to it as much as Betsy and I are, even though she shared the experience not first-hand, but through our stories, pictures, and shared emotions (I've said before, she was with us every day, truly).

Tom was so excited to hear this, he quickly read through my blog and shared it with everyone at at Heifer. And perhaps we'll meet in passing through Serengeti some day, who knows?

So, on this Christmas season, may I recommend anyone looking for something different, check out Heifer International - you can't go wrong. And as always, when you feel the pull of Africa, go with Micato. They remain family to this day, and will be family always.

At Christmas, I find myself thinking what it would be like to wake up that morning to the sounds of the wild - maybe the hippos returning from their nocturnal adventures, or even a hyrax (!) offering an early greeting. I can imagine it, seeing the sun rise off the horizon, the reds and blues and pinks spreading over the grasses, the wind blowing through the trees. Then I realize I can be there every morning, and often I do find myself thinking back at what those mornings were like. I know Mom can close her eyes and she is back in Alaska. I do that, too. When I close my eyes I can see Kilimanjaro as bright and clear as if I were in Amboseli right now. Four years later (?!), it still moves me. I know it was a powersful experience, simply b/c I can't talk about it without getting emotional. It's the only thing that's ever done that to me.

So this Christmas morning, I will take a moment, close my eyes, see Kili, and say thank you, God, for bestowing such a blessing on me, and on us. I thank you for your gifts, and I pray that I can share with others in 2012, and beyond.

And may the spirit of Christmas be with each and every person, (and goat, and leopard, and elle), from North America, to Africa and beyond. Peace be with you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another Accolade for Micato Safaris

Turns out Micato won two Conde Nast Traveler Awards, this time for philanthropy via the AmericaShare program.

I know Betsy and I seriously considered participating while we were there, but I just wasn't sure at the time of booking the tour. Looking back now, I have no doubt we will be more active on that front, and I suspect we will take the tour on Saturday afternoon before the return flight. Several of our mates went, and they all loved it.

You know, there are a few things I keep coming back to when thinking about our trip. One, the elephant population in Tarangire. I remember Renny told us that overpopulation continues to be a problem - that the foliage cannot keep up with the growth of the herds, and there is always discussion about culling measures. How do you go about doing that? And how do you handle the backlash? There would surely be backlash.

The most recent matter involves the creation of a highway cutting through the Serengeti. You have to read this.

Wow. So many thoughts. First, is this really the best choice of route? The article suggests an alternate is available, though I'm sure there is a particular reason for the northern selection. Second, what does this do to the Mara? Again the article comments on this - as I'm sure the Kenyan authorities will.

Then I start thinking that perhaps the highway isn't needed. But I'm here in the States, where we have the infrastructure to support an economy. Who am I to say what the people of Tanzania should do with their land?

But aren't we in a global society? Isn't there a bigger obligation? And how do you balance the competing interests, anyway? These aren't easy questions to answer.

But it does raise one very important question for me - when am I going back? Soon, I hope....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Was there ever any doubt?

World's Best 2010.


That makes seven out of eight. But for a difference of 0.18 points, this would be eight in a row.

And why did they win, again? Dennis said it best:

"...we care, personally and deeply...We strive to make our safaris exceed our guests' wildest expectations."

Well done Jane, Felix, Dennis, and the entire Micato family!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Micato Trip to India...Eventually

I've thought about making the trip to India someday, though I think I'd much rather return to Africa first. However, it's always fun to read trip reports, like this one. I don't know anything about this media group, but it's a good read.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thinking About Africa Again

So in September, it will have been three years since our life-changing experience with Micato. The Stanley Wing Safari has to be the best choice for a total East Africa experience.

I wonder how much African travel is picking up this year? Are we seeing an increase in advance reservations for the fall? I know domestic (US) travel is looking a bit better for summer and fall 2010. Resort destinations are preparing for anticipated upticks in volume of travelers. (Though an interesting case of supply exceeding demand has led some car rental outfits in Florida to offer $3/day one-way rentals, provided the car is driven out of the state.)

Anyway, I still encourage people to look at African safaris as an exotic, yet perfectly doable, travel experience. Where else will you get pictures like that?

And when would you ever still think about the folks you traveled with, three years later? I remember what B said, that after three years she was itching and ready to go back. I see what she meant.

And we still think about the local friends we made - the Micato family. They made us feel so very welcome, like we are now part of their extended family. I doubt highly you could get that anywhere else.

Someone asked me the other day if I were ever going to finish my trip report. It appears I stopped at Thursday the 20th, at Mt. Kenya. I just looked in my written journal, and sure enough, that's where I stopped writing. Now I know why - I didn't want the trip to end. But for the sake of completeness --

Friday, the 21st of September 2007 - a day at Mt. Kenya and the surrounding area. Today we made several different stops. We visited the Ol Pejeta reserve, where we saw several protected rhinos. We also went to the Jane Goodall sanctuary for orphaned chimps. These were both very cool stops, and again, a very well-done transition out of the bush. Honestly, after three years my strongest memories are of the times in the wild, seeing the lions and leopards, and dining with our extended family. Truly, the meals were some of the best times - discussing everything we saw that day, trying new foods, sampling the local wines. I so look forward to doing that again.

On Saturday the 22nd, we took our flight back to Nairobi. This was followed by lunch at Carnivore, a "meat-on-a-stick" location, as a friend of mine likes to call it. I thoroughly enjoyed the ostrich, by the way. Of course, the highlight was having Jane Pinto join us. I know she doesn't always get to meet up with the safaris on the way home, so this was special - maybe she knew we were a unique group (or maybe Alfred and Renny told her how awesome we were!) Betsy remembers the meal fondly, b/c she sat next to her for the meal, and had some great conversations throughout. It was wonderful seeing her on Saturday, to say goodbye. I promised her we'd be back someday. A promise I intend to keep.

After the meal we returned to the Fairmont, where our day room was available. Some folks made the trip to one of the orphanages as part of the AmericaShare experience. We passed on this, but for sure we will go next time.

So anyway, Betsy and I relaxed back in the room until it was time for dinner. I don't know exactly what Betsy did for those few hours, but I laid in bed and cried. I don't know why, probably an emotional release from realizing a dream come true. Also probably a cry coming from a part of me that hadn't awakened for many years - that part of you as a child, visiting someplace awesome and being so sad when it was time to go. Wow - I didn't expect that to happen.

We gathered back in the lobby that evening, bags packed and ready (figuratively, at least) to go home. We said goodbye to those in our group heading off to the Zanzibar excursion. The rest of us loaded up the bus and went to dinner. Our meal that night was fantastic, of course I can't remember where we ate. But it was a wonderful evening, several toasts were offered, information exchanged, and promises shared. We left in two different groups, depending on the airlines. Alfred escorted us out to the van, where we again exchanged thank yous, and hugs, and promises to return. He is a good, honorable man, and an excellent safari host. I hope he is doing well.

I was freaking out about trying to navigate the airport, and it certainly looks daunting. Unfortunately, Micato cannot escort us past the checkin counter, so we really were on our own, the four of us. (Betsy and I had the same flight as B and M, and actually had seats next to each other - not sure if Micato had something to do with that.) But getting through security and whatnot wasn't as bad as I thought. The hardest part for me was just getting through the wait until it was time to board the plane. In fact, I think I'll just stop there - nothing really to add.

So, when exactly do we go back? I just don't know. I would like to see the seven summits, even though climbing them will probably be limited to just Kilimanjaro (eventually). Looks like Fuji isn't on the list, but seeing it will be pretty awesome anyway. And I'm sure to have several blog postings at that point.

So hear's to Africa, our friends and family, and all of God's creation. May grace and comfort lay upon your foundation, and may all who travel the world come to know your beauty.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The next great adventure!

Japan, here we come.....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pride on Kopjes - Serengeti NP

OK, here's my first attempt at uploading video. Just a few minutes of the pride we met in the Serengeti, resting atop a kopje. I guess it would have been on Sunday afternoon. We probably spent at least 20 minutes there, (which was OK b/c it wasn't crowded, otherwise you have to move on). These lions are beautiful! I hope you all enjoy it.