A&K vs Micato....opinions?

Jan 10th, 2007, 08:50 AM
  #1  
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A&K vs Micato....opinions?

Hi everyone and thanks for the past help....we decided to postpone our trip as the weather is not great this year ( el nino) particularly where we were going ( north kenya - lots of flooding) soooooooo, back to planning a bit more.
Has anyone out there used A&K? Micato? Strengths /weaknesses/advice would be SO appreciated as this is my first trip.

molly
mollymich is offline  
Jan 10th, 2007, 10:57 AM
  #2  
sandi
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Where in "north" Kenya.

And flooding now, doesn't mean flooding in a few months. For all you know the balance of the year may provide drought. Also, no one knows what next year will bring.

Rain this late is unusual, but there are times out of the usual "wet" seasons that are good for travel. Just try to avoid Nov-Dec and Apr-May. But know that this past 2006 "dry" season had some rainy days in August.

There are many threads regarding Micato that some have used with success. Not many postings about A&K. But you will find threads recommending other outfitters that can provide the same, if not better, itineraries as private (vs group tours) at more competitive pricing.


Search this board by inputting "Kenya Tour Operators" and these threads will appear in the left column to read through.
 
Jan 10th, 2007, 10:08 PM
  #4  
 
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As anyone on this forum knows & will attest to, I LOVED our Micato trip. I haven't been on an A&K trip, but safarimama on this board has - maybe she can chime in after me.

I loved the flights in bewteen the camps, I loved the size of the group (they close them at 18 usually, some even less); I loved the concierge that they had with us 24/7 to solve any little, or big if needed, problems. I loved the lodges they used, (we were on the Stanley Wing, not the Grand whcih is more luxurious), and I loved the program in general. I guess in general I like structured stuff, I have never really been a 'lets wing-it' or 'last minute' kind of person, so this kind of trip was good for us. Actually, the ending paragraph to my trip report with them says it all:

"And, I am sure no conclusion is necessary as to whether or not I would go with Micato again – YES, in a heartbeat! Although I know a group trip is not for everyone, for those that do like group trips, I highly doubt few companies can deliver the same kind of consistent quality that Micato does. To me, it was a first class operation; they delivered, with a special delivery stamp, everything that their incredible brochure said they would – and more. A few surprises, of the nice kind, not mentioned in their brochure; and no surprises; of the nasty kind, that no one likes. It is a first rate operation, their staff was incredible, their drivers were very knowledgeable, their vehicles were clean, comfortable, reliable, roomy and well-stocked, and the logistics worked as smooth as ice. And had anything not gone as we expected, we knew they would be right there fixing the problem. For this we do not mind paying a little extra.
And it is really true what Travel & Leisure says – “they treat everyone like out of town guests”. They really do."

If you would like to read the whole trip report (be prepared, it's long) it's at:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34822022

Or, if I can answer any questions at all, please just post them here!

LyndaS is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 12:58 AM
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My tour operator from Emeco, an very large & well respected Egyptian Travel Agency (in additional to additional travelers, it takes care of international conventions & incentive travel and employee reward travel dreamed of working for A&K.

My parents went on a number of A&K trips (not to Egypt) and always was satisfied. They were never satisfied with anything.

My sister who takes one or two international trips lasting 3 to 6 weeks for pleasure to all sorts of places -- some on individual tours& some as solo travelrs -- took a couple with my parents on A&K and thought that, for a group tour, it was excellent.

So I think you can't go wrong with them. Sandi notes that there are other places that cost less, however, I wonder if you are losing some of the A&K perks when you pay less and go with another tour company...
sunshine007 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 12:59 AM
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My tour operator from Emeco, an very large & well respected Egyptian Travel Agency (in additional to additional travelers, it takes care of international conventions & incentive travel and employee reward travel dreamed of working for A&K.

My parents went on a number of A&K trips and always was satisfied. They were never satisfied with anything.

My sister who takes one or two international trips lasting 3 to 6 weeks for pleasure to all sorts of places -- some on individual tours& some as solo travelrs -- took a couple with my parents on A&K and thought that, for a group tour, it was excellent.

So I think you can't go wrong with them. Sandi notes that there are other places that cost less, however, I wonder if you are losing some of the A&K perks when you pay less and go with another tour company...

sunshine007 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 07:38 AM
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Like LyndaS said, I've been with A&K in Kenya. They do an excellent job, so you can't go wrong using a reputable company like either A&K or Micato. The advantage is the experience of the guides and the vehicles they use and how many people they stuff inside. Obviously, you pay less per seat in a stuffy old secondhand minibus stuffed with people than in a 6 person new Land Rover with only 4 people. Duh! What else in included with the package such as water? These companies seem more expensive upfront and they are, but consider what you are getting. You pay for your escort in addition to your driver with A&K and Micato. Is this a flying or driving safari? Is this a group or individual safari? For a fly-in safari, you can book the same camps with any company as you will be using the local guides and vehicles at each camp. Both companies do fly-in safaris and you pay for the escort to come with you. When you do your own fly-in safari, you don't have the escort, but you're always met and taken care of everywhere by a local driver guide. What kind of safari are you looking to book?
safarimama is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Let's try that first paragraph of my post again. It should have read:

My tour operator from Emeco, a very large & well respected Egyptian Travel Agency, dreamed of working for A&K.

Sorry.
sunshine007 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 06:48 PM
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Since I've been lurking around this most excellent forum for over a year now ,I thought I should log in and post a reply.Last Feb.2006,to celebrate our 25th anniversary,my wife and I travelled to Tanzania through A&K on their Wings Over Tanzania safari.This trip was absolutely spectacular in every way,and for a first time visit,if money is not an issue,A&K,would be a valid choice.We ended up with only six of us on safari,we all hit it off famously,and had our own tour director-a wonderful Masai gentleman who was a former Olympic runner and retired cheif ranger of the Serengetti!Needless to say we were pampered at all times and the wildlife sightings memorable.As many other posters have so enthustically posted-Africa-it's landscapes,it's wildlife and especially it's people are now in our blood.We will be returning again this fall for more adventures!
toontowndoc is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 07:52 PM
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ToonTownDoc stated "if money is not an issue, A&K, would be a valid choice" and I'd agree with that statement for both A&K and Micato. There is no question that these companies give outstanding service and will do a great job for a wonderful Africa safari experience.

Where are you going next ToonTownDoc since you mentioned a return? Happy 25th!

Sunshine007's comment "Sandi notes that there are other places that cost less, however, I wonder if you are losing some of the A&K perks when you pay less and go with another tour company... "

You certainly lose the personal escort perk in almost every case if you book elsewhere. If the benefits that this role adds to your safari are important, then you'd probably want to eliminate the other options that don't offer this asset.

But you can still you get the same parks, the same animals, the same weather, the same lodges/camps, the same food for the most part without A&K or Micato. You can get an itinerary designed just for you and a private safari.

If you choose one of the many reputable safari providers, then you get the same good quality vehicles and the same good quality guides, which are so important.

But the peace of mind that the reputations of A&K and Micato generate in a traveler are valuable intangible assets for these companies. If a traveler is not as comfortable with another company and therefore apprehensive about a trip instead of eager and excited as the departure date approaches, no one can calculate that price differential. If a traveler can only relax and truly enjoy the actual safari knowing that he or she is in the hands Micato or A&K versus being worried each day with another carrier-- again there is no price for that. Such brand recognition and reputation have a cost. Some of us are willing to pay for it and some of us are not or cannot.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 11th, 2007, 10:35 PM
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Sep 2006 the last safari camp we went to was Little Governors Kenya. My local travel agent made the reservations for us at Lil Gov published/rack rates. The booking at Lil Gov in Kenya was "handled"? by A&K. An A&K rep met us at the Nairobi airport, escorted us to the Norfolk Hotel, explained about leaving the next day for Lil Gov, escorted us back to Wilson airport, took care of our "luggage" at Wilson airport and did same on return and saw us off back home. Didn't seem to cost us any extra (except for tip) and was a welcome bit of assistance. Although we are world travelers and could have done it all ourselves.
regards - tom
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Jan 12th, 2007, 05:14 AM
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sandi
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cary - It was your booking at rack rates that covered for the A&K support you received. The difference between rack and lower rates provided outfitters can range from 8-30%, depending on season and property booked. So there were a few $$$s in there to pay for this service.
 
Jan 12th, 2007, 06:23 AM
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I have a friend asking me the difference between what a personal escort does exactly versus a guide. Can anyone describe the difference?

Here's my experience with our guide. Perhaps he was unusual and went over and above, not sure.

Our lovely guide;
* would bring us into the camp/hotel sometimes check us in or
*introduce us to the concierge/check in person. An attendent would bring us to our room and arrange wake up times etc. He would verify/confirm these times with front desk.
*Actually did my bartering for me and discussed quality and origins/history of goods etc., when shopping
* explained various local sites, vegatation etc. enroute to parks
* spoke to a local pharmacist to obtain meds. for nausea
* Waited and stood with us til we were securely one our plane - checked in our luggage, flight etc.
* called the main office to make sure xtra luggage would meet us at our connecting flight. Also called for other concerns and confirmations.
* introduced us to locals
* dined with us and taught us much about the local culture
* secured and ordered lunches and stocked the vehicle with drinks, snacks etc. Would tell each camp about our eating preferences
* would endlessly answer protocal questions dealing with tipping etc. etc.
* check us in at each gate, get us maps and orient us.

The list goes on but I'll stop here. This, btw, was a private safari - don't know if this matters.
cybor is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 07:21 AM
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atravelynn-Your reply to my post re A&K etc. is spot on-thanks for expanding on my comments.In regards to our return to Africa ,we are planning a private journey for 2 or 4 people this coming Sept through a reputable Tanzanian based company.This trip will include 3 nights in the Mara,onward to Rwanda via Nairobi,a wonderful visit to a village near Kigali that we support,on to PVN and 3 nights at the new Governor's property there,2 gorilla treks then back through Nairobi to Arusha,and off via Nomad for 4 nights Katavi NP-Chada Camp,and 3 nights Mahale NP -Greystoke for chimp trek etc,then home via Arusha,Nairobi,Europe,back to Canada.This will be all tented camps in the Mara and of course for the Nomad portion,and I believe by looking at construction photos of the Governor's property in PNV,chalet style accomodation.The driving portion is only in Rwanda,and that drive should be enjoyable.I will post more as we get closer to departure!
toontowndoc is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 01:04 PM
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ToonTownDoc,
That's a powerhouse itinerary coming up.

Cybor,
I think with a group safari, the escort means there is one more person to attend to the things your driver did, reducing the guest to staff ratio.

atravelynn is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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sandi
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Cybor -

You nailed it. A reputable outfitter and guide/driver will handle all that you listed and probably more, if you ask.

Many of the higher priced operators - A&K, Micato & Tauck provide a tour director... some that travel with you from the States, others on arrival in your destination country. The cost of this person is included in the per person rate. If from the States (though it would be same if traveling through a European operator) their international air, room & board, visa fees, salary, etc.

I recall years ago going thru the Smithsonian brochure for an itinerary to Provence. Well, needless to say, their itinerary was a good guideline, but we managed to arrange a better independent/private itinerary, with all 5* hotels, and a rental car for 2/weeks at less than half the per person Smithsonian price.

There are travelers who will only travel with a "name" company, as those mentioned above, regardless the price. Others, as is evident on this board, prefer to have a private trip and watch their budget. That's why there are so many choices - "different strokes........." There's an outfitter, operator, planner out there for everyone!
 
Jan 12th, 2007, 10:41 PM
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Well, as it's late and I do my best chiming in when it's late - I can't help but chime in on this one guys! Yes, Sherry, I agree - your guide did just about everything (except one) that our concierge did - agreed. But, are you always guarenteed that on every private safari with every guide from every different company? If the answer to that was yes, and if I can get a group of friends to go with us on a safari then, yes, I would go with a private safari in a heartbeat!

Sandi, I liked your last sentence - it reminded me of my closet and my collection of 'bags' (yes, I have a bag/luggage addiction!). When Jim rolls his eyes when I come home with yet 'another' bag I always say ' but yes, different circumstances & different trips need different bags!
LyndaS is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 06:18 AM
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LyndaS,

What is the one extra thing your concierge did?
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 09:07 AM
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He successfully got two of our group back on the confirmed Air Kenya flight to the Seychelles that they had been ceremoneously 'bumped' from! That was my stab at humour for Sherry! (sorry, couldn't resist, Sherry ).

Air Kenya lovingly suggested that they fly to J'Berg for the night and then fly out to the Seychelles from there the following evening - just a southern repeat of Sherry's trip to Dubai to get to the Seychelles! Daniel, along with the lady from Micato who arranges ALL of the flights for all of their guests convinced Air Kenya they were not going to do this.
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Jan 13th, 2007, 11:26 AM
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I have been on several trips with A&K. They were fabulous. Every detail was handled expertly. We are going back to Africa this July with them--this time to Botswana and SA. Enjoy!
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