Since 1910, when Teddy Roosevelt made chasing wild herds across the African plains de rigueur for the not-so-idle rich, the idea of the safari has loomed large in the psyche of American men. Though the tradition has evolved – no modern traveler would brag about, much less admit to bagging 17 lions, 11 elephants, and 20 rhinos – a trip to the savanna, the desert, or the jungle is still fundamentally about getting back to basics and back to Earth. Nowadays, those basics often involve polished silverware, but luxuries are only ornamental on the best trips. Nothing could outshine the landscape.
New safaris are venturing into untrammeled areas as formerly war-torn countries stabilize and create sustainable tourism programs. Safaris may be Africa's past, but they are the future as well. Here's where to head in 2014.
A cultural safari, Kenya
Make room on your Christmas card list, because a new Kenyan tour, set to debut in early 2014, is hosted by no fewer than five different local families. Rafiki means "friend" in Swahili, and that's exactly what you'll have – five new ones – after staying in a series of rare bush homes and camps while on the new Rafiki trip from Micato, a high-end safari company popular with celebrities and heads of state. This safari is intended to be a throwback to the turn of the twentieth century, when Africa was only open to adventurers with connections.
It so happens that the staff at Micato know people, too. This one-of-a-kind journey comes with an invitation to the personal camp of Anna Trzebinski, the well-known Nairobi-based fashion designer, and her husband, Loyaban Lemarti, a Samburu warrior who knows how to throw a spear and might serenade you on the guitar he built from bicycle brake cables. You'll also meet Luca Belpietro and Antonella Bonomi, a successful Italian couple that moved with their three kids to Kenya's Chyulu Hills in 1999. Along with 65 Maasi, they started the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.
More information: The 15-day Rafiki safari in Kenya includes accommodations, meals, transfers, activities, gratuities, 24/7 concierge, and porterage. It starts at $19,245 and, like all Micato safaris, gives you the satisfaction of knowing you placed a needy child in school through the company's One for One Commitment charitable program.
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