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.
Berenty Reserve, Madagascar
The low-key safari is something of an endangered species, but it thrives – like most peculiar fauna – on Madagascar, a once isolated island nation off the southeast coast of Africa with a bounty of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. The Berenty Reserve, one square mile of privately owned forest along the Mandrare River near the white-sand coast, offers visitors the chance to bunk down in the middle of the wilderness without breaking the bank or wandering too far afield. The place is also singular because of the country's abundant native species (90 percent of all plants and animals on Madagascar are endemic), including 50 types of (pre-primate) lemurs, such as the friendly white sifakas (pictured), that fill the trees during the day and the massive fruit bats that come screeching out of them at night while visitors down beers in the forest's bar.
The most stripped-down of our recommended trips, the voyage to Berenty is less about magnificent catering than it is about enjoying the pleasures of a singular place. Getting there is most of the fun. The 15-hour drive from Antananarivo, the capital, weaves through jungles, villages, and savanna across a significant portion of a truly extraordinary ecosystem and country. Though Madagascar isn't always particularly safe, the locals are happier than anyone to see tourists – something of a rarity – rolling through town.
More information: The best spot to stay is the Berenty Lodge. The digs aren't luxurious, but the location more than makes up for it.
Credit: Philip Lee Harvey / Getty Images