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.
Kuene River, Namibia
You gotta love a country where the constitution – Article 95 to be exact – gives wildlife, landscapes, and natural resources legal standing. Namibia's decision to prioritize the health of its ecosystem has resulted in what is arguably the greatest environmental comeback story on the planet. This 14-year-old country on the southwestern coast of Africa quickly grew from wildlife weakling to leader of a conservation movement.
Nearly half the country, including a 976-mile coastline and the land where the endangered black rhino roam, is currently protected. Namibia already had the largest game park in Africa, but after hosting the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit in October, this hot, ornery country is aggressively looking to court outfitters and build infrastructure.
Wilderness Travel has gotten into the swing of things. This excellent safari operator comes out of the gates in 2014 with a photo safari to the remote reaches of Kaokoland, the Skeleton Coast, and the Kuene River, which winds along the scenic Angolan border. The photogenic region of red sand dunes and white whale bones has a growing population of exotic desert-adapted lions, elephants, and rhinos.
Wilderness Travel has hired wildlife photographer Dana Allen and Jason Nott, godson of Dr. Flip Stander, the legendary desert lion conservationist, as the trip guides. And, since all accommodations are in new conservancy-owned safari camps, you can feel smug knowing that your dollars will help support the Namibian conservancy movement.
More information: Wilderness Travel's Namibia safari prices start at $9,295. The inaugural trip is set to depart in late August 2014.
Credit: Sven Zacek / Getty Images