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.
Leobo Private Reserve, South Africa
You'll get plenty of chances for game drives at the Leobo Private Reserve in South Africa's Waterberg Mountains, but you might be a bit distracted by the other available activities. Equal parts lodge and camp-for-adults, Leobo offers crocodile tug-o-war, quad bike racing, and helicopter paintball among other bizarre pastimes dreamed up by eccentric IT millionaire Rory Sweet.
At night, visitors head to the observatory, where a NASA-grade telescope provides breathtaking views of the heavens. The immediate surrounds aren't bad either. The building, designed by iconic architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, is almost carnivorously opulent. A chandelier made from hippo bones hangs above a table and below a ceiling stitched together from wildebeest hides. The place feels like a refuge for both animals and childhood dreams.
More information: Other activities on this 12,000-acre private reserve include cheetah belly rubbing (the manager's two cheetahs purr loudly), hippo camping, and classic-movie watching in a 007-inspired sunken lounge.
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