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.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo
Relax. The political unrest, the warlords, the rebels battling over the copper, diamonds, and gold, the Rwandan war criminals on the lam – that's all in the other Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo (ROC) have had more names than Sean Combs, but the latter is safe and ecologically outstanding. The ROC has gorillas, not guerillas, and this primarily francophone nation is expanding its tourism infrastructure with an almost warlike vengeance.
Many of the safari camps being built are designed to give travelers access to western lowland gorillas, 80 percent of which live in the Congo Basin. Camps are opening in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which covers much of the world's second-largest rain forest, as well as in Nouabale-Ndoki and Conkouati-Douli. These places are as memorable as they are hard to pronounce. Currently, three-quarters of the visitors to this remote region are naturalists, scientists, and documentarians, so expect an environment that's authentic and raw.
More information: Natural Habitat Adventures, the world's first carbon-neutral travel company, is offering an eight-day exploratory trip to Odzala-Kokoua in September and October 2014.
Credit: Daryl Balfour / Getty Images