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.
Ol Jogi Ranch, Kenya
The private, 58,000-acre estate of billionaire horse breeder and art dealer Alec Wildenstein will open for the first time to the safari-going public in 2014. That's big news if you want a classic, high-end experience in Africa. Visitors to Ol Jogi will be able to go on game drives at any hour of the day and lounge about afterward in the bulletproof glass room next to the pool while quaffing carefully selected French wines. Wildenstein's tastes always ran to the over-the-top – his highly publicized divorce from Jocelyn Perisset, a Swiss pilot whom he met on his ranch, revealed diverse holdings including a $10-million jewelry collection and a capuchin monkey named May Moon. Bottom line: Don't expect to rough it here.
Still, nature dominates. The estate overlooks Mount Kenya and the many surrounding lakes, outcroppings, and rolling hills. Herds of rhino pass by and the wildlife rescue center on-site facilitates closer interactions with the fauna. The sunsets are big and, if everyone didn't drink so much wine, the sunrises would have their own special appeal. As for the locals, a Maasai cultural village provides an earthy and welcoming break from all those trappings. Simplicity never looked so good.
More information: One week with up to 14 guests, including early morning horseback rides, late night hammam sessions, private guides, a gym and yoga studio, all meals and fine wines runs $210,000. To book, email Carol@oljogihome.com.
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