Image: Wildlife in Okavango Delta
Tina Liddle  /  Special to msnbc.com
Go wild with South African Airlines' Cascades & Carnivores package, which takes you to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana, starting at $4,799.
updated 9/23/2008 9:33:01 AM ET 2008-09-23T13:33:01

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various dates in 2009

The deal
When it comes to an exotic, thrilling adventure, few trips are better than an African safari. With stunning national parks and amazing wildlife areas in at least 11 countries encompassing savannas, mountains, velds and rivers, there’s rarely a shortage of incredible scenery. We spotted a group of safari packages — airfare and lodging included — that take you from the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro to the wind-swept cliffs of Cape Town’s edge and feature some of the continent’s premier animal-spying zones including Serengeti National Park, Kruger National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve. Prices for travel next year start at $3,099.

17-day Kenya and Tanzania safari, $6,195 and up
An East Africa all-inclusive adventure comes courtesy of Odysseys Unlimited. The trip by the small-group outfitter, named to Travel + Leisure’s 2008 list of the World’s Best Tour Operators, highlights Kenya and Tanzania. Jam-packed with opportunities to see wildlife and incredible landscapes, the 17-day vacation features a full day sightseeing in Nairobi, two days in Masai Mara Game Reserve — homeland to the Maasai people, a visit to Amboseli National Park, a tour of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and game drives in Serengeti and Lake Manyara National Parks. Ready to go? You can travel as soon as January 21, 2009, for $6,795 and up. But if you can wait until November 2009, the price drops $600 to $6,195! That includes roundtrip airfare from New York, a flight between Masai Mara and Nairobi, 14 nights of deluxe and superior first class accommodations, 39 meals, and a guaranteed window seat during overland travel. Tips for your driver, guides, dining room servers, and airport and hotel porters are covered as well. You’ll also receive a $100 travel credit toward your next Odysseys Unlimited tour.

12-day South Africa city/safari combo from $3,099
If you prefer to mix your safari with a little city check out this 12-day South African vacation from Gate 1 Travel. Starting in Johannesburg and ending in Cape Town, with a visit to Swaziland thrown in, the trip features a tour of Soweto township, a day in both Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, a city tour of Cape Town and a day excursion to the Cape Peninsula — complete with a stop at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The tour package, which is priced from $3,299, includes airfare from New York, transportation within South Africa and Swaziland, 15 meals, and accommodations for four nights in Cape Town, two nights each in Johannesburg and Hazyview, and one in both St. Lucia and Ezulwini, Swaziland. Extra savings are in store if you can make reservations before December 12 this year. With that discount, trips start at a mere $3,099 for travel in May, July and August 2009.  Optional tours are available in addition to the sightseeing listed on the itinerary.

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South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe from $4,799
South African Airlines offers more than 30 vacations. One that catches our eye is the Cascades & Carnivores package, which takes you to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. The 11-day itinerary features a night in Johannesburg, a tour of Victoria Falls and the surrounding rain forest, and multiple days and games drives in Botswana’s Chobe National Park and Linyanti Wildlife Reserve in the Okavango Delta. The package includes roundtrip international airfare, flights to destinations within Africa and 18 meals. Accommodations — a night in Johannesburg’s luxury Metcourt Laurel Hotel, two nights each in Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and Chobe Safari Lodge, and three in Kwando Safaris Lebala Camp — are also covered. You may still be able to get in on October trips this year for $6,799, but if not, don’t stress: 2009 expeditions start at $4,799.

Four-country, 19-day odyssey starts at $4,495
Overseas Adventure Travel offers a 19-day journey with a similar itinerary. The outfitter, also recognized as one the top 15 best tour operators in 2008 by Travel + Leisure, takes you to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia as part of its Ultimate Africa safari. You’ll trek into Chobe, Mudumu and Hwange National Parks, along the Kwando River, and through the Okavango Delta. Visits to local villages and Victoria Falls are additional highlights of the expedition. Regular rates run from $4,995, but if you are able to purchase tickets by October 1, you’ll save $500 per person on travel from January-June 2009. With that discount, prices start at $4,495. International airfare from Boston, New York or Newark via London, transportation within Africa, and 15 nights’ accommodation — 12 of which are in safari lodges or tented camps – are covered. You’ll also receive 42 meals, up to 19 game drives and boat outings, baggage handling for one piece of luggage plus tip, a safari duffle and a five percent credit toward your next OAT trip.

The dollars
Prices are based on double occupancy and listed per person. Visas, vaccines and gratuities —unless noted otherwise — are not included. Taxes are additional as well.

The catch
Prime animal viewing may not coincide with your schedule or budget.

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