The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, nine nights' accommodations, and safari, from $2,149 per person-plus taxes of $296.
When: Depart Feb. 23, Mar. 22, 2008; add $150 for Apr. 26.
Gateways D.C., New York City; add $50 for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit; $100 for Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis; $130 for Denver, L.A., Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle.
The fine print: The $2,149 price reflects a local payment of $200 payable to your tour guide in U.S. currency (the package price is listed as $1,949). One night at a lodge, eight nights' camping, camping equipment, breakfast and dinner daily, eight lunches, airport transfer in Johannesburg, South Africa, guided excursions, entrance fees, and the services of licensed local guides are included. Transportation by boat, safari vehicle, ferry, mokoros (canoes) and open four-wheel-drive vehicles is also part of the package. International departure tax, fuel and security charges are an additional $296. Transfer to South Africa's Livingstone airport for your departure is an extra $25 and needs to be reserved through Adventure Center in advance. Based on double or single occupancy. Group size is limited to 24 people. Travel insurance is mandatory and can be purchased from the Adventure Center through USI Travel Insurance Services for $6 per day. U.S. passport holders can enter Botswana and South Africa without a visa; to enter Zambia, U.S. citizens can obtain a visa for $100 at the port of entry. To book the trip, refer to the code GABB. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Adventure Center, 800/228-8747, adventurecenter.com.
Why it's a deal: In comparison, according to a recent SideStep search, the lowest multi-city fare we could find from New York City to Johannesburg and from Livingstone to New York City, departing Feb. 23 and returning Mar. 5 is $1,363 (multiple carriers). For an additional $786, or about $87 a day, Adventure Center provides camping and lodge accommodations, most meals, guided safari tours, park entrance fees, and transportation by boat, vehicle, ferry, and traditional canoe—plus the time-saving convenience of one-stop shopping.
Trip details: The Backroads of Botswana package includes round-trip airfare to Johannesburg on a South African Airways carrier, one night at Twana Lodge, and eight nights' camping in spacious dome tents that sleep two and are equipped with mosquito netting, foam mattresses, and two folding chairs. Most meals are prepared by a camp cook.
Upon arrival, you'll be transferred to Twana lodge located in a rural area between Johannesburg and the administrative capital of South Africa (the only country with three capital cities), Pretoria. You'll stay overnight at the lodge before crossing the border into Botswana. First stop is the Khama Rhino Sanctuary at Serowe, a community-run wildlife conservation center that includes your first camping ground, the Mokongwo Camp.
After a day of exploring, you'll proceed to Maun, your camping base for the three-day Okavango Delta excursion, which consists of mokoro cruises, game walks, and two nights' camping on an island in the delta waterways. While in Maun, you'll have the option to go on an hour-long flight to watch the sun set on the Okavango Delta ($50-$95 per person, depending on the number of passengers on the plane).
Next, you'll hop on a custom-built safari vehicle for the six-to-eight-hour ride to Chobe National Park in Kasane, known as Africa's elephant sanctuary. You'll pass two salt pans—the Makgadikgadi Pan and the Nxai Pan—on your way to your campsite on the banks of the Chobe River. Activities include a sunset boat trip along the river and game drives to catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, including Cape buffalo, giraffes, zebras and, of course, elephants.
For the final stretch of your trip, you'll take a ferry to Zambia to camp on the banks of the Zambezi River, part of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Highlights of the Zambia tour include views down the river to the famous Victoria Falls. There's a $10 per person entrance fee to visit Victoria Falls. This is an optional day trip, and the night is spent camping on the banks of the Zambezi River.
On the morning of the last day of your trip, a taxi will take you to the airport in Livingstone to catch your connecting flight home.
Along with the activities included in the package, you'll have the option to join various other excursions at an additional cost, ranging from a $10-$95: full-day white-water rafting ($95), elephant-back safari ($90) or a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls ($85).
The months of February and March fall within Botswana's summer season when the temperatures are hot with heavy rainfall. Before you go, check the weather forecast.