You'll have no trouble finding safari operators or packages. They run the gamut to suit a range of interests and pockets, from fly-in safaris to luxurious lodges, to all-hands-on-deck-type trips with nights spent under canvas.
Safari Operators Specializing in Botswana
Mobile vs. Fly-In Safaris
Certainly, the only way to appreciate the broad changes of scenery in Botswana is to plan a trip that encompasses the Delta (in which you should try to visit both a "wet" and "dry" camp, or one that combines these terrains), the greater Chobe Area, and the Kalahari; Victoria Falls is an easy add-on. To cover this, you'll need to stay a minimum of 7 nights and to opt for a fly-in safari. (If you don't have enough time or don't like to move around that much, combine a 3-night Delta stay with 2 nights in the Kalahari for greatest contrast.)
Most people with limited time opt for fly-in safaris, moving between camps to experience different landscapes within an hour, and usually with the same operator to ensure smooth transfers between camps (the exception being the Kalahari region, which many operators in the north do not cover; if you wish to add on a visit to this area, either choose an operator that covers it, or book a recommended operator in the north and then with Uncharted Africa, the best Kalahari outfit). Depending on your budget and what you want out of your trip, however, mobile safaris -- the more traditional safari, in which you ride, walk, or canoe to your next camp -- range from basic participation tours, during which you may be expected to erect your own tent, to the ultraluxurious expeditions that require you to lift a finger only to summon another cold drink. Participants are transported in a suitably modified open-topped vehicle (or a mokoro/canoe), and they camp or lodge overnight at predetermined destinations. Usually the camps will be without electricity or the comforts of plumbing, but the experience of an authentic back-to-nature safari in this prime wilderness is unforgettably thrilling.
The following operators, mostly local to southern Africa (that is, they will be used by international agents, who may add a commission), are all highly recommended.
Tip: Another way to shop is with two excellent Web-based agents, www.expertafrica.com and www.africatravelresource.com. Their agents travel regularly and provide honest information on just about every lodge and camp in Botswana (expertafrica.com also has traveler reviews), and will create an itinerary to suit your budget.
African Bushcamps -- A small portfolio of owner-run semipermanent tented camps, as well as mobile tented camp expeditions, this is for the luxury camping seeker who is looking for the real deal: a simple, understated tented safari experience, similar to the original explorations of Africa, hosted by a couple who are passionate about the bush and guest experience. Great value for your money.
&Beyond -- &Beyond (previously CC Africa, but now with an international portfolio) are known for the great design ethos of their camps; every new camp they open -- such as the latest, Xudum and Xaranna -- is destined to feature in top decor magazines. And the exclusivity, privacy, and space of their suites are hard to beat. Service at their top camps is also top notch, including private butlers. With four camps, their penetration in the Delta has improved, and they also have the best selection of luxury camps in South Africa.
Bush Ways Safaris -- This operator offers small and custom participation tours, themed around certain animals and best suited for more adventurous travelers who want an authentic experience. Guests stay in small dome tents and travel overland in an open Land Rover. Several itineraries are available, taking in all parts of Botswana, including Chobe, Moremi, the delta, Makgadikgadi, and the Kalahari.
Footsteps in Africa -- This relatively new company is a breath of fresh air in this seriously expensive region. Footsteps specializes in Botswana (Kruger is the only other destination), and they probably offer the most affordable way to experience the country's key destinations. You'll stay in moderate budget camps, such as Oddballs, Delta Camp, and Mapula Lodge, but fly in with Delta Air, which they own. It's an unpretentious outfit, offering much more for your money than most.
Ker & Downey -- Along with their five Botswana camps, this well-known top-end operator has a superb hand-picked property portfolio across southern Africa. With the best walking program (Footsteps) and mokoro trails (from their Kanana camp) in the Delta, Ker & Downey expeditions are an excellent value for those who want an authentic safari experience (camping in comfort). Agents will customize a very personal itinerary, depending on interest and budget; given their spread throughout southern Africa, you could do a grand journey across five countries, including semiurban and city destinations. (Wilderness Safaris, with an even greater spread in southern Africa, is concentrated solely in wilderness areas.)
Kwando -- This small, very professional outfit is a relatively good value, with some of the best camps in Botswana (Kwara, Little Kwara, and Lebala, in particular). It's more expensive than Footsteps, which is where you should look if you are watching your budget (or consider Zambia), but the Kwando camps are in a class of their own and well worth the extra cost if you can afford it.
Mike Penman's Wild Lifestyles -- Voted one of the top 15 safari guides in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Penman -- who has produced and facilitated a number of wildlife documentaries -- offers private, custom-made luxury tented safaris aimed particularly at people with an interest in photography or filmmaking. Tents usually house no more than four guests.
Orient Express Safaris -- Orient Express is another operator that needs no introduction. The well-heeled international globetrotter has a choice of three camps in Botswana: two in the delta and one in Chobe. In classic Orient Express style, it offers top-of-the-range, unabashed luxury. &Beyond has the edge in terms of camp design and knowledge of the bush, but the staff training at Orient Express shines through.
Penduka Safaris -- Though it's based in Namibia, this trusted, reliable operator is one of the most established mobile safari companies in Botswana, offering fully catered and serviced camping trips in campsites throughout most of southern Africa.
Sanctuary Lodges & Camps -- This top-end operator, a division of the otherwise increasingly second-rate Abercrombie & Kent, offers a similar experience (at a similar price) as Wilderness Safaris. With just four lovely camps in northern Botswana (Baines', Stanley's, Chief's, and Chobe Chilwero), they don't penetrate Southern Africa like Wilderness Safaris does, but they can set up an itinerary that includes visits to one or more of their five new camps in Zambia.
Uncharted Africa Safari Co. -- This is the foremost operator in Botswana's Kalahari region. Besides the luxurious HQ camp (Jack's Camp), you can ask for mobile expeditions into the desert, as well as trips north to the delta and Chobe -- though that area is better serviced by Wilderness Safaris. I would urge you to include this personal favorite of mine into a Delta trip.
Wilderness Safaris -- Wilderness Safaris has some of the best concessions in Botswana, and by far the most camps. Since launching the much-lauded Mombo Camp in mid-2000, the company has grown exponentially. Today they operate some 60 lodges and camps in southern Africa (21 in Botswana), producing enough revenue to conserve 2.7 million hectares of wilderness. Service and design is not quite as OTT as &Beyond's -- with the exception of their pricey Premier Camps, the ethos is determinedly conservation. But this company has garnered immense respect within the industry, even among direct competitors. Given also their impeccable responsible tourism standards, it's a top choice.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.