Johannesburg's International Airport, now known as OR Tambo International Airport (JNB), and Cape Town International (CPT) are the major airport hubs in Southern Africa. While it has a vibrant energy, Jo'burg is very much a transit city, and its airport is the busiest in Africa; if you can avoid flying into Johannesburg, do so. By contrast, Cape Town, a destination city, has a far smaller airport (though it's in the process of being transformed for 2010) and a dinky, manageable size, by comparison. Both of these airports offer direct connections into regional airports adjoining Kruger National Park and surrounding private game reserves (quite a few lodges have their own airstrips); to Durban in KwaZulu-Natal (a 3-hr. drive from the Zululand reserves); and to George and Port Elizabeth, the exit or start of a Garden Route trip. Port Elizabeth is also within easy driving distance of the malaria-free Eastern Cape game reserves.
To add Botswana to a trip to South Africa, you will have to fly via Maun, gateway to the Okavango, or Kasane, gateway to Chobe, both reached from Johannesburg (or Cape Town via Johannesburg). Note that Vic Falls can be reached by road from Kasane. Alternatively, fly from Johannesburg to Livingstone, the Zambian town nearest the falls, or to Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe.
From the U.S. -- There are two direct flights to South Africa. Star Alliance member South African Airways (SAA; tel. 800/722-9675; www.flysaa.com) departs from New York (JFK) at 11:35am and arrives in Johannesburg the next morning at 8:45am, then provides same-day connections to more business and leisure destinations throughout Africa, including Botswana. Delta Air Lines (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) launched their daily nonstop flight between Johannesburg and Atlanta in June 2009. The flight departs Atlanta at 8:05pm and arrives in Johannesburg at 5:10pm the next day. From Chicago, New York, L.A., Miami, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C., you can fly via a European capital with a European carrier such as Air France (stopping in Paris), Lufthansa (stopping in Frankfurt), KLM (stopping in Amsterdam), and so on. Do take a look at British Airways and Virgin. Both stop in London and offer a relatively smooth operation, and connection times are usually no longer than an hour before flights continue on to Johannesburg or direct to Cape Town.
From the United Kingdom -- This is an 11-hour (Jo'burg) to 11 1/2-hour (Cape Town) flight, but with an hour-long time difference (2 hr. during daylight saving) and no jet lag, because the travel is north to south. SAA (tel. 0171/312-5005; www.flysaa.com), British Airways (tel. 800/AIRWAYS [247-8297] or 0181/897-4000; www.british-airways.com), and Virgin Air (tel. 800/862-8621; www.virgin-atlantic.com) offer direct flights to both Johannesburg and Cape Town. Alternatively, as above, check out any of the European carriers.
From Australia & New Zealand -- Contact SAA (tel. 02/9223-4448) or Qantas (tel. 13-13-13; www.qantas.com.au). Qantas offers direct flights from Sydney to Johannesburg, and South African Airways offers direct flights from Perth. Flying time is approximately 14 to 15 hours from Sydney and 10 to 11 hours from Perth.
To Zimbabwe -- The easiest way to get to Victoria Falls is to fly to Livingstone (LVI), in Zambia, or Victoria Falls International airport (VFA), Zimbabwe, from Johannesburg; the flight takes under 2 hours. Contact either SAA (www.flysaa.com) or British Airways/ComAir (www.british-airways.com). Victoria Falls is not far by road from Kasane, in Botswana; Kasane is accessible via Air Botswana .
To Botswana -- To reach the Okavango Delta, you'll need to fly to Maun (MUB) via Johannesburg on Air Botswana (tel. 267/395-1921; fax 267/395-3928 in Botswana; tel. 27/11/975-3070 in Johannesburg; www.airbotswana.co.bw). Air Botswana, still state-owned at press time, is looking for an investment partner; until such time, it is notoriously difficult to book online e-ticketing with this airline. The toll-free number in the U.S. and Canada is tel. 800/518-7781, where it's marketed through Air World Incorporated. In the U.K., call Flight Directors (tel. 44/845/838-7943). Air Botswana also flies from Johannesburg to Kasane (ideal to reach the Chobe reserve), from Maun to Kasane, and from Kasane to Victoria Falls.
In the unlikely event that you will want to visit Gaborone, the capital, Air Botswana also flies from Johannesburg to Sir Seretse Khama International (tel. 267/395-1921), as do SAA and British Airways.
From Maun, you will board a light aircraft, chartered by the camp you have booked. Note that strict luggage restrictions currently apply: 10 to 12kg (22-25 lb.), preferably packed in soft bags. Charter prices vary, so be sure to compare the following companies' prices for the best deal: Sefofane (tel. 267/686-0778; www.sefofane.com) is recommended; alternatively, there's Mack Air (tel. 267/686-0675; www.mackair.co.bw) and Delta Air (tel. 267/686-0044; DeltaAir@AirBotswana.com), a division of Air Botswana.
Cape Town features on a number of luxury liner world cruise itineraries, but getting here this way takes plenty of time and money, and, naturally, your experience of Southern Africa will be somewhat limited. However, if this has always been a dream vacation, book with the best, and take a look at www.cunard.com or www.crystalcruises.com.