Stargazing from the comfort of your bed
There is little in the world that can match the atmosphere of the African wilderness at night. As the dark comes alive with the sound of nocturnal stirrings and the blaze of the Milky Way burns its way across the sky, there is nothing quite like spending a night in the open, stargazing. Of course, for some, the stony ground and clinging sleeping bag are part of the experience, but, for the rest, luxury sleepout options abound.
These days, most lodges are equipped with every modern convenience. This is not a bad thing, but it can undermine the allure of an escape into the wild. A night under the stars is the perfect remedy: a way to reset, unplug and connect with Africa in the most authentic way possible.
So, lie back, put your feet up and immerse yourself in the magic of the African night with our top 13 sleepout spots.
Want to go arrange your safari under the stars? To find lodges, search for our ready-made packages or get in touch with our travel team to arrange your safari, scroll down to after this story.
For the wildest night of your life
There is no better way to soak up the wildness of the African night, than with a night spent stargazing in the open, sounds of nocturnal activity echoing close by.
Skybeds, Khwai Private Reserve, Botswana: Northern Botswana is one of Africa’s most prolifically productive safari destinations, so a night spent in Skybeds overlooking the only permanent water source for miles around is guaranteed to be an adventure. Fall asleep to the sound of rumbling elephants, whooping hyenas and roaring lions, awakening to the savannah dawn’s crisp beauty.
Kanana Deck, Okavango Delta, Botswana: In the heart of the Okavango Delta, the Kanana Deck is what dreams are made of – quite literally. Unadorned yet comfortable, the Kanana Deck offers a safe way to experience the electrifying nightlife in one of the wildest spots in Africa.
Elephant Hide Star Bed at Kaingo Camp, Shenton Safaris, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia: The Luangwa River is the core of the entire Luangwa Valley ecosystem. The Elephant Hide Star Bed nestled in a jackalberry tree on its banks is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the action. With nothing separating you from the African night but the thin gauze of a mosquito net, the experience is vividly wild and soul-refreshing.
For the purest desert stargazing experience
Southern African stargazing is legendary, and there is nowhere better to experience it than in a desert, where the night sky is bright, clear, and unobscured by city lights or tall trees.
Namib Dune Star Camp, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia: Some of the best star bathing can be done in the austere Namib Desert. Namib Dune, an adventure camp, is perched on the top of ancient ochre dunes overlooking the majesty of the desert. Enjoy a sundowner on the deck and take in the view before wheeling the bed out onto the deck and snuggling into its warmth. Although the desert nights may be chilly, the cold only makes the blanket of stars more spectacular.
The Malori, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa: Arrive as the setting sun begins to paint the Kalahari sands in shades of red, and choose your Nepenthe nectar of choice to drink in the arrival of the darkness. Then retire to sink into soft linens and drift off to sleep serenaded by barking geckos.
For extreme solitude and respite
Far from the madding crowd in the quiet of night is where pure peace can be found. For soaking up the vastness of space and the universe beyond, uncomplicated elegance and seclusion are best.
Meno a Kwena, Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana: A comfy mattress, a lamp, and the vast expanse of the Makgadikgadi Pans stretching out in every direction without another soul for miles around? This is a sleepout at its purest – a no-frills embrace of the essence of this extraordinary piece of wilderness.
Africa on Foot Treehouse, Klaserie Private Game Reserve, South Africa: How better to celebrate an already adventurous day on foot amongst the continent’s most iconic animals than with a well-earned night spent stargazing in the open air of the bushveld? Africa on Foot is removed from the crowds, and offers tranquillity and comfort to counterpoint days out exploring.
For open-air luxury
Sleeping roofless does not mean compromising on quality and opulence. Comfort and leisure can still take priority when spending a night out in the open.
Tuludi Sky Suite, Khwai Private Reserve, Botswana: Simple, elegant, and tasteful, the Tuludi Sky Suite provides its visitors with every luxury while blending perfectly into its wild environment. Enjoy sitting next to the cosy fire as the creatures of the Okavango night come alive and embrace the dawn the following day with a refreshing open-air shower.
Starbed Treehouse at Victoria Falls River Lodge, Zimbabwe: Rising on stilts above the mighty Zambezi River and nestled in the treeline of Kandahar Island, the Starbed Treehouses offer expansive views of magnificent surroundings. The double story treehouse provides all the comfort of a five-star luxury lodge, complete with a plunge pool, but it is the king-sized bed on the open upper deck that makes this stargazing experience truly extraordinary.
For waking up to incredible views
Nothing beats the satisfaction of waking up to the first rays of the sun stretching out across the plains below, straight onto your duvet. Breathtaking night skies and even better morning views make for overwhelming magic.
Star bed, Samara Karoo Reserve, Karoo, South Africa: Samara’s star bed, perched on the Milk River, will take your breath away. From the comfort of your bed, you can watch as wildlife descends to the water to drink. Soak up views over the mountainous landscape, free of light and noise pollution, while marvelling at the Milky Way. Drift off to sleep in the warm bed, and wake up to the birdsong of the Karoo.
Loisaba Star Beds, Loisaba Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya: Generally, the Milky Way steals the show on most African sleepouts, but, at Loisaba, it is the sunrise that is the showstopper. Even the latest habitual sleeper will be inspired to rise before dawn breaks to sip on a hot beverage and watch the sun slowly drench the rolling plains below in gold.
Star Bed, Busanga Plains Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia: Not many can say they have spent the night in the open amidst the wetlands of Kafue National Park, where palm groves, papyrus-choked reed beds and lily-covered lagoons support an abundance of life. The jewel of Kafue, Busanga Plains hosts a lush mosaic of grassy seasonal floodplains stretching to the horizon. The Star Bed at Busanga Plains Camp is on a four-meter platform amidst the palms, overlooking the floodplains below. Wake up to a cacophony of magical sounds in this birding and wildlife paradise.
Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya: Hewn into the ancient lava rock that dominates the dramatically beautiful Chyulu Hills, the Ol Donyo Lodge is every bit at one with nature as it appears. Here, sleeping under the stars is simply viewed as an essential part of the safari experience, and every suite is equipped with a starbed on the upper level so that its visitors can use it at will. Unsurprisingly, many visitors spend every night of their visit embracing this stargazing opportunity.
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