There aren’t many more spectacular sights than the African sky at night with its millions of stars where the lack of light pollution only makes it even more enchanting. When leaving the frills of camp life behind, sleeping out under the stars allows you to really see what’s special and what’s going on around you. A night sleeping under these skies will be an experience not to forget and waking up to the dawn chorus at sunrise will make a wonderful addition to your safari.
Here is our guide to the best sleep-out experiences in Africa:
Loisaba Star Bed, Laikipia, Kenya
Loisaba Lodge is set on a ridge with what seems like a never-ending view across the plains to Mt Kenya in the distance. As well as the exclusive use properties at Loisaba you can also stay in the unique star beds located among a kopje of rocks in one of the Eastern Valleys, overlooking the Kiboko Watehole. Set on platforms, the beds are wheeled out from under their thatch at night so that you are sleeping in the open under the stars. As well as breathtaking views of the beautiful Laikipia wilderness from your pillow, you will doze off to the sounds of baboons barking in the cliffs and leopard calling in the hills around you. In each location there are two double bed platforms and a four-bed platform for families. The platforms are fitted with an en-suite bathroom with hot bucket showers, and there is a thatched dining room and an open fire where you gather in the evening to share your tales while dinner is prepared in the camp’s kitchen. You are hosted – and guarded by night – by the local Koija community, and the money from your stay goes straight back into the community.
Kulala Desert Lodge, Sossusvlei, Namibia
Kulala is set on a 21,000-hectare private reserve adjacent to the Namib Naukluft Park and only a short drive to the park gates. It has magnificent views of the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei as well as spectacular mountain scenery and vast open plains. There are 12 comfortable rooms or Kulalas (Swahili name for resting place) all en suite and set up on wooden platforms to catch the desert breezes. Unusually there are private rooftop stargazing platforms where you can ask for your mattress to be put out on and sleep out under the spectacular African sky.
Tok Tokkie Trails, Namibia
Tok Tokkie Trails run a two-night/three-day walking trail in the NamibRand Nature Reserve taking you close to the desert’s stunning beauty. After a days walking you will arrive at the camp and soon be relaxing with a sundowner in hand marvelling at the magnificent scenery whilst enjoying a delicious 3-course dinner. Your first night on a stretcher bed under the stars will be an unforgettable experience and if the sky is clear and moonless, you will quickly understand why NamibRand Nature Reserve is one of the few International Dark Sky Reserves in the world. The nights can be cold but the offer of a hot water bottle is one of the many little touches which make the experience so enjoyable. Read more on the Tok Tokkie experince here.
Planet Baobab, Makgadikgadi, Botswana
Planet Baobab is a funky little place on the road between Maun and Francistown offering an affordable, family-friendly option for experiencing the Makgadikgadi Pans. From here you can take quad bike trips across the lunar landscape of the pans and stay overnight under the stars on a bedroll. You will venture far out onto the pans where the horizon so flat in fact that you can see the curvature of the earth. You’ll learn about the geology and find 1,000 year old flint spear heads, meet the intriguing meerkats as well as the local Batswana and learn about their way of life. You can also do this experience from Jack’s Camp or San Camp. Read about more about the pans with Vicky’s trip to Botswana here.
Kanana, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Kanana is located in the southwest of the Okavango Delta, an area dotted with palms, figs, ebony and knobthorn and home to a myriad of birds, plants and animals. As well as the seven spacious safari tents you can also experience the Sleep Out Deck which overlooks a waterhole which, when filled by the annual rains, is home to hippo and crocodile. The sleep out is constructed on two levels with you sleeping on the upper deck and access and amenities on the lower deck. After dinner in camp you are escorted by an armed guide to your sleep out deck where you will sink into your comfy bed as you drift off to the sounds of the African bush.
Fly Camping Sands River Selous, Tanzania
Sands River is the most luxurious lodge in the Selous Game Reserve, as well as being regarded as one of the best in Tanzania. A wonderful location on the Rufiji River with beautiful rooms and excellent guiding. And while you are there you can experience a night under the stars, sleeping under a mosquito net which will offer protection but give an uninterrupted panoramic view of the night sky from your soft linen pillow! You’ll have a private guide and chef who will cook a delicious evening meal and provide cups of tea for you as you lie in bed watching the sunrise on a other perfect day in Africa.
Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya
Not far from Amboseli is the quiet destination of ol Donyo Lodge, which nestles in the foothill of the Chyulu Hills. It is part of the Amboseli ecosystem but is built on 300,000 acres of communal Masai owned land. All of the suites have their own plunge pool and roof terrace where intimate “star beds” can be set up, allowing guests the thrill of sleeping under the stars. You can also have a romantic dinner up there to really get you in the mood for some star gazing. For the more adventurous a night ‘fly-camping’ in the bush can be arranged with a day each side exploring on foot or by horse.
Norman Carr, South Luangwa, Zambia
Based in the South Luangwa, Norman Carr’s five luxury bush camps are all within a walking safaris distance from one another. On top of this you can experience an overnight ‘fly-camping’ sleep out in the dry bed of the Luwi River, part of Zambia’s best wildlife habitat. You’ll set off from your camp in the afternoon for a bush walk with your guide until you reach your camping spot on the white sands. Here you’ll be a true explorer and help your guide set up camp for the night – a simple bed roll and mosquito net. You’ll then set to work on preparing your barbecue for supper and after an evening dining under the stars you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of the nocturnal bush with only wildlife and the stars for company. A true taste of African adventure.
Lake of Stars Bed Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique
The ultimate way to savour Lake Malawi is from the ‘Lake of Stars Bed’ at Nkwichi. A unique and unforgettable experience set on a deserted beach surrounded by breathtaking baobabs, or on a private rock island close to the shore with fish eagles soaring overhead. You’ll arrive at your sleep out in time for a sundowner followed by a delicious supper cooked for you by the staff. They will then leave you for the night, sleeping nearby in case you are in need of assistance. They will return at sunrise with cups of tea before transporting you by boat to the Baobab tree for a bush breakfast. You can then spend the morning snorkelling and swimming before returning to the lodge.