Africa’s abundant wildlife and her natural beauty are something to behold anyway…but nothing is quite as thrilling or romantic as spending the night under a canopy of twinkling stars with just the vast African wilderness and the sounds of the bush at night (owls, bushbabies, nightjars and even the far-off roar of lions) for company. This is the ultimate safari experience – one where you can feel totally immersed in the magic and romance of Africa with a surprisingly luxurious amenities considering the remote location of your bed! One of the perks of being an expert travel consultant is being sent to remote corners of this incredible continent to find the most extraordinary star beds and sleep-outs; here are our favourite top 10:
1. Meno A Kwena Sleep-Out, Botswana
If you want to lose yourself in the wide open spaces with expansive views across the mesmerizing Makgadikgadi Pans of Botswana, then Meno A Kwena is the perfect place for you. Owner-run, and recent romantic hideaway of Prince Harry and Meghan, the camp offers the thrilling experience of sleeping under the stars in a sleep-out set up on the salt pan (only available during the dry winter months) with nothing between you and your surroundings. Meno A Kwena is the perfect place to unwind after a Botswana safari and boasts sublime wildlife watching opportunities due to its position overlooking the Boteti River (the only source of permanent water in the area) so expect to see large herds of elephant (all year-round) , as well as one of Africa’s prime zebra migrations.
2. Natural Selection Skybeds, Botswana
Another one of Botswana’s rare star bed finds is Skybeds located within the wildlife-rich Khwai area of the Okovango Delta. Marvel at the vast canopy of stars from atop your utterly romantic sixteen feet high, three-story raised platform skybed, with just mosquito netting separating you from the wilderness. With three skybeds to choose from, Natural Selection’s Skybeds offer couples an intimate setting where they can immerse themselves in Africa’s breathtaking scenery. The skybeds are perfectly positioned overlooking a busy waterhole so you can expect to see lion, elephant, hyena and the elusive wild dog come here to quench their thirst in the evenings and early mornings.
3. Kapama Sleep-Out, South Africa
Known as the Eden of Africa, the Kapama Private Game Reserve extends across 13 000 ha of pristine savannah and riverine forest between the Kruger National Park and the northern Drakensberg Mountains. The area is known for its prolific wildlife including the Big Five and lots of other fascinating species of mammals. The Kapama sleep-out is the ultimate African bush fairytale and boasts a private chef who serves a five-course feast amidst the flicker of lanterns in the comfort of your private treehouse. Suspended high above the ground on a raised platform your open-air bedroom consists of a romantic four-poster bed with only the star-studded sky and the guttural sounds of a lone leopard (if you’re lucky) for company.
4. The Dove’s Nest At The Hide, Zimbabwe
Located in Zimbabwe’s northwestern region of the Hwange National Park known for its large herds of elephant and over 100 species of mammals, the Hide’s best-kept secret – The Dove’s Nest – offers a rustic canopy hideaway perfect for observing the wildlife below. When not out on game drive, spend your down time lazing in a hammock on the second deck overlooking the pan below where elephants and giraffe congregate to drink, or lie on your bed and be surrounded by birdsong in your romantic love nest, either way, you’ll be smitten with your elevated suite!
5. Kanana Sleep Out Deck, Botswana
This magical sleep-out deck lies tucked away along the Xudum River, a mere 20 minutes from Kanana’s main camp in the Okavango Delta’s southwestern part. The area is dotted with islands each with magnificent ebony, palm and fig trees which make it the perfect home for the diverse wildlife found here. The best way to see the many species of birds and animals is from a glass-bottomed Mokoro (a traditional canoe) to allow you to peer into the delta’s underwater world. Nothing beats sleeping outside on Kanana’s Sleep Out Deck to experience the wonder of the African night sky amidst the flickering of night lamps and the distinctive African bush sounds.
6. Lion Sands, South Africa
The Lion Sands treehouses need little introduction and are the true innovators of the Star Bed concept thanks to their exceptional location, creative touch and attention to detail that they offer in their ultra-luxurious-and-hopelessly-romantic bush bedroom tree houses. Enjoy a private dinner on your elevated deck as the sky turns crimson as you are serenaded by evening birdsong and the soft chirping of nocturnal insects, whilst shooting stars zoom across the southern hemisphere night sky. Tinyeleti Treehouse is perfect for families (sleeping up to two adults and two children) and can be found within the Greater Kruger National Park region on the Sabie River; Chalkley Treehouse is ideal for honeymooners and is built on the site where the 1930s explorer Guy Aubrey Chalkley set up camp; and last (but certainly not least) in the trilogy, Kingston Treehouse lies nestled amongst giant boulders and is entirely constructed out of glass and wood with a roof over the king-sized bed so you are ensured of your night under the stars regardless of the weather.
7. Morukuru Hide, South Africa
This hidden gem lies nestled in the pristine (and malaria-free!) Madikwe Game Reserve right on the edge of the nostalgic Marico River. Spend a magical night under the stars elevated high above the vast plains of the reserve surrounded by the African wilderness and the far-off contact calls of lions and distinctive howls of hyenas.
8. Doro Nawas Star Bed, Namibia
Sleeping beneath the starry skies of the Namib is a must when visiting this stark, yet achingly beautiful country. Nothing beats sleeping outside on an elevated deck surrounded only by the sounds of nocturnal animals in an otherwise silent surrounding under a canopy of twinkling stars. Situated in central Damaraland’s Doro !Nawas Conservatory, the Doro Nawas Star Bed offers visitors the unique opportunity of glimpsing the desert-adapted elephant and other unique wildlife, as well as viewing the ancient San rock art engravings at Twyfelfontein, a World Heritage Site.
9. Little Kulala Star Bed, Namibia
The dunes of Sossusvlei are not only amongst the highest but also the most spectacular sand dunes in the world. Little Kulala is a luxury desert retreat located in the heart of the Kulala Wilderness Reserve in close proximity to the famous dunes. Sleep atop the rooftop of a thatched ‘kulala’ for exquisite star gazing and clear night skies for which Namibia is famous for.
10. Ol Donyo Lodge Star Bed, Kenya
Enjoy a mesmerizing night under the romantic African night sky atop the rooftop of your suite with just the haunting calls of leopards cutting through the otherwise silent night. Ol Donyo Lodge lies tucked away in the Chyulu Hills National Park in Amboseli, one of Kenya’s most renowned safari destinations, which is entirely owned by the local Masai people. Each room at the lodge boasts its own roof terrace where a romantic star bed can be set up beneath a twinkling canopy of stars with just the nocturnal sounds of the wild and the majestic backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro as your night companions.