Room with a View: Africa’s Top 10 Star beds
We go on safari to see wildlife during the day but Africa’s main show is at night. Elevate your safari experience with a night in a star bed and fall asleep to the sounds of lions roaring and hyenas whooping under an ocean of stars.
Think of Africa’s star beds as outdoor bedrooms with a double bed covered by a mosquito net. Usually offered during the dry season, they could be an extension to your suite or a raised platform away from camp and overlooking a waterhole. There’s no light pollution in these destinations – the views of the night sky are truly incredible – and the locations are well-chosen to deliver a wilderness experience without sacrificing comfort or safety.
Star beds – or sky beds as they are sometimes called – are available only at certain lodges across Africa but we’ve made it easy for you with our choice of Africa’s Top 10 star beds right here:
1. UMLANI & LION SANDS TREE HOUSES: KRUGER AREA, SOUTH AFRICA
Exclusivity is the name of the game at these tree houses, both set in private reserves adjoining the Kruger Park. Umlani, set in the Timbavati Reserve, has a simple but comfortable tree house overlooking a busy waterhole while Lion Sands in the Sabi Reserve offers several luxurious star beds, complete with hot shower and bathroom. There’s excellent Big 5 viewing at both reserves and the chance to go on spot-lit night drives too, completing the safari experience.
2. LITTLE KULALA CAMP & KULALA: SOSSUSVLEI, NAMIBIA
Set in one of Africa’s largest nature reserves in one of the world’s least populated regions, the Kulala camps can assure you of unspoilt night skies with the most titanic views of the cosmos. Lying in the vast expanse of the Namib Desert, each suite at Kulala Desert Lodge and Little Kulala Camp has been built with a flat-top roof to accommodate a star bed, leaving you with the comfort of your own bathroom and facilities. It’s a great way to complement the Sossusvlei dunes experience.
3. ISLAND TREEHOUSE STAR BEDS: VICTORIA FALLS
A private island in the Zambezi River is the location for a handful of luxurious two-storey treehouses, two of which have a star bed on their flat-top roof. Complete with their own viewing deck and plunge pool, these are seriously well-appointed treehouses, even boasting climate control, a full bathroom and the attentions of a private butler. Accessible only by boat and with views of hippos in the river below, this is a destination where you can watch the stars from your bed at night while listening to the rumble of Victoria Falls downstream.
4. CAMP OKAVANGO: OKAVANGO DELTA, BOTSWANA
Spend three or more nights at Camp Okavango and you’ll have the chance to try their Sleep-Out Deck, designed for couples or even a young family to experience the elemental nature of the world’s largest freshwater delta. Complete with its own bathroom and with a guide stationed a discreet distance away, this is a great way to immerse yourself in the night time chorus of the Okavango – frogs, bats, owls, nightjars – as the southern constellations swirl across the sky. The Sleep-Out Deck is east-facing so you’ll enjoy a fabulous safari sunrise with your morning coffee.
5. TULUDI SKY SUITE & KHWAI SKYBEDS: MOREMI RESERVE, BOTSWANA
Run by the same safari company, these star beds lie in the private Khwai Reserve, an area of the Okavango Delta famous for its wildlife. Tuludi has the solution for a luxury-seeking couple: the lantern-lit Sky Suite, complete with bathroom and snuggly chairs set in front of a camp fire. The Khwai Skybeds are a set of three-storey platforms with your bedroom right on top and commanding grand views over the Khwai floodplains and a major waterhole. Travelling as a group or family? Why not book all three SkyBeds and have a night to really remember!
6. DINAKA: KALAHARI, BOTSWANA
Staff at Dinaka Lodge will walk you through the galaxy as you prepare for your Kalahari sleep-out – this is one of the most remote of our Botswana destinations and the night skies are stupendous. The lodge has a comfortable sleeping platform that looks out over the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, home to lions, cheetah, brown hyena and other specialised desert animals. It’s a flat ocean of Kalahari scrub before you but one that resonates at night with the quavering yelp of the jackal – the ‘Cry of the Kalahari’ – and opens with a sea of gold at sunrise.
7. MAKANYANE & STARBEDS AT JACI’S: MADIKWE, SOUTH AFRICA
Malaria-free Madikwe is a private Big 5 reserve and popular with honeymooners and families with younger children. Couples seeking a night under the stars should book a night at Sanctuary Makanyane where there is a game viewing hide with a second-storey sleeping deck, furnished with a netted double bed and lanterns. Jaci’s Safari Lodge offers a more luxurious experience and is better for families: these two Starbed Suites have air-conditioned main bedrooms plus an outdoor sleeping deck and two bathrooms.
8. THREE RIVERS CAMP, SOUTH LUANGWA, ZAMBIA
There are only five tented suites at the Three Rivers Camp, each with its own sleeping-platform and star bed so you can sleep under the Milky Way whenever you feel like it – and can also easily get back to your main bedroom at any time. This is a wild landscape of meandering waterways and ox-bow lakes filled with hippo and crocodile; the South Luangwa is big game country and it’ll be a night of big sounds – lions most probably, hyena and perhaps even leopard – as well as the smaller players like owls and nightjars, and the stars are dazzling.
9. MALORI STAR BED & NALEDI SLEEP-OUT: TSWALU, SOUTH AFRICA
Protecting the diverse wildlife of the red-sand Kalahari, South Africa’s largest private reserve is the setting for Tswalu’s star beds: Naledi – ‘Star’ – is the more rustic of the two and has an outdoor shower while luxurious Malori – ‘Dreamer’ – gives you the choice of sleeping beneath the stars or under thatch. Both are very romantic and the Kalahari night skies are spectacular but they can also accommodate two children on camp beds to make for a family holiday they’ll always talk about.
10. RUCKOMECHI: MANA POOLS, ZIMBABWE
Overlooking famous “Parachute Pan’, a well-used waterhole on the Zambezi River floodplain, the sleep-out deck at Ruckomechi Camp is unashamedly romantic. Simply but comfortably appointed, it’s one of the best places to watch wildlife as the sun sets and listen to the sounds of the African night. You can enjoy a private dinner for two on the deck (or maybe breakfast in bed the next day) and sleep safe in the knowledge that a guide is discreetly stationed nearby.