African sleepouts provide a stargazing experience unlike anything else in the world. There are few sights in the world that can rival the night sky of Africa. Low population densities in the bush and desert mean little light pollution to interfere with sky-watching. Only the sounds of the animals in the night lull you to sleep. With luxury tree houses, elevated sleep out decks, and star beds attached to your suite, there’s a stargazing experience for everyone. To that end, we’ve gathered up our top 12 favorite African sleepouts for stargazers.
Classically Luxurious Tree Houses
The Tree Houses at Lion Sands | South Africa
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive set of tree houses than those at Lion Sands. To begin with, each of the three is equipped with full bathroom facilities. They boast some of the best views of the African bush and don’t compromise on creature comforts. All of the tree houses are constructed above ground and include a radio to communicate with the Field Guide.
The chic wood and glass Kingston Tree House at Ivory Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the perfect marriage of secluded safari getaway and modern luxury. A champagne and tapas dinner as the sun sets is the norm. It sleeps two people and is decorated with a four-poster bed and understated hues of greys, white, black, and purple for truly luxurious African sleepouts under the stars.
The Chalkley Treehouse is built in a leadwood tree on the original site Guy Aubrey Chalkley once set up his camp to escape roaming predators. You’ll arrive at the treehouse at sunset for a picnic dinner and drinks. Take in the undeniably incredible views of the plains and the animals roaming below.
The Tinyeleti Treehouse is located on the banks of the Sabie River. It can accommodate four people, including children with an adventurous spirit. The open-air tree house comes to life at night with the sounds of animals stopping for a drink at the river below. There’s no electricity, but we think you’d prefer lights out to better see the millions of stars above you.
Two star beds are available at Loisaba: the Kiboko (20 minutes from the lodge) and the Koija (30 minutes from the lodge). Both are constructed with a raised handcrafted wooden platform and partially thatched roof providing protection from the elements should you need it. But we suggest rolling your bed out to sleep under the blanket of stars at night. The Kiboko Star Bed is set among a kopje of rocks and overlooks a waterhole. The Koija Star Bed cantilevers over the flowing waters of the Ewaso N’giro River below. A team of Samburu and Laikipia Maasai warriors host you during your stay, preparing meals on-site in a traditional camp kitchen. Both star beds include en suite bathroom and shower facilities. Additionally, they sleep up to four people, making these African sleepouts ideal for families.
Tswalu Tarkuni | Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
In September 2014, Tswalu relaunched their owner’s house Tarkuni, to include five luxurious suites. Previously it was the private residence of the Oppenheimer family. The best part? Each suite has its own remote star bed set in a garden off of your private terrace so you can sleep out under the stars any night you like. And since it is part of your accommodations at Tswalu Tarkuni, you won’t sacrifice any of the modern conveniences of the lodge.
Malori Sleepout Deck | Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
With 100,000 hectares surrounding you and the immense Kalahari night sky above you, there’s nothing more spectacular than spending a night at Tswalu’s Malori Sleepout Deck. You’ll be sleeping in the lap of luxury with a king-size bed dressed in Aldona linen on a raised platform. There’s a thatched overhang with weather-proof blinds for protection from rain should you need it. Full bathroom facilities are just a short distance from the deck along a lighted walkway. Enjoy the panoramic views of the vast plains and incredible Kalahari sunset while sipping on sundowners. Follow drinks with a delicious bush meal prepared by your guide. If you’ve got your children along for the night, Tswalu can also provide camping beds, making your night under the stars a family affair.
The sleepout deck at Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe offers some of the most exciting game viewing on this list. The raised deck looks out over Parachute Pan, where a large variety of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, zebra, waterbuck, and kudu tend to congregate. Lion, leopard, and wild dog have also been seen at the pan, making what could be one thrilling night under the stars! You’ll drift off to sleep with a symphony of animal sounds and wake to the beautiful sunrise over the pan. And should you need any assistance during your night out, a highly qualified guide will be in a tent nearby.
For a fully immersive elephant experience, head to Abu Camp, famous for its herd of habituated elephants that accompany you through the bush. Their star bed is raised high above the ground and overlooks the elephant boma giving you the opportunity to “sleep with the elephants,” letting their low rumblings and snores lull you to sleep. A bathroom and open shower provide complete comfort away from the lodge.
For the Adventurer
Norman Carr Return to the Wild | South Luangwa, Zambia
For those with a truly adventurous spirit, Norman Carr’s Return to the Wild overnight African safari will be a night under the stars you’ll never forget. Armed with a bedroll and a mosquito net, venture out from camp on foot mid-afternoon. Along with a guide and scout team find a spot to make camp for the night in the remote Luwi dry river bed. After a game rangers dinner and sharing stories around the fire, retreat to your bedroll under your mosquito net. Then drift to sleep while the millions of stars shine brightly overhead.
African Horseback Safaris | Okavango Delta, Botswana
Exploring the Okavango Delta on horseback provides an excellent opportunity to get up close and personal with the wildlife in one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa. Spend a day exploring the African bush on horseback. Then continue your adventure with a night on the African Horseback Safaris Sleep Out deck. Its position high in the tree provides long unobstructed views of the area below. It is also completely open to the magical African night sky. You won’t have to worry about tying your horses up for the night either. Because it’s close to camp, the grooms will take your horses back to stay the night in the barn.
Attached to Suite
After undergoing a complete refurbishment, Kalahari Plains Camp now offers private star beds on the roof of each of the 10 suites. The five million hectare desert and plains reserve is teeming with wildlife. You never know what you’ll see from your rooftop. After you’ve had enough game viewing and stargazing for the night, you can retreat down below to the comfort of your room.
Kulala Desert Lodge | Sossusvlei Desert, Namibia
Kulala Desert Lodge is set amidst a stunning landscape. The famous red dunes of Sossusvlei and the nearby mountain ranges provide its backdrop. Experience one of the clearest night skies in the world atop your “kulala” in the Sossusvlei Desert. Each suite has it’s own private rooftop star bed with a luxury bedroll for a truly unforgettable night in the desert.
Kanana Sleepout | Okavango Delta, Botswana
Without a doubt, the best way to experience the vastness of the night sky and a multitude of stars is in the wilderness of the African bush. Kanana’s sleepout deck is located in the remote reaches of the Okavango Delta, not far from camp. It’s completely open to the night sky so a stay under the stars is weather dependent. However, a stay there grants you unobstructed views of the sky and the sounds of hippos grunting in the distance. In the morning a beautiful African sunrise and a nice, warm cup of tea or coffee greet you, rounding out your African sleepouts experience.
Private Tented Camp | Sahara Desert, Morocco
While the Private Tented Camp near Merzouga isn’t a treehouse or sleepout deck, it is worth mentioning as one of the best African sleepouts. There’s no better place to view the vastness of the starry night sky than in the Sahara Desert. You won’t have any obstruction or light pollution. Each night you’ll enjoy a traditional Berber dinner, live entertainment, and music under the neverending night sky of twinkling lights. In the morning wake to a crimson sun rising over the dunes – undoubtedly an unforgettable sight.
African Safari Bonus Destination
Dinka | Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Botswana
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest wildlife reserve in the world. The annual rains transform the arid desert landscape into lush vegetation. This wild corner of the world is a year-round wildlife destination. To take in the panoramic views of the landscape and the vast starry African sky. Spend a night on the sleep out deck where the sounds of nature lull you to sleep.
About the sleep out experience, Ker & Downey designer Devon says, “Because there is absolutely no light pollution out at Dinaka, the stargazing is phenomenal. The staff will walk you through the night sky, and they have great stories to go along with it! An amazing experience is to head out to their sleep out deck, and sleep under the constellations. Plus, you get to wake up to one of the most amazing sunrises you’ll ever see.”
Sasaab | Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
The Samburu National Reserve is a top safari destination for its rare and diverse big game. In addition to all of the big cats, elusive Kenya leopard, elephant, and buffalo, it also boasts the “Samburu Big Five.” These unusual animals aren’t found on more popular reserves. Spend a night or two sleeping in the Samburu wilderness under Kenya’s dazzling night sky.
Sasaab’s fly camping experience begins with a 4 – 5-hour walk along the Ewaso Nyiro River. After arriving at the campsite, share stories around a campfire. Take in the sights and sounds of the untamed wilderness before retiring to your mosquito net tent. It is undeniably one of the purest adventures you’ll find in the bush.