10 of the best star bed experiences in Africa

It’s time to experience the wilderness at its most exciting: laid bare beneath a canopy of stars. Whether you are out on safari in the plains, the delta, or the desert, nothing beats sleeping outside. You’ll be surrounded by the noises of nocturnal animals, and otherwise the world around you is completely still.

Star beds are designed so you can make the most of the great outdoors, whilst still being safe and comfortable. They vary from tensioned hammocks to four poster beds on wheels, covered by a mosquito net. A candle or lantern will provide your nightlight, and when you turn it out and lie back, every single star in the sky shines unforgettably bright.

Having travelled the length of Africa to seek out the most exceptional star bed experiences in the continent. Here are our favourite 10:

Samara Private Reserve, South Africa

The Samara Private Reserve covers 70,000 ha of malaria-free land in South Africa’s Great Karoo, home to Samara Karoo Lodge.

The star bed here is set atop a wooden platform, and you and your loved one will sleep in a bespoke four poster bed. You’ll arrive at dusk for a picnic dinner and drinks, and to watch the animals descend to the Milk River to drink. As night falls, you’ll be left alone to gaze at the stars (identifying them with the help of a selection of star books), then fall asleep, warm beneath the softest of mohair blankets.

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. Visitors can see black maned lion, desert black rhino, cheetah, wild dog, and playful meerkat. The lodge’s sleep-out deck, Malori, means “dreamer” in the local language. It’s thatched design is inspired by a weaver’s nest, and the partial roof will protect you from inclement weather. The bed rolls forwards into the open, however, so you can choose to look out at the stars, or to lie directly beneath them, as the feeling takes you. This is the epitome of barefoot luxury.

Sanctuary Baines Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Sanctuary Baines Camp is one of the smallest and most exclusive camps in the Okavango Delta, with only five suites, surrounded by papyrus beds. Each of the suites has a private deck, and your four poster bed can be wheeled outside for a night beneath the stars, cooled by the natural breeze. For an added treat, you can also bathe outside as there’s also a star bath on the deck. Lie and soak in the bubbles, lit only by lanterns, and listen to the rustling and roaring of the nocturnal creatures a stone’s through away in the trees.

Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Ruckomechi Camp at Mana Pools is known as the elephants’ favourite camp as they come right into the camp to eat pods from the albida trees. The star bed here is situated close to a well-frequented waterhole, and so in the morning you’ll be in for an early start. The birds will start singing at dawn in the surrounding acacia and mahogany trees, and once they’re awake, the elephant and other animals will quickly follow. Enjoy breakfast in bed soaking up the wonders of the Rift Valley, as the elephant serenade you with the sounds of the morning ablutions.

Abu Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Magnificent and wild, Abu Camp is within a pristine ecosystem. By day you’re encouraged to join the elephant herd, walking amongst them and learning about their behaviour. It’s an unforgettable experience. The night is no less exciting, however, as you can opt to leave your elegantly furnished safari tent behind to bathe and sleep beneath the stars. You’ll have a free-standing copper bathtub out on the deck, lit by lanterns and candelabra. It’s a place of absolutely peace where you’ll want to meditate, pray, or simply count the stars before drifting off into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Ol Donyo Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

Ol Donyo Lodge neighbours Kenya’s Chyulu Hills National Park in a 275,000 acre reserve owned by the Maasai people. Mount Kilimanjaro looms on the horizon, and giant elephant still roam freely. The haunting call of the leopard cuts through the otherwise still night time air. Each room at the lodge has its own roof terrace, and it’s here that you can sleep out in style. Safe, private, and unbelievably beautiful, you might well find yourself wanting to sleep up here every night of your stay.

Loisaba Star Beds, Kenya

The Loisabia Conservancy is in the Laikipia region of Kenya, and it’s a place abundant with wildlife. It sits on the edge of Kenya’s most important elephant movement corridor, and as these are community-owned lands, you’ll also see local pasturalists moving through with their livestock flocks. The Loisaba Starbeds overlook the Kiboko Watehole, home to a family of hippo. Your gracious hosts here are Samburu and Laikipia Maasai Warriors. They lay on huge four poster beds, handcrafted and set upon raised wooden platforms. The accompanying bathrooms are equipped with beautiful brass fittings and running water, so all your creature comforts are there.

Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Malawi, Mozambique

David Livingston called Lake Malawi ‘The Lake of Stars’, so surely there can be no better place for stargazing. Nkwichi Lodge is a luxurious beach lodge, a leader in sustainable tourism, and, if we’re honest, it’s a little slice of paradise. Guests stay in intimate chalets and houses along one of Nkwichi’s eight private beaches. If you opt for the star bed, however, you’ll have a beach to yourself, or even your very own island! Beds can be set right on the lake shore, where the lapping of the waves on the sand will be your lullaby.

Wolwedans, Namibia

Wolwedans is a desert retreat in Namibia’s NabibRand Reserve. The desert camps have the breathtaking desert scenery as their backdrop. It’s a pristine, wild environment where you can see oryx and springbok, jackal, aardwolf, and 170 species of birds. Opt for the vast Mountain View Suite if you want to sleep out one night in the desert. Possible only in summer (otherwise it’d be too cold), the star bed is outside on your private verandah. You therefore have the majesty of the star filled sky before you, and the comforts of your suite just behind.

Kapama, South Luangwa, Zambia

Known as Africa’s Eden, the Kapama Private Game Reserve covers 13,000 ha of savannah and riverine forest. The peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains line the horizon. The Big Five are all found in the reserve, and so too are 40 other species of mammals. The Kapama star bed is wonderfully romantic. Your personal chef will serve you a five-course dinner in the wilderness, and you’ll dine in a ring of lantern light. You’ll then be left alone with only the star studded sky for company, the place entirely your own until dawn.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Fiona says:

    I hadn’t heard of a “star bed” before this but what a great idea – as long as you can keep the insects in check! This really looks like something that would make me feel in touch with nature and connected with the world around me, and as my husband is a keen amateur astronomer he probably wouldn’t actually spend much time sleeping!

  2. Laura Burdett-Munns says:

    It is such an amazing experience Fiona and the perfect way to mark a special date such as a birthday or anniversary. Sleeping in comfort, under the stars in Africa is a treat that you will remember forever!

  3. Lucy says:

    How have I only just heard about star beds before?! This sounds so great. I couldn?t possibly choose out of these, they?re all so wonderful in their own way – I can?t imagine the immense peacefulness that you must experience whilst being there. I think the only downside would be the insects!

    • Laura Burdett-Munns says:

      Hi Lucy,
      Star beds are such a magical experience and you feel such a beautiful connection with nature. It is very comfortable experience with insect nets covering the lovely cosy big bed so that you will be able to spend a peaceful and bug free night under the stars.
      Laura

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