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5 of the best luxury sleep-outs and treehouses in Africa

From simple tented camps set around a fire to large luxury lodges with air conditioning and private plunge pools, there is a vast range of accommodation in Africa to suite every taste and budget. One of the most interesting developments over the last few years has been in increasing popularity of luxury sleep-outs and treehouses. These do not offer a back-to-basics wilderness experience, but are instead well appointed luxury platforms at top safari lodges that allow guests to have a romantic night out in the heart of the African bush without sacrificing anything in the way of comfort. These sleep outs all offer proper king-size beds with mosquito nets, seating areas with spectacular views, and bathrooms with running water, showers and flushing WCs. After enjoying a sundowner drink and meal overlooking the reserve, you can settle down to watch the stars and listen as Africa’s nocturnal animals start to stir. These are magical and unforgettable experiences, and a wonderful addition to any luxury safari adventure. Ngala Treehouse, South Africa This is one of the newest and most spectacular luxury treehouses in Africa. Set in the heart of the Timbavati Game Reserve on the borders of South Africa’s Kruger Park, the Ngala Treehouse is available to guests who will be staying at either Ngala Safari Lodge or Ngala Tented camp. Timbavati is well known as one of South Africa’s premier private reserves, and the game viewing in the area is often spectacular, with regular sightings on the Big 5 and numerous other species. A stay at the Ngala Treehouse allows guest to experience the sights and sounds of the African bush in privacy and safety, far from from Wi-Fi and artificial light and yet with a level of refinement and luxury that is sure to wow guests. The Treehouse consists of 4 levels and 2 sleeping areas. The ground floor contains an open-plan dining area, where you can settle down to a delicious picnic or tapas style dinner. If you continue up the stairs you will come to the bathroom. Here you will find a hot running walk-in shower, and a dressing table with a single vanity basin, and a separate WC. The third level has a kingsize bed surrounded by glass panels so you will always have a view to enjoy. The elevated sleep-out platform is at the very top under a retractable awning, surrounded by the bush and tree top canopies. The platform also acts as a comfortable open-air lounge during the day. Lion Sands, South Africa These may be the best known and most photographed of the treehouses in Africa. Set in the heart of the world renowned Sabi Sands Game reserve, the Lion Sands offers a number of exclusive luxury tree houses available to guests staying at Lion Sands River Lodge or Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. These treehouses all offer a fantastic ‘bush bedroom’ on a secure platform with all the comforts of a 5* safari lodge yet surrounded by the African bush and open to the skies. Guests who have booked a night at the treehouse are taken there at sunset after their evening game drive, and drinks and gourmet picnic dinner are provided. The hours of African dusk can be enjoyed relaxing and absorbing the vastness of the bushveld as it transforms from day to night, before turning in for slumber beneath the incredible night sky. You will awake as the sun rises, and the lodge will have provided a light breakfast for you to enjoy as the reserve come to life around you.  Your ranger will come an collect you at the agreed time and take you on your morning game drive. Marataba, South Africa Marataba Luxury Lodges is ideal for anyone looking for a wonderful Big 5 safari experience set in a beautiful malaria-free reserve at the foothills of the Waterberg mountains. This area is a haven for an impressive variety of wildlife, and offers a varied landscape of majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys. Marataba is part of the MORE Family Collection, which also includes Lion Sands, so it should come as no surprise that they have now added a spectacular treehouse experience for guests.  The Thabametsi Treehouse has a similar set-up to those at Lion Sands, and again you will arrive at the treehouse just before sunset and can enjoy sundowners from your private deck as the coolness of the approaching evening brings animals into the open. A gourmet picnic can be enjoyed at your table on the deck, from where you have front row seats to the wildest theatre, and the comfortable king-size bed will give you Abu Elephant Boma, Botswana Abu Camp is set on the edge of a large lagoon in a vast private reserve of 180,000 hectares in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Abu offers the extraordinary privilege of enabling guests to interact with the resident elephant herd during their stay – watching the evening feeding, accompanying them on foot as they move through the bush, and sharing the simple joy of a frolicking youngster. Abu’s one-of-a-kind Star Bed is set over the herd’s boma and guests can spend a night here, being lulled to sleep listening to the elephants’ rumbling snores below. Baines Camp Botswana Set amongst the shady trees and water of the Okavango Delta, the intimate Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is named after the famed 19th century explorer and artist, Thomas Baines. This area, situated on a vast private concession neighbouring the Moremi Game Reserve, and offers superb game viewing and birding. The six suites at Sanctuary Baines’ are opulent and luxurious, with ensuite facilities and four-poster beds. Traditional safari ceiling fans create a cooling breeze at even the hottest times of the year. Unlike the other placesd featured in this list, the sleepout experience at Baines camp is available at every suite and does not have to be booked before you arrive in camp.  Should you wish, your bed can be wheeled out onto the private wooden deck for a night under the stars, overlooking the shimmering waters where hippo can often be spotted. Or take an indulgent soak under the stars on your own private viewing deck in an opulent star bath. At Baines’ Camp, the sky’s the limit. Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell is a co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers, specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean. Paul’s love of independent travel was first cemented when he spent 9 months doing the classic back-packing route across Asia, Australia, and North America when he was 20 year old. Over the following 30 years or so he has returned to these destinations many times, and also travelled for extended periods in central in South America as well as making countless trips to destinations across Europe. His first trip to Africa was nearly 20 years ago, and he fell in love with the continent instantly. After a few more trips (including spending a month training to be a field guide in the Sabi Sands), Paul and his wife Tracey decided to leave their jobs in marketing to form Travel Butlers. Their aim was to provide a friendly, professional, and knowledgeable service to help visitors find the very best experiences in Africa. The company was formed in 2003, and initially focussed on just South Africa and Namibia. Over the years they have taken on more staff and expanded to cover a dozen countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean. They still travel regularly to Africa both to find new destinations and experiences to offer their clients, and to check-up on old favourites.

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  1. Ooo that first one is very funky. So you basically get the full structure to yourself? I really like the idea of that, and it would be great for really getting away from things or spending quality time with your other half. The novelty factor is really appealing too, I do like places that are a little different to the norm. I also like that all of these accommodations give you a bit of luxury and home comforts, which I didn’t really expect for being out in the wilderness in Africa. I’d like to go one day, and I’ve known a few friends and colleagues who have been and found it to be a must visit once in a lifetime destination (although one I know has gone back several times now!) so it’s good to know you can do it comfortably. Some truly beautiful places here.

    1. Hi Zoe,

      You are absolutely right – you do get the whole structure to yourself with all of these. It is an outstanding experience – unfortunately I have not had the chance to go to the Ngala one as yet (it opened just before Covid-19 temporarily shut-down international travel) but I have stayed at most of the others and they really are fabulous!


    2. The treehouse is way different than anything I’ve ever seen as far as camping or travel goes. It’s really unique and looks like such a cool experience. I’m not too fond of sleeping without AC especially when mosquitoes are around, but I know traveling to Africa is a whole different story.

  2. Woaaaah! What beautiful and warm places, I absolutely loved the views. There are so many animals to see there for sure.

  3. I used to sleep out a lot when I was a kid, going to forests or even friends’ back yards to camp out. It’s pretty sad we tend to grow out of that sense of adventure really because there’s something very freeing about being out in the open like that under the stars. I must say, I’m surprised by these. I wasn’t expecting quite this sort of creativity and luxury in the wilderness of Africa. I’m not sure quite what I expected to be honest but these places look amazing.

    1. Hi Tim,

      I think you’re right about the sense of freedom you get sleeping out – waking-up at your secluded treehouse as the sun rises over the African bush is also a wonderful way to start a new day!

    2. Yeah, it’s good to see a little creativity in the design of sleep-outs here. I think that is something that will attract a lot of people to stay there. Maybe other places will see something like this and get a little more creative in their design structures. Sometimes regular hotels can all be the same, which is boring. And these places are anything but boring!

  4. Africa offers the most unique and memorable safari experience. I’m lucky to have experienced it once, and hopefully will be able to do so once more in the near future. If you want to get the most out of it, you might want to ditch your usual choice of accommodation. Private villas, camps, and treehouses are among the choices that you may consider. It does not only give you a one of a kind experience but also allow you to explore activities close to nature and the wild. On the other hand, it does not mean that you will have to compromise your luxurious tub and room. These camps and treehouses will leave you in awe with its fascinating architecture and interiors. It would be a great time to plan ahead and add Africa to your travel plans in the future.

    1. I kind of got that vibe about visiting there. A friend of mine was telling me about going to Africa, the other day. I don’t think he visited South Africa, but I understood that staying there was very different from anything else I’ve ever experienced when traveling. Thanks for these pointers about going there, it seems like getting out of your comfort zone is a prerequisite to have a good time. Which I feel is a good thing.

  5. I’ve done a couple of safaris and I’ve never been offered a sleep out experience like one of these treehouses.

  6. If you did one of these sleep outs or a tree house you’d certainly have some stories to tell when you went back into work.

    For me one of the aims of travel is to do things that are very different to your normal everyday life. That’s what makes a true break from the day in and day out routines.

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