Imagine sleeping under the stars, and not just any old stars but a magnificent tapestry of far away galaxies and suns that might have died out millions of years ago, but their light rays are only just piercing the dark sky of some savannah plain on a continent teeming with wildlife.
Imagine a dark sky, so dark and black that every little star twinkles. There’s Orion’s belt and Cassiopeia. Then there’s one constellation you probably won’t have seen before, diamond shaped at an oblique angle on the horizon – the Southern Cross – just as it was when Vasco da Gama used celestial navigation to find his way around Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa.
Star-gazing like this needn’t take place in a planetarium, nor your dreams. On a Southern Destinations African safari, you could go to sleep under a dark sky with its incredible array of stars right above you. That’s because selected camps offer the option of having your bed set up out in the open specially for you to appreciate the beauty of being so remote and removed from the nearest power grid and glow of urban lights. Yes, there’s more to safari holidays than daytime game viewing!
You are probably thinking … ’but what about the wild animals?’ Never fear, we would never compromise your safety. In the Okavango and Kruger wildlife areas, the Star Beds are set high up on stilted platforms with clever security features, a whistle and a phone so that you can call a ranger if at any stage you felt nervous.
Here are seven of our most-favourite camps with Star Beds:
1. Nkwichi Lodge – Malawi
Gaze up at the night sky with your head on the pillow, fall asleep and then awaken to the serene sight of the dawn sky reflected on the waters of Lake Malawi. It doesn’t get any better than this! At Nkwichi Lodge in Malawi, your bed is truly African – made by local hands from local driftwood. The lodge is magnificent, nestled into the private sanctuary comprising of 4 kms of pristine shoreline on the Mozambique side of this lake, which is a world heritage site marine park. Noted for its crystal clear waters, the lake provides the perfect location for snorkelling, kayaking, swimming, sailing, fishing and relaxing.
2. Baines’ Camp – Botswana
Recently featured in one of our blogs, Baines’ Camp is a favorite Botswana lodge for the pure romanticism of its setting. It’s a stilted camp situated amongst the wetlands of the Moremi Game Reserve of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. With the night sounds of the animals that favour this section of the Moro River, you can star-gaze from special beds that you can roll out onto the deck of your tented chalet, along with an open air bush bath in which you could relax and stargaze after a dusty day on safari. With so little light usage in these camps, you’ll get the benefit of the full night sky. There’s a certain intimacy to this Botswana camp, with its lovely location teaming with wildlife. Elephants are frequently seen here, and you will be able to interact with the resident herd.
3. Lion Sands Treehouses – South Africa
The Lion Sands Treehouses are out of this world, like something magical from your childhood reading CS Lewis or Tolkien while perched in your favorite garden tree. They afford the ultimate in privacy, being 20 feet up in the air. There’s just enough room for a small table for two, a double bed draped in a mosquito net and some strategically hung lanterns on this lofty platform with a view. Choose from the Chalkley Treehouse, Tinyeleti or Kingston Treehouse for a unique, wild (and rather romantic) experience at one of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve lodges in South Africa ’s famous Kruger Park. Each has a totally different setting, look and feel.
4. Abu Camp – Botswana
Located in the Okavango Delta in the Abu concession, Abu Camp is all about elephants and is named after a much-loved old tusker. This is pure savannah, but with a touch of class and comfort in this stylish and modern camp. The beautiful double Star Bed is set up on special decks overlooking the elephant boma and includes an open shower on the deck below. Imagine lying in bed at night listening to the rustle, snap and crunch of elephants calmly feeding nearby! There is nothing more exhilarating than sleeping in the open air with just a warm breeze between you and the starry African night sky.
5. Ol Donyo Lodge – Kenya
This camp enjoys ringside seats to the greatest of African views, that of Mount Kilimanjaro – the continents highest peak at 5,895m and the only equatorial place boasting snow. Of course, this all disappears by night unless there’s a full moon in which case you’ll be falling asleep to the most surreal of vistas. Ol Donyo is set on the plains of the 275,000 acre Mbirikani Group Ranch, in the Chyulu Hills of the Amboseli region of southeastern Kenya. It’s a lodge in the best safari tradition, that was founded by Richard Branson, has a healthy profit share partnership with the local Masai community and is managed by Great Plains Conservation. The sumptuous suites have utterly private Star Beds on the roof that can be accessed via a winding stone staircase.
6. Little Kulala – Namibia
Perhaps the best location for guaranteed starry skies is the Namib Desert. Little Kulala is located in the world famous Sossusvlei, in Namibia. It’s a stark landscape, serene in its sparse beauty and though you won’t be walking through thick savannah bush to spot the animals, it has a special beauty all of its own complete with gemsbok, impala, desert fox and sweeping vistas. The Star Beds are set up on the rooftop below the most intense myriad of desert night sky stars you’ll ever see. This stylish zen-like thatch and adobe camp treads lightly on the environment and if there is availability, should be your Sossusvlei accommodation of choice.