Staying at a Wilderness Safaris camp is no hardship; all your creature comforts are provided for, and yet you still feel a deep and meaningful connection to the surrounding bush, as the breeze and birdsong pass through the mesh window panels.
But did you know that you can easily convert your ‘five-star’ safari accommodation into something approaching a million-star experience (with a few planets and satellites thrown in for good measure)?
The Scott's Pan Star Bed at Linkwasha Camp
A sleep-out or Star Bed experience – available at many of our camps – means that you can drift off beneath the star-spangled heavens and all but feel the Earth rotating beneath you. Shakespeare’s Hamlet called the night skies a “most excellent canopy… this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire” – perhaps he would have cheered up if he’d fallen asleep to the sound of lions roaring after a lantern-lit dinner?
To have only sky above you, you can either choose to sleep out on the roof or deck of your safari tent (for example, at Kalahari Plains in Botswana, or Doro Nawas or Little Kulala in Namibia). You’re still in camp, and you have the option of returning inside should it start to rain, or the temperatures dip a little too low. To experience an in-camp sleep-out, just ask your Camp Manager and beds will be rolled, and mosquito nets hung…
Sleeping under the stars at Kulala Desert Lodge
For the full under-the-stars experience, however, nothing beats a Star Bed. These are typically raised platforms, some distance from the camp, with dining and ablution facilities and nearby guide accommodation. Typically, these need to be booked in advance, but can be reserved on arrival if available.
Star Beds sleep either a couple or a family; most have at least a partial roof, and all are sited at remote spots of outstanding beauty, often close to centres of wildlife activity such as busy waterholes. Your room or tent back at the camp remains exclusively yours; there is no need to pack anything other than what you need for the night.
For this post , we’ll focus on three of our favourite Star Beds: Segera in Kenya, and DumaTau and Abu Camp in Botswana.
Segera’s NAY PALAD Bird Nest Star Bed has become something of a landmark in its own right. As you might expect from one of East Africa’s most stylish and ecologically-sensitive safari camps, the Bird Nest both stands out and blends in. Crowned with a ring of intertwined branches, it’s made from sustainably-sourced materials by local craftsmen and designed by Carolin Dekeyser of NAY PALAD and architect Daniel Pouzet.
Whether you’re an empty-nester or still feathering your nest, the NAY PALAD Bird Nest provides a luxurious sanctuary far removed from the rest of the world. A peaceful haven that stands proud of the surrounding trees and overlooks a river, it offers both the chance to fall asleep beneath the heavens, and to wake to the magical sounds of birdsong and the first animals coming down to drink.
The new DumaTau Star Bed in Botswana’s wildlife-rich Linyanti region gives you not only the sort of luxury you might normally find in a permanent camp, but also grandstand seats for the amazing wildlife show being played out in and around Zibadianja Lagoon and the Savute Channel, both of which it overlooks.
As this Star Bed is some 45 minutes’ drive from DumaTau, you really do get a sense of having completely gotten away from it all. The covered beds, al fresco dining area and sunken lounge ensure that staying here is more than comfortable. Available during the Botswana dry season only, this is a unique opportunity to experience the teeming wildlife of this wilderness area first hand – and not to have to share it with anyone else!
For a Star Bed experience with some unique – and rather large – bedfellows, nothing beats Abu Camp. This sleeping platform is currently closed for refurbishments but will be available again from April 2018.
Unlike the other two Star Beds we’ve highlighted here, this one is much closer to camp and – rather wonderfully – overlooks the bomas where the Abu Herd choose to spend their nights. Which means that as well as the more familiar sounds of the African night (think hippo grunts and jackal cries) you will be serenaded to sleep by elephantine eructations and the gentle yet impressive sounds of pachyderms passing wind.
Most of our guests find that being so close to Naledi, Lorato, baby Motlotlo and the rest of the Abu Herd lulls them into the deepest of sleeps, as the ivory-coloured moon sails through the skies.
If there’s one disadvantage of a Star Bed experience, it’s that when you see a shooting star (which you almost certainly will) you may just find that in that moment, out in the bush, you have nothing left to wish for…
Written by Nick Galpine