To me there is nothing quite like sleeping out under the stars, surrounded by the sounds of nocturnal animals, and then rising with the sun to see the landscape awaken under the warm dawn light. In Africa one of the most interesting ways to do this is to spend the night in a treehouse or a star bed on a raised platform.
This is something I would absolutely recommend you experience whenever you have an opportunity during your vacation! Several of the best luxury camps in Africa offer sleepouts in treehouses and on star bed platforms, which certainly does not mean sleeping ‘rough’, by any stretch! In many cases they are super-luxurious and comfortable, even stretching to four-poster beds with soft mattresses and warm blankets.
I love all of these experiences because I find that the ‘treehouse’ evokes a childlike sense of adventure and wonder! It is possible at some safari lodges to sleep-out with two adults and two children, but most are just for two, providing the most romantic experience! The treehouses and star beds are set away from everyone, usually a short drive from the safari camp/lodge.
Here you are alone to enjoy the evening, listen to the night sounds and sleep under a canopy of stars. Sometimes an askari (guard) may stay a discrete distance away, or you can be left with radios to contact the lodge staff if you have any requirements.
There are also some safari camps and lodges made up entirely of treehouses and others offering a sleep-out attached to your room. These could be located in the dense forest or in the desert – each experience is very different to the other. Whilst there are quite a number to choose from, I have included a few of my favourites below to inspire you for your next safari holiday to Africa:
Kanana Camp is in the most beautiful setting and located in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It’s a super camp where you can go on game drives, mokoro safaris and walking safaris during the day, and then one night you can sleep in the beautiful treehouse sleepout, away from everyone, peaceful and at one with nature.
Sitting out on an open grassy floodplain, this raised platform has a double four poster bed clad with netting and surrounded by lanterns. As you drift off to sleep you are serenaded by the painted reed frogs and bell frogs and the snorting hippos in the distance. You will perhaps hear a hyena passing by or the rasping sound of a leopard as he calls out from the nearby fig and palm trees.
Chisa Camp is placed in the phenomenal wildlife region of the Busanga Plains in the Kafue National Park. This is the newest camp to be opened by the owner, who specialises in eco-friendly safaris and has just upgraded all their vehicles to electric; e-boats, e-jeeps, e-bikes – they offer the exciting ‘Silent Safari’!
Chisa Busanga Camp has just four unique rooms, perched above the plains with a viewing platform and bird’s nest-styled sleeping area. These provide stunning views and you can wake to the sight of the sun creeping across the horizon.
Not only is Lion Sands one of the best private conservancies in South Africa’s Sabi Sands, but it also comes with several treehouses. At sundown you will be driven out from the main lodge to the sleeping platform where you can enjoy your dinner, alone, surrounded by candlelight and perhaps a bottle of bubbles too. This is a sensory experience where you are surrounded by nature, no noisy vehicles, no one else around and you listen too and watch nature.
The Kingston Treehouse is completely luxurious! You reach it via a path through giant white boulders before crossing your very own drawbridge! There is also an en suite area enclosed by glass behind your deck.
At full moon you may see the elephants as they pass by, incredibly for such a huge animal they can slip by silently. Maybe there is a roar from lion in the distance or a cackle from hyenas. You are safe and secure (you will also be equipped with a radio in case you need assistance from the lodge). The stars are fascinating, and while you may want to stay up all night watching them, you will soon fade into a deep and restful sleep.
Another lovely option at Lion Sands is the Chalkley treehouse, which features an open deck beneath the branches of a leadwood tree, with four poster bed draped in nets and soft seats where you can watch the animals below – the ultimate romantic night out!
This ultimate jungle treehouse is located at Ngaga Camp in the deepest forests of Odzala-Kokoua National Park. Odzala is one of the last great intact strongholds of the African rainforest, part of the Congo Basin which is know for and valued a globaley for its rich and abundant biodiversity.
The camp is built entirely amongst the trees on wooden stilts with raised walkways between rooms. The treehouses are made from local material from the forest and created in a unique beehive style tucked deep in the forest.
The sounds of the night are just terrific! With a myriad of wildlife around you, from forest elephants and forest buffalo to great blue turaco and grey parrots, De Brazza’s monkey, giant forest hog, red river hog, bongo and crowned monkey, Congo clawless otter and the agile mangabey, the list is long and incredible. But to top it off, the icing on the cake... you can track two small family groups of western lowland gorilla nearby.
Lying in the Matthews Range in northern Kenya, Sarara Treehouses have the most stunning view, surrounded by mountains that are home to the Samburu tribes. The Treehouses are located within the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy which has several thousand elephants roaming amongst the mountains and surrounding valleys, as well as a strong leopard population.
During the day you can walk many trails, visit the Samburu and then laze around the rock swimming pool, before retiring to your treetop tented room where you will sleep soundly listening to the leaves rustle on the trees swaying around you, where the birds sleep until the early hours and then the day springs into life around you with a choir of bird songs.
Simply put, the Nay Palad Bird Nest most definitely has the WOW factor! It is completely extraordinary and the only one of its kind in Kenya. Designed by a French architect Daniel Pouzet, the Nay Palad is the most luxurious treehouse and the largest bird’s nest around!
With a 360°, birds-eye-view of the wilderness, one really is high above the savannah grasslands in Kenya's Laikipia Plateau. Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley are nearby as well as an abundance and variety of animals, so there’s lot’s to be seen from this privileged position. If you stay for three nights at Segera, you can spend one of them tucked up in the ‘nest’, experiencing the most wonderful memories that will last forever.
Your picnic dinner and champagne will be delivered to the nest and in the morning breakfast arrives after dawn so that you can start your day slowly, waking up and listening to the landscape and its animals and birds as another new day begins.
Segera is a private conservancy in the foothills of Mount Kenya with only a very small number of accomodation options, making for a highly exclusive safari to Kenya. The landscape has been rejuvenated into a sanctuary for nature and conservation and is home to lion, leopard, elephant, wild dog and many more. They also have one of the most stunning private art and sculpture collections in Africa, so this is a must for art lovers!
Linkwasha is based in Hwange National Park Zimbabwe, a Park I spent a lot of time in growing up and so it does hold a special place in my heart! It is famed for its great herds of elephants, few camps and few visitors, as well as having the most exceptional guides in Africa. Linkwasha Camp itself is luxurious, with only eight rooms set amongst a 31 000 hectare private conservancy.
Here you can take game drives both day and night to see nocturnal species, do safari walks with your expert guides to see all the minutia such as plants and insects, and view the wildlife at the Pan from the hide, and if silent, where quite often more big game can be observed strolling gently along.
One night you can leave behind the main camp and be driven out into the wilderness and stay under the stars in their star bed. The star bed is positioned overlooking Scott’s Pan which is constantly visited by wildlife, day and night.
When I stayed there last, I found myself surrounded by a herds of elephant totalling probably 150 individuals! I didn’t want to go to sleep at all, such was the wonderful sound of them drinking and splashing in the water and the soft rumbles they made whilst greeting other families.
Way off the beaten track, far into the Kalahari on the edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve lies Dinaka Camp, a small personal camp with such a wonderful safari experience! Dinaka is witness to one of the most unique and biodiverse regions of Southern Africa, where you can track the extraordinary wildlife that is adapted to this environment.
The rooms are tented and pure ‘safari’, but in addition there is a sleepout deck. It is elevated high on wooden stilts and provides 360° views across the short grass plains - this is a super place to spend a night! There is no light pollution here and the air is dry, making the skies above so clear that the stars offer an amazing spectacle!
During the day you will enjoy time in an underground photographic bunker, explore the land, engage with San people who have lived in this environment for millennia, listen to their stories around the campfire at night before drifting off to sleep safely above this semi desert, surrounded by oryx, springbok and brown hyena.
During your safari to Africa there are many opportunities for you to support local charities and organisations that protect Africa’s wildlife through conservation work, environmental protection and community support projects. It is my firm belief that not only should we all give back when we travel, so that Africa can continue to delight for many generations to come, but also that travelling philanthropically greatly enhances your own travel experience, too! The Explorations Company has recently created a Philanthropy Handbook which you can browse to inspire your philanthropic travels.
Ways in which you can get involved include making a donation to a conservation charity and meeting their researchers or rangers who will explain their conservation work, sponsoring a wildlife collaring or chipping for conservation purposes (and assisting in the procedure yourself), visiting local projects that empower communities to protect their wild spaces through education, healthcare and business support programmes, and much more! You could even lend your time and spend a morning sharing your skills – for example teach a class, help to build a community space, or training local people in useful skills.
If you would like more information about exciting holidays and safaris for 2021, please do feel free to get in touch with me. Or if you would like to just dream for now, you can do so at our Video Library.
Images provided by kind courtesy of:
Lion Sands South Africa, Chisa Camp Green Safaris, Ker and Downey Botswana, Segera Kenya, Odzala Discovery Camps and Scott Ramsay, Sarara Lodge Kenya, Linkwasha Camp Zimbabwe.