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The 10 Best Sleep-Outs or Star Beds in South Africa

Best Sleep-Outs in Africa - Baines Camp

Where are some of the most romantic or evocative places to enjoy a sleep-out on your safari or honeymoon? Where you can fully immerse yourselves in the sights and sounds of the bush? The calls of the hyenas and jackals, the chatter of the birds at dusk. And again at dawn?  The spectacular sky with the Southern Cross constellation glittering above you and of course the glorious African sunset and sunrise… Why, in a sleep-out of course! Below we give our very subjective list of the best sleep-outs in South Africa.

But, more prosaically, what exactly do I mean by a sleep-out?

What is a Sleep-Out?

Broadly there are two types of sleep-outs in South Africa.

The first option is a separate place that you go to enjoy a sleep-out in the bush. Some safari lodges now offer you an opportunity to sleep out under the stars for the night. The exact format varies but the basic concept is the same. You head off to the sleep-out platform in the late afternoon by foot or by vehicle. You usually enjoy a picnic dinner with your loved one and then bed down for the night. (Sometimes you may have dinner at your lodge and then head out to the sleep-out after dinner.) In the morning you are collected and taken back to camp in time for breakfast.

Important Note: There is invariably an extra charge for the sleep-out on top of your room back at the lodge. They have to keep your room for you for two reasons. Firstly sometimes the weather just doesn’t permit a sleep-out. And secondly some people LOVE the idea when booking their trip. But then when they get there, they decide they dont want to do it. In either case, you need to have your room available.

Lion Sands Kingstone Treehouse - Best Sleep-Outs in Africa

At most sleep-outs it is just one couple, either alone or with a game scout nearby. At other camps, it is offered to more people. So that it is quite a festive atmosphere, though naturally less romantic.

The second, less “out-there” option is when your suite has some sort of an outdoor ‘sala’ (sleeping area). Here you can sleep under the stars but still within the confines of your accommodation. There is no extra charge for this, naturally. And it means that you can start your night outside. But decide to move back to your indoor bed, whenever you feel like it.

Is it for you?

This is something only you can answer. Some people love to do it, others not. There is no element of danger – the camps are not daft and guest safety is paramount. But you don’t want to head out to the ‘sleep-out’ only to feel terrified and ask to be collected three hours later. Chances are that it won’t be the soundest sleep you have ever had. Don’t underestimate how loud the bush sounds can be. Or how close an animal can seem, especially lions roaring to gather their pride. But of course this is exactly the appeal for many. How primitive it is will also vary considerably so don’t hesitate to check that it suits YOU. (Though the quick answer is that most of them are not too primitive with some form of toilet facilities and washbasins on offer.)

Best Sleep-Outs in Africa

Classic Sleep-outs in South Africa

1) Lion sands, Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Lion Sands were pioneers in offering rather beautiful sleep-outs in a platform set high up in a tree. There are now three on offer. It’s very romantic because, lets face it, aside from the adrenalin rush of being outside in the middle of a Big Five Reserve at night, you are not really roughing it with proper four poster beds and a decent bathroom all on one level. You are taken to the sleepout at sunset where drinks and a delicious picnic dinner await you. Once you are dropped off, with mosquito repellent, torches, lantern and a two-way radio to communicate with the Field Guide, you are on your own until dawn.

The original Chalkley Sleepout has been so popular that they now have three sleep-outs, one of which can accommodate children.

The stylish wood and glass Kingston Tree House is close to Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. It offers the perfect marriage of secluded safari getaway and modern luxury. A champagne and tapas dinner as the sun sets is the norm. It comes with a four-poster bed for truly luxurious African sleepouts under the stars.

Finally the Tinyeleti Treehouse is located on the banks of the Sabie River. It can accommodate four people, including children with an adventurous spirit. The open-air tree house comes to life at night with the sounds of animals drinking at the river below.

They are now offering sleep-outs in their sister camp, Marataba Safari Lodge

Best sleep-outs in Africa - Lion Sands

2) Tswalu Malori sleepout, Northern Cape

Another rather luxurious option is the Malori Sleepout at Tswalu Game Reserve. It offers a large deck, stunning panoramic views over the vast game reserve and shower facilities.

Imagine sleeping in a luxury king-size bed on a raised deck, surrounded by the calls of nocturnal animals. There’s nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Kalahari night sky. From the vivid red sand of the dunes to the brilliant blue of the sky, the Malori reveals Tswalu’s secrets and the mystique of the Kalahari.

It’s go a shaded overhand for protection against rain, and weather-proof blinds which can be rolled down according to preference. They can also provide children’s camp beds. So that the whole family can enjoy this exhilarating Kalahari sleepout under the stars.

Best sleep-outs in Africa - Tswalu

3) Ngala Tented Camp, southern Timbavati

Experience the romance of Africa under a blanket of stars in the luxurious Ngala Treehouse. This remote, yet safe, retreat is about 5km from the camp, far from Wi-Fi and artificial light. The treehouse features two sleep levels including a covered and weatherproof space with a king-size bed, hot running shower and flushing toilets. An elevated sleep-out platform allows you to slumber al fresco under a retractable screen. Enjoy sundowner drinks and snacks on the upper deck, a picnic dinner and midnight & breakfast treats.

Ngala Treehouse

4) Naledi TreeHouse at Jacis Tree Lodge AND Star bed Suites at Jacis Safari Lodge, Madikwe

Naledi Treehouse offers Jaci’s Tree Lodge guests the ultimate safari sleep-out under the stars. Their sleepout platform overlooks the river so that you can enjoy watching the animals come to drink through the evening. Naledi – meaning Star in Tswana – is kitted out with a canopied King-size bed, private KolKol wood-fired hot tub, Enviroloo, outdoor shower and boasts exceptional watering hole views.

Alternatively the two Starbed Suites offer a sleeo-out option as part of your Suite. They epitomise exclusive, romantic safari accommodation with an emphasis on privacy and modern bushveld luxury.

Jaci’s Starbed Suites are set over two levels, these sublime suites are ideal for honeymooners, special occasions and romantic getaways. With a choice of sleeping indoors, or under a blanket of African stars, each suite boasts two king-size beds, outdoor showers and indoor bathrooms. As well as lounge areas, a safari bar and private viewing deck. Striking decor touches, custom furniture pieces and bespoke finishes reflect a superior level of style, comfort and sophistication, all with the customary Jaci’s colourful twist.

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Co-founder & Director

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5) Thabametsi Treehouse, Marataba Safari Lodge, Marakele (Waterberg)

Solar-powered and spanning two levels, the Thabametsi Treehouse has an enclosed shower room, bedroom, lounge and viewing decks. It offers you 360-degree views of the Waterberg and Marakele plains. You’ll arrive at sunset for sundowners and a gourmet picnic dinner before drifting off to sleep. Your field guide is always a radio call away and your room remains available for returning to at any point.

South Africa honeymoons - Marataba safari lodge

5) Kambaku Overnight Hide, Timbavati

Set on the banks of Nduna (“Old wise man”) Dam where abundant game come to drink, this raised three-tiered sleep-out deck is beyond your wildest expectations. Dam on one side, and bushveld on the other, you are truly in the middle of nowhere.

With three levels, you are more than safe from any nocturnal visitors and have space to enjoy the vast African night sky, undisrupted by any city lights. Arriving after dinner, you’ll relax and enjoy a drink under the stars, listening to the call of hyenas.

The en-suite bathroom boasts luxurious gowns, slippers, a glorious shower and flush toilet. Settle down to the sounds of the bush, in an enormous super-sized bed, to sleep under the stars. Start the new day with a delicious cup of coffee whilst watching the sunrise.

Kambaku Overnight hide

6) Garonga, Makalali in Greater Kruger

Garonga have always offered something different. So it comes as no surprise that they were one of the first to offer a night out under the stars on their safari Sleep Out Deck, complete with four-poster bed and dining table for two.

While your luxury tent remains your home for the duration of your stay, the sleep out deck is a one-night experience for the adventurous.

Now MCH, their newest tented camp also has an bush sleep out deck experience. A lantern-lit dinner table for two and a four-poster bed draped in a canopy of netting sets the scene for a night of romance and indulgence. Because the sleep out deck is elevated, you are perfectly safe while you experience the Makalali from a different perspective.

7) Rhino Post Plains Camp, Kruger National Park

Rhino Post Plains Camp is a private concession with the Kruger Park and specializes in walking safaris. A one night sleep-out is on offer (if booked) for everyone staying at the camp . So it is not a romantic ‘couply’ thing. You all walk to the sleep-out which has a deck with a firefit to braai the evening meal and relax around the campfire. And then you retire to your own sleep-out deck. There are rudimentary bathroom facilities but on one level down.

Best sleep-outs in Africa - Rhino Walking Safaris

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Easier Sleep-outs in South Africa

The fundamental difference between this and early options is that there is no major commitment on your part. You have not inconvenienced anyone if you decide to bale. You can start the evening under the stars, but later retreat back to the security of your closed in suite. No need to repack anything. And lets’s face it, your bathroom is right there.

BUT you still get some of the frisson of sleeping outside in the bush with the stars above and the sounds of the bush all around.

9) Singita Sweni or Lebombo Lodge

Singita Sweni offers some of the best game-viewing, guiding and accommodation in the Kruger. Seven suites are hidden among a canopy of trees, each featuring open-plan interiors. A generously stocked minibar, two bathrooms and an outdoor shower overlooking the river all adds to the feeling of being enveloped by an ancient forest.

What’s more is that you can choose to sleep-out on your river deck to enjoy the sights and sounds of the bush. But with the ease of being able to retreat inside whenever you wish to….

10) Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge, Cederberg Mountains

Although not in a game reserve, Cederberg Ridge lies in the Cederberg Mountains. This is one of the best places for star-gazing in South Africa with endless clear nights and virtually no light polution. Several of their suite offer an elevated sleeping tsala with beautiful views over the mountains. You can use the sleep-out bed for daytime siestas and star-gazing for a short while after dinner. Or you can go the whole hog and ask for the bed to to be made up for night-time as well. You remain within easy reach of the comfort of your suite, yet can also enjoy a sense of sleeping out.

Please contact us if you are interested in booking any of these magnificent once in a lifetime experiences. (Please note that we need to book the whole stay at the safari lodge including the sleep-out.)

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The Best sleep-outs in South Africa – was written by Cedarberg Africa

Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa. We focus on upmarket tailormade safaris for discerning and busy people. We make our money on the difference between our trade rates and the rates that are available to you. So that means that effectively all our years of experience and expertise comes free of charge. Contact us if you’d like a tailormade safari quote.

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