Top 10: Incredible African Sleep Outs You Must VisitBy Angelica Malin
If you are roasting in your bed at night this summer, Timbuktu has the answer. Forget air-conditioning, walls and windows, alfresco is the way to go when it comes to experiencing Africa’s nocturnal delights. From adventurous treehouse platforms to luxurious decks and bedrolls with nothing but a fluttering mosquito net, there’s a variety of ways to spend the night in the bush. Here’s our top picks:
The Lowdown: In the heart of the Namibian desert is Sossusvlei – a place with no light pollution – where the stars sparkle at night. To make the most of the spectacular skies, book into Little Kulala, where each room has a private rooftop star-bed that offers completely undisturbed views of the landscape and the heavens above. Spotting scopes are provided, but eyes are all your need to view the stars in their glory.
Gimme More: If time is of the essence, take Timbuktu’s short and sweet Namibia route and add Little Kulala to the journey.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Little Kulala from £460 per person, per night as part of their fully customisable itineraries.
The Lowdown: Every last detail has been thought of at Tswalu’s Malori Sleepout Deck; from the hot water bottles waiting in the king-size bed, to the thoughtfully placed robes and slippers. There is also a protective thatched overhang should it start to rain. Timbuktu suggests arriving at in time for sunset drinks before dinner, and a magical night in front of the star-lit desert sky.
Gimme More: Combine a sleepout in Tswalu with Madikwe, Cape Town and the Winelands for a trip to remember.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Tswalu Motse Lodge from £840 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: A mention of Jao, located in the Okavango Delta, is normally accompanied by mutterings of brilliant architecture and interiors – but the real gem is the sleep-out deck. With billowing mosquito nets, and polished wood floors, the deck is beautifully simple, with views of the surroundings taking centre stage. There is also the bonus of a sharp-eyed, watchman-cum-butler who is as ready with the champagne as he is to scare away any marauding wildlife. The perfect place to bed down and relish the private star show.
Gimme More: Make Timbuktu’s ‘Adventurous Botswana’ route even more intrepid by adding a night or two at Jao Camp in the Okavango Delta.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Jao Camp from £1,810 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: Loisaba’s ‘Mukokoteni’ are brilliantly creative beds-on-wheels made from old Land Rover axles. The views are so vast, you can almost see the curvature of the earth and with an occasional nomadic giraffe the only neighbours, they’re free to keep both eyes on the astronomic action above. For maximum galaxy-watching time, hike between the two different star beds sites (or even journey by camel or horseback), and stay for two nights in celestial heaven.
Gimme More: Enjoy all the highlights of Kenya on an all-encompassing route and add the Losaiba Star Beds for extra sparkle.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Loisaba from £360 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: Forget rose petals and four-poster beds; sleepouts in the sandy Luwi river bed are all about the bush. First up is a wildlife lesson on an intrepid afternoon walk through the acacia woodland with legendary guide Shaddy Nkhoma, followed by sundowners against the endless Zambian sky. When darkness falls, hunker down on a bedroll at the sleep-spot (quite literally in the middle of nowhere) for dinner, campfire tales and a spot of stargazing.
Gimme More: Design a walking adventure in Zambia using the ‘Best of the South Luangwa’ route as a template and combine a mix of bush camps and sleep outs.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Return to the Wild from £880 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: Named after the sound of the sand underfoot – it really is that perfectly squeaky – Nkwichi is the Robinson Crusoe-style lodge of dreams on the Mozambique shores of Lake Niassa. For sleeping, there are six traditional chalets, but Timbuktu prefer to transport the ‘bedroom’ to the sugary-white sands. There are no walls or ceilings; just a bed, lapping waves, and uninterrupted views of the inky sky.
Gimme More: Take a closer look at all Nkwichi has to offer, then add the lodge to any Mozambique, Zambia or Zimbabwe route for the perfect end to a trip.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Nkwichi from £280 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: Pioneered by explorer Richard Bonham in the 1980s, sleeping out in the Selous is the real-deal – we’re talking traditional bucket-showers, flickering hurricane lanterns and bedrolls under the finest mosquito nets. Walk to the chosen site in the late afternoon glow, settle down for a spot of campfire cuisine as darkness falls, and then crawl into bed under a ceiling of whirling, twirling stars. Magic.
Gimme More: A trip to Southern Tanzania isn’t complete without a stop in Selous and a night of fly camping. Use Timbuktu’s ‘Remote bush and beach in southern Tanzania’ route to kick start the planning.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Sand Rivers Selous from £830 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: Views of the solar system from Lion Sands’ three treehouses are unreal. Built on raised platforms, animals prowl underneath the ingenious rooms whilst glass walls and roof hatches allow you to snuggle down and stargaze. There is also an open-air shower from which to count the shooting stars, and plenty of outdoor seating areas for a glass of wine under the night skies.
Gimme More: Add Lion Sands to a classic South Africa route for a little something different.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Lion Sands from £1,640 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: At the sleepout deck at Ruckomechi, you’re just a lion’s roar from the wildlife of Mana Pools and all the rustlings of nearby Parachute Pan. After a picnic dinner on the deck, curl up under the feather duvet and watch the stars whilst keeping an ear out for noisy predators – there are plenty of them around…
Gimme More: Sleep under the stars in both Zambia’s South Luangwa and Mana Pools by adding Ruckomechi to the ‘Adventure in Zambia and Zimbabwe’ route.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Ruckomechi from £570 per person, per night.
The Lowdown: At night, the lunar landscape of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans transforms into an otherworldly spectacle in which millions of stars glitter in the complete blackness. For the best seats in the house, hop on a quad bike from Jack’s Camp and spend the night at Kubu Island, complete with G&Ts in crystal glasses, a three-course dinner and a bed draped in the finest Egyptian cotton.
Gimme More: Spend time with the San Bushmen of the Makgadikgadi on a fabulous Botswana route, and add Jack’s Camp for the chance to visit Kubu Island.
Price: Timbuktu offers nights at Kubu Island at Jack’s Camp from £950 per person, per night.