Nothing beats the freedom and thrill of sleeping out below the stars – with nothing between you and the African wilderness. This is slow travel at its best – a chance to truly connect to your surroundings, quietly absorbing all the sounds of the African bush at night as your eyes feast on the dancing galaxies overhead. We’ve complied a list of the best sleep-out and star beds in Botswana.
You will never forget the night you spent immersed in the African wilderness. Seasoned safari goers often say a night on a sleep-out deck or star bed is the best night sleep they ever had. First timers will most likely be too excited for sleep at first – alert with the thrill of the unknown sounds around you as the nocturnal animals go about their business.
The rattle of porcupine quills as they scuttle about, the munching of hippos as they graze below your deck, the cry of bushbabies leaping between the trees, elephants breaking branches and maybe even the roar of lion… Trying to identify the incredible array of sounds as they play out is a quintessential African safari experience. Inevitably our imaginations run wild as we declare the slightest rustle to come from the fiercest creature – and this is all part of the sleep-out experience. Knowing you are safely out of harms way, tucked up on your raised sleep-out deck with your guide nearby, allows you enjoy rather than endure the experience!
Thanks to the light weight nature of the safari tents in the Okavango camps you are never that disconnected from the wilderness. So even those who stay in camp will still enjoy the thrilling experience of listening to the wilderness at night.
More and more camps are adding sleep-out experiences to their camp activities. Here are some of the best sleep-outs and star beds in Botswana.
It is worth nothing that sleep-outs are only offered during the dry season, from April-October, and most are only available on stays of 3 nights or more.
The latest sleep-out option in the Delta comes from Camp Okavango, and it’s a beauty. Set on a beautiful island surrounded by permanent water it offers a classic Okavango experience. The sleep-out features an expansive raised deck with a double bed faces eastwards offering spectacular sunrise views. The deck also features a private WC and a mosquito nets. With plenty of space the deck is able to take a third bed to accommodate families or friends travelling together.
The most striking and luxurious sleep-out deck in the Okavango comes is the Baobab Treehouse at Xigera Safari Lodge – an artistic steel structure rising 10m above the floodplain in the form of a baobab tree. Inspired by the famous painting by Jacob Hendrik Pierneff, it is set over three levels this expansive tree-house offers complete comfort and as much adventure as you wish. There are two sleeping options, with the second floor features a bedroom and bathroom with canvas sides which can be rolled up to embrace the elements, or kept down for those looking for a cosier sense of security. The third level is the real-sleep out experience – an open-air deck with a kingsize bed open to the stars. Like everything else at Xierga you can expect your sleep-out experience to be as luxurious as it gets.
With a prime location overlooking a game lively and pretty pan, Kanana Camp has one of the best sleep-out decks in the Okavango Delta. Its location means you will often wake to see plains game gathering around the pan, warming themselves in the morning light. Set just 20 minutes from camp, the sleep-out deck is a two level tree-house, with a bathroom located on the first level and an open deck with a double bed on the top level. Guests will enjoy a night drive on the way to the sleep-out after dinner in camp, arriving to a lantern lit deck and a roaring fire waiting for them.
The only camp dedicated entirely to a sleep-out experience, Skybeds is set on the Khwai Private Reserve and consists of just 3 treehouses, each offering a private sleep-out experience. All three treehouses overlook a busy waterhole which sees a steady stream of elephants during the dry season, allowing you to fall asleep to the happy purr of elephants drinking. Another highlight of a stay here is a visit to the photo hide at a nearby waterhole. The Treehouses feature a full bathroom (with WC and shower) on the first floor and an open air deck on the second. Dinner is enjoyed in camp before retiring to your treehouse. Guests at Skybeds must combine their stay with one of its sister camps – Hyena Pan, Jackal and Hide, Sable Alley or Tuludi.
Each of the stilted rooms at Baines’ Camp feature expansive decks onto which guests can roll their four posted beds to spend a night below the stars. Offering the best of both world’s with the beds easily rolling in and out of the rooms, guests have the option of spending as much time open to the elements as they wish. There is even a star bath offering the chance to sprinkle star dust into the bath along with your bubbles! The camp has a beautiful setting overlooking the Boro river on a private concession bordering the Boro river. The camp is names after the explorer Thomas Baines and this sleepout experiences certainly captures the explorer’s spirit.
One of the Okavango Delta’s premier camps, Jao, also offers the guests a chance for a more rustic, though still very comfortable, adventurous night below the stars. Jao is a beautiful area of the Okavango, the famous flats are transformed with the arrival of the floods – when it becomes a watery wonderland, teeming with herds of lechwe on the plains.
Tubu Tree and Little Tubu share a sleep-out deck on their pretty concession in the north western Okavango Delta. The viewing deck is located not far from heck and used as a hide during the day, and transformed into a sleep-out deck at night, offering guests the chance to sleep below the stars for a night. The Tubu camps have a distinct treehouse feel throughout, and the sleep-out deck is no exception.
The skies in the Kalahari is simply staggering in their vastness and clarity. The landscape is so flat and so empty on the salt pans one can see the curvature of the earth at some points. This is home to some of the best sleep-outs and star beds in Botswana. Another advantage to sleep-outs in the Kalahari is the space and flexibility- as you sleep on the ground (very comfortably!) there is plenty of space for the whole family.
A sleep out on the striking salt flats of the Makgadikgadi pans is about as close as it gets to sleeping out on the moon! The star gazing here is simply staggering – the lunar like pans stretching out as far as the eye can see, you can almost see the curvature of the earth. One particular collection of camps pioneered the sleep-out experience here, Jack’s Camp, San Camp and Camp Kalahari, and it is certainly one of the best sleep-out experiences in Southern Africa. A sleep-out on the pans is arranged on stays of three nights or more. The level of luxury varies depending on which of the camps you are staying at, the essence of the sleep-out is the same, magic! The sleep-out operation involves a strong element of surprise so we won’t say much more here – suffice to say it is an amazing experience and best sleep-outs and star beds in Botswana.
The latest sleep-out experience in the Makgadikgadi pans comes from Leroo la Tau. The camp overlooks the beautiful Boteti river and borders the Makgadikgadi national park. For guests staying three nights or more there is the chance to sleep out on the shimmer salt flats. This is a full day’s adventure, ending with dinner around the fire and a night under a blanket of stars. Your bedrolls are laid out on the salt flats and designed for completely comfort – consisting of a thick mattress, duvet, warm blankets, a pillow and hot water bottle to keep you cosy during the cool Kalahari night. For those looking for an adventure this is not to be missed.
Set in the wild and remote Central Kalahari Reserve, each of the tents at Kalahari Plains Camp features a private sleep out platform to soak up the stars at night. This is a land of big skies, to be enjoyed at any time of day and having this private deck attached to your room and available at any time means you use this as you wish. Enjoy multiple nights under the stars for as long as your stay or simply a few hours at night or at sunrise. The best of both worlds.
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