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To celebrate the recent news that South Africa will be opening their borders to international travel from the 01st of October, we thought we would share with you a few of the country's top sleep out and star bed experiences to get you excited about your next South Africa safari adventure!
What Tailormade Africa can do for your next South African adventure
Here at Tailormade Africa, we just LOVE designing bespoke tailormade safaris which suit you and your loved ones down to a tee. The lodges and camps that we support in this beautiful country are all unique and offer something incredibly special in their own way. The majority of our safari options are located on exclusive private big five reserves with exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities and have stunning designs and facilities for you to make the most of your time in the bush – including, as you will see below, star beds and sleep out decks! All of this, plus exquisite culinary delights and the chance for you to excite your taste buds with the most delicious South African wines around – you'll be in the best place to get your safari fix.
What is a star bed sleepout?
Each lodge and camp offers something different. Some are solid structures which offer the most gorgeous luxury home-from-home in the bush, with vast open views and private plunge pools out on huge decks. Some are a little more adventurous and are tented structures where you can have all the luxuries you'd expect from a more typical lodge, but with the chance to listen to the African bush surrounding you through the canvas walls.
Another level up from this is ACTUALLY sleeping in the African bush, in absolute privacy, with no walls around you whatsoever – but still in proper beds with all the comforts you'd need to actually sleep! All of this either in a treehouse or out on an extended deck, there are lots of beautiful places you can spend the night under the African sky and we know all the best ones!
Don't worry – despite being in the wilderness, they are all completely safe. Lodges and camps which offer the star bed experience will always keep your lodge or camp room for you so if you do get a little unsettled by this truly wild, romantic and exhilarating experience, you can always head back 'indoors' for the night.
How does it work?
The majority of star beds are essentially beautifully laid out setups in the middle of a raised platform above the ground. This adds excitement as not only will you hear the odd roar of a lion or the distant laugh of a hyena, but you may also find wild animals wander beneath you during the night! With glasses of bubbly to enjoy as the night comes on, you'll be able to experience the bush as it comes alive with the sound of nocturnal animals on the move.
And for those of you who may need to ask… no, you won't need to worry about any scary bush loos! Proper facilities will be available to all who head out to spend a night in one of these marvellous star beds and sleep outs.
Take a look at 5 of our top Star Beds and Sleep Outs in South Africa.
1. Tswalu Kalahari: Malori Sleepout
The gorgeous Tswalu Kalahari is situated in the Savannah Biome and lies in a transition zone between the true Kalahari ecotype and arid savannah. Located in the Northern Cape of South Africa, this is a land of incredible sand dunes punctuated by the Korannaberg hills, which creates a superbly diverse habitat unlike that found anywhere else in the Kalahari.
This beautiful Private Reserve gives you the chance to see up to 240 bird and 80 mammal species including the elusive aardvark and pangolin, plus stunning black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, black and white rhinos, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes and herds of endangered sable and roan antelopes. It makes for a perfect 'second' safari alongside a private reserve in another part of the country as you get to see animals which you simply wouldn't get elsewhere in the country.
At Tswalu, there are only two camps - The Motse and Tarkuni Homestead. Privacy here is at its best as you'll be one of just 28 or fewer guests on the reserve. The Motse is a 'village' of nine chalets (including three which have additional rooms for kiddies) while Tarkuni is a stunning five-bed private residence which was formerly the Oppenheimer family home.
As for the sleepout? Well, the Malori (meaning 'dreamer' in Tswana) gives you the chance to experience a night out in the reserve in absolute privacy with exquisite surroundings and panoramic views. The whole experience starts with private sundowners at Malori, which is perfect as the building faces absolute west to give you an incomparable Kalahari sunset. After being served a seriously tasty supper with a night-time tipple, your guide will set off and leave you to enjoy the magic. You'll be surrounded by the calls of nocturnal animals, with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Kalahari night sky. Bliss.
2. Tintswalo Lapalala: Sleep Out Deck
On the banks of the Palala River in the Waterberg region of Limpopo province in South Africa lies a piece of paradise – the Lapalala Wilderness. With 44,500 hectares of breath-taking natural beauty, this Big Five reserve is truly one of Africa's undiscovered safari wonders and is today one of the largest private game reserves in South Africa.
One of our favourite lodges here is the stunning family-friendly Tintswalo Lapalala. With just seven luxury tented suites (including two 2-bed family suites), all with private plunge pools, the camp is ideal for anyone wishing to stay in a malaria-free zone in the heart of a stunning wilderness. Game drives and bush walks are just part and parcel of a visit here, but those who are fully into adventure can also enjoy Bass and fly-fishing or indeed if you're up for something super cool, why not participate in a Wild Dog tagging conservation programme? We also really love visiting the ancient rock paintings which are found in caves and rock shelters around the reserve.
As for the Sleepout Deck here – well, what a spot. Surrounded by a pristine, exclusive Waterberg wilderness, a night out here gives you the chance to immerse yourself in utter beauty with endless stars around you. Located up on a hill with an extraordinary view, you'll get the chance to experience the larger scale landscape of the Lapalala Wilderness. The Sleepout Deck makes for fantastic landscape photography and a chance to experience a sunset that will be embedded in your memory for many years to come. There are bathrooms on the deck, a bar and even a shower for a quick cool off after a long day. Meals and sundowners can also be arranged on the deck for special occasions. What a setting to pop the question!
3. Samara: Milky Way Star Bed
Samara Private Game Reserve is located in the Greater Karoo in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. Often referred to as South Africa's version of the Australian Outback, the area is characterised by extensive open plains bordered by dolerite-capped mountains. The arid landscape and harsh climate are where this area gets its ancient San name, Karoo, meaning Land of Great Thirst.
The reserve itself is vast with 67,000 acres of pure wilderness, and has just two five-star lodges which cater to a maximum of 26 people. Exclusivity here is the name of the game! The beautiful Karoo Lodge is a lovingly renovated farmhouse which is as homey as it gets. With just nine rooms of varying sizes, it's rustic and authentic charm is perfect for you to relax and allow the Karoo to envelop you. The Manor House can be booked exclusively, and offers a contemporary take on Karoo living as an elegant 4-bedroom villa. Glass double doors are flanked by beaded African artwork with Karoo antiques giving a true sense of place. Here you will find a stunning mountain landscape which unfolds over a 21-metre infinity pool – beyond which you'll find a waterhole which is very popular year-round but particularly in the dry season!
As for the Milky Way Star Bed here, we cannot speak more highly of it. Located on the Milk River, Samara's Star Bed will take your breath away as it quite literally looks over its own waterhole down below where you can simply gaze down as animals large and small visit to quench their thirst. You'll get to enjoy a picnic supper here and sundowner drinks before being left to enjoy the solitude, taking in the spectacular views over the mountainous landscape, without a light in sight. As the night sky develops, marvel at the Milky Way which is likely one of the clearest sights of it you'll ever see. A handy star book will help you point out familiar constellations – which may look upside down to most! The best thing? Drifting off to sleep wrapped in a thick mohair blanket with the sounds of a night-time Africa around you, and then waking up to big skies and the sound of a Karoo dawn.
4. Jaci's Safari Lodge: Starbed Suites
Located in Madikwe Game Reserve, Jaci's Safari Lodge is just an hours' flight from South Africa's capital city, Johannesburg. This beautiful malaria-free reserve is the fifth largest in South Africa, home to more than 60 mammals (including the big five!) and has over 300 resident and migrant bird species. As reserves go, this one is pretty special as it borders Botswana in the north and has a rich range of vegetation as well as unique topography which makes it a paradise for any safari-goer.
Jaci's Safari Lodge is unique in its look and feel. Eclectic décor is combined with luxurious linens and beautiful finishes making Jaci's a seriously pretty and photogenic lodge! With luxury tented-style rooms and bespoke family-friendly suites, it's the ideal base while in this lovely part of the country. Besides the 'usual' game activities one could expect, such as game drives and bush walks, they offer something over and above the rest! We just love the 'Terrapin' Photographic Hide. This, in combination with a comprehensive photographic offering, makes Jaci's one of the top spots for photography! Even those without a practised clicking finger will leave feeling just that bit more a pro than they were before. Those with little legs will not be forgotten here with specific activities for kiddies, and if you're into giving back, we highly recommend you try your hand at helping with one of the conservation efforts.
All that said, the Starbed Suites here really do steal the show. Perfect for honeymooners and special occasions, these two suites are the epitome of private and romantic safari accommodation. Set over two levels with stunning bursts of colour, they really are much more like a luxury bedroom in the bush. There is a choice of sleeping indoors or under the African sky, and with your own lounge, private safari bar and viewing deck, you really can't go wrong!
5. Lion Sands Private Game Reserve: Treehouses
Located in the Mpumalanga province in South Africa, the Lions Sands Private Game Reserve lodges are the only private sanctuary rooted in both the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and the famous Kruger National Park, separated only by the gorgeous Sabie River. The reserve conserves 10,000 hectares of pure wilderness and boasts of being one of the most diverse concentrations of wildlife in the southern hemisphere. Not only will you be able to 'spot' the big five (quite literally, as leopards are absolutely thriving here) – but you will also be able to enjoy over 130 mammal species and over 450 varieties of bird! A true safari-goers heaven.
Lions Sands Game Reserve has four beautiful lodges, all ideally located for spotting animals coming down to drink at the Sabie River. Ivory Lodge is a contemporary-style lodge on the Sabi Sands side, with eight stunning villas and a two-bed villas - each with plunge pools and relaxation areas. River Lodge is also on the Sabi Sand side, and offers a chic design interpretation of the traditional safari lodge with 18 suites of different types, including four with plunge pools. Tinga Lodge is on the Kruger Park side of the reserve and is much more a sophisticated take on the colonial-style lodge, with nine suites and a two-bed privately serviced villa, all once again with private plunge pools. Narina Lodge is also on the Kruger side, perched on stilts amongst a canopy of 100-year-old trees. Nine suites offer complete privacy in a wilderness where you can watch the animals come down to the water from your pool and deck.
As for their star bed offering, you'll find you have probably seen images of them before as they really are exceptional! The first of three treehouses, Chalkey, was built on the site where Guy Audrey Chalkley, an ancestor of the owners, first made camp in a centuries-old leadwood tree. Kingston and Tinyeleti are now part of the family, and all are lit only by the soft glow of lanterns which adds to the romance. They offer an incredible digital detox and wild bush experience with added creature comforts which means you certainly won't be roughing it!
Make your next trip one to South Africa
These are just five of our favourites, but the wonderful thing about South Africa is that there are loads of fantastic options which suit single travellers, couples and families. Here at Tailormade Africa, we make a point of catching up with you on a call to learn all about you, your likes and dislikes and what the most important aspect of your trip is. We then hand-pick destinations and properties which suit you (and your pocket!), so you can trust in us to make your trip the one you've always been dreaming of.
Reach out to us even if it's just for a casual chat and we look forward to helping you plan your perfect South Africa safari holiday!
Feel free to call us on +44 1932 361807 (UK & Rest of the world) / 1 844 390 1798 (USA toll free) or pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can help you to plan your bespoke safari holiday with us – and by doing so, help us to support those most in need on the ground.