From simple tented camps set around a fire to large luxury lodges with air conditioning and private plunge pools, there is a vast range of accommodation in Africa to suite every taste and budget.
One of the most interesting developments over the last few years has been in increasing popularity of luxury sleep-outs and treehouses. These do not offer a back-to-basics wilderness experience, but are instead well appointed luxury platforms at top safari lodges that allow guests to have a romantic night out in the heart of the African bush without sacrificing anything in the way of comfort.
These sleep outs all offer proper king-size beds with mosquito nets, seating areas with spectacular views, and bathrooms with running water, showers and flushing WCs. After enjoying a sundowner drink and meal overlooking the reserve, you can settle down to watch the stars and listen as Africa’s nocturnal animals start to stir. These are magical and unforgettable experiences, and a wonderful addition to any luxury safari adventure.
Ngala Treehouse, South Africa
This is one of the newest and most spectacular luxury treehouses in Africa.
Set in the heart of the Timbavati Game Reserve on the borders of South Africa’s Kruger Park, the Ngala Treehouse is available to guests who will be staying at either Ngala Safari Lodge or Ngala Tented camp.
Timbavati is well known as one of South Africa’s premier private reserves, and the game viewing in the area is often spectacular, with regular sightings on the Big 5 and numerous other species.
A stay at the Ngala Treehouse allows guest to experience the sights and sounds of the African bush in privacy and safety, far from from Wi-Fi and artificial light and yet with a level of refinement and luxury that is sure to wow guests.
The Treehouse consists of 4 levels and 2 sleeping areas. The ground floor contains an open-plan dining area, where you can settle down to a delicious picnic or tapas style dinner.
If you continue up the stairs you will come to the bathroom. Here you will find a hot running walk-in shower, and a dressing table with a single vanity basin, and a separate WC.
The third level has a kingsize bed surrounded by glass panels so you will always have a view to enjoy. The elevated sleep-out platform is at the very top under a retractable awning, surrounded by the bush and tree top canopies. The platform also acts as a comfortable open-air lounge during the day.
Lion Sands, South Africa
These may be the best known and most photographed of the treehouses in Africa.
Set in the heart of the world renowned Sabi Sands Game reserve, the Lion Sands offers a number of exclusive luxury tree houses available to guests staying at Lion Sands River Lodge or Lion Sands Ivory Lodge.
These treehouses all offer a fantastic ‘bush bedroom’ on a secure platform with all the comforts of a 5* safari lodge yet surrounded by the African bush and open to the skies. Guests who have booked a night at the treehouse are taken there at sunset after their evening game drive, and drinks and gourmet picnic dinner are provided. The hours of African dusk can be enjoyed relaxing and absorbing the vastness of the bushveld as it transforms from day to night, before turning in for slumber beneath the incredible night sky.
You will awake as the sun rises, and the lodge will have provided a light breakfast for you to enjoy as the reserve come to life around you. Your ranger will come an collect you at the agreed time and take you on your morning game drive.
Marataba, South Africa
Marataba Safari Lodge is ideal for anyone looking for a wonderful Big 5 safari experience set in a beautiful malaria-free reserve at the foothills of the Waterberg mountains. This area is a haven for an impressive variety of wildlife, and offers a varied landscape of majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys.
Marataba is owned by the same people who own Lion Sands, so it should come as no surprise that they have now added a spectacular treehouse experience for guests. The Thabametsi Treehouse has a similar set-up to those at Lion Sands, and again you will arrive at the treehouse just before sunset and can enjoy sundowners from your private deck as the coolness of the approaching evening brings animals into the open. A gourmet picnic can be enjoyed at your table on the deck, from where you have front row seats to the wildest theatre, and the comfortable king-size bed will give you
Abu Elephant Boma, Botswana
Abu Camp is set on the edge of a large lagoon in a vast private reserve of 180,000 hectares in the heart of the Okavango Delta.
Abu offers the extraordinary privilege of enabling guests to interact with the resident elephant herd during their stay – watching the evening feeding, accompanying them on foot as they move through the bush, and sharing the simple joy of a frolicking youngster.
Abu’s one-of-a-kind Star Bed is set over the herd’s boma and guests can spend a night here, being lulled to sleep listening to the elephants’ rumbling snores below.
Baines Camp Botswana
Set amongst the shady trees and water of the Okavango Delta, the intimate Sanctuary Baines’ Camp is named after the famed 19th century explorer and artist, Thomas Baines. This area, situated on a vast private concession neighbouring the Moremi Game Reserve, and offers superb game viewing and birding.
The six suites at Sanctuary Baines’ are opulent and luxurious, with ensuite facilities and four-poster beds. Traditional safari ceiling fans create a cooling breeze at even the hottest times of the year.
Unlike the other placesd featured in this list, the sleepout experience at Baines camp is available at every suite and does not have to be booked before you arrive in camp. Should you wish, your bed can be wheeled out onto the private wooden deck for a night under the stars, overlooking the shimmering waters where hippo can often be spotted. Or take an indulgent soak under the stars on your own private viewing deck in an opulent star bath. At Baines’ Camp, the sky’s the limit.
Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean.