There’s no better way to experience the African night sky than sleeping in a star bed. A luxury Kenyan safari offers this unique engagement with the wilderness. Crawl under your duvet on a platform in the heart of the savannah and immerse yourself in the night sounds.
One of the most memorable things about being at a luxury safari lodge in Kenya is the African night sky, free of pollution or city lights, dark as pitch and glittering with diamonds. The sounds and smells and the feeling of sheer wildness are simply unforgettable. What better way to experience this than sleeping out of doors in a Kenyan star bed in the heart of the savannah? And that’s exactly what we did.
We had just completed a sumptuous meal at our luxury safari lodge and now our Maasai guide led us back to our room, perched on a rocky koppie. While we’d been dining, the room and deck had been transformed. That night we would be sleeping in a star bed…
The handcrafted, four-poster star bed sat on a raised wooden platform jutting out from our thatch-roofed chalet. It had been rolled out for us to enjoy a most memorable sleep under the African sky. The bed commanded a sweeping view of the valley and a permanent waterhole below, frequented by wildlife, day and night. There were hurricane lanterns, red Maasai blankets, white mosquito nets. The whole thing was impossibly romantic.
Rustically designed to complement the surrounding environment, these star beds are individually built in harmony with the natural rock features. There’s a lovely lounge area, a fire pit and an open-plan bathroom designed around the rocky features of the koppie, with a plumbed shower that offers piping-hot, solar-heated water, a basin and a flush loo, as well as breathtaking views of the valley below.
After a nightcap of Amarula, my partner and I climbed in under the mosquito net, a great river of stars coursing overhead. It was snug and warm under the duvet, and yet our star bed was entirely open to the elements. The smell of the earth’s muskiness, a sliver moon casting pale light, the trilling of crickets. It was mysterious, comforting, compelling.
I had to pinch myself: here we were, sleeping out of doors in the heart of the African wilderness … and perfectly safe. Just think, there could be lion, hyena or even elephant just a few metres away, yet here we were in our idyllic eyrie. And there was nothing to fear; we even had a local Maasai guide keeping watch down below.
I must admit that it was hard getting to sleep: I was transfixed by the glittering night sky. A satellite, a shooting star or two. Eventually, I nodded off. Although I did wake up off and on to gaze aloft and marvel at this most seductive of beds, it was a perfect night’s sleep.
I can truly say that I’ve never slept so close to the stars and was ushered in and out of dreams by the African bush lullaby: a gentle breeze in the treetops, the honking of distant hippo, the cry of a fiery-necked nightjar and the occasional hoot of an owl.
Somewhere in the early hours, a lion began to roar. It’s one of those sounds that really gets your attention: a reminder of which predator is king of the bush. I imagined a big male standing out in the open, the sound coming from deep inside his chest, a gruff, explosive rumble, followed by a series of guttural grunts. It was spine-tingling.
When we opened our eyes at dawn, the horizon was turning from purple to salmon. Just then, I noticed the most adorable little face of a vervet monkey staring inquisitively at me from the railing. When I sat up, she bounded off.
We sat in bed watching the sun rise over the plains, a mug of tea in hand. The land was bathed in a rich golden light, the waterhole looked like a disk of pewter. The valley was alive with game coming down to drink. First, a herd of kudu, then lines of zebra in their striped pyjamas, followed by a rowdy bunch of elephant that trumpeted and splashed about in the water like naughty school kids.
I didn’t really want to get out of bed and could probably have lain recumbent all day. But there was a game-drive vehicle waiting and a morning of safari activities in store. The day ahead promised plenty of adventure, rounded off with drinks by the log fire, sharing tales of the African bush, with the tale-telling continuing over a delicious shared dinner. And then it would be back to our fabulous bed among the stars…