Escapism brought to life: sleeping under the stars in the African wilderness
What is Fly Camping?
Whilst staying at a lodge or camp, fly camping is when you spend a night away from the luxuries of your lodge room or suite. You sleep in a private basic camp, like an explorer stepping back in time.
You will typically walk for a few hours into the wilderness, enjoying the sights and sounds, perhaps tracking predators or bird watching as you walk. You will arrive to a carefully chosen spot where you will be greeted by a campfire, dinner, drinks and after some stargazing, you will fall asleep on a comfortable roll mat, hammock or campbed. Upon sunrise in the morning, amid the birdsong, you will enjoy a light breakfast to sustain you for a walk back to your lodge. Although of course you can arrive and depart by 4x4 if you prefer.
Sleep Outs include all nights not in the lodge itself, whether in a treehouse, hammock, raised platform or simply a roll mat on the ground, so Fly Camping is a type of Sleep Out.
Why do we love it?
In our world of constant connectivity and busyness, it can be extremely liberating for adults and children alike, to step away from this and feel the serenity of a vast expanse of nothing but raw nature.
For many guests this might be the first time in their life to sleep on a roll mat without the surrounds of walls, canvas tents and copious lodge staff. To be alone with just one or two staff ensuring your safety, with the bare minimum in belongings and kit, this is the closest to nature and simplicity we can find in our lives.
We think you hear, see and feel differently whilst Fly Camping. It makes for one of the most memorable safari experiences possible.
Who should you go Fly Camping with?
Nomad Tanzania is a superb company who have camps throughout Tanzania, two of which are in Western Tanzania. This is a part of Tanzania that is as far off the tourist circuit as you are likely to get. Wild, remote and almost unchanged since Nomad first arrived some 20 years ago. You can see chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains and combine it with a stay at Chada Katavi Camp in Katavi National Park. From Chada Katavi Camp treat yourself to a night Fly Camping.
In the words of Nomad themselves, fall in love with the experience:
We send an advance party out to pitch camp and walk you in for couple of hours, to arrive just before sunset. The trick is to leave as much as possible behind: stuff, other people, current affairs. This is your chance to see Katavi like we did before we had a “proper” camp. (Some may argue this is the "proper" camp.)
There’s a million wild acres of Katavi to head into, where humans hardly ever venture. Part of our skill is keeping you safe in such a wild place, the other is picking the perfect campsite, beside open floodplains, under the shadiest trees, for the widest stretch of night-sky.
Shedding “stuff” to step into the wilderness, opening yourself to the elements of life is like a spring clean for your soul.
What are Star Beds?
Similar to the Fly Camping experience, but typically with more structure and comforts, Star Bed ‘rooms’ are normally raised platforms, overlooking wilderness. Star Beds might also be referred to as Treehouses or Skybeds. Each platform comes equipped with a cosy stack of duvets and blankets, hot water bottles, canopy mosquito nets, lamps and many also have a flushing loo, shower and basin below the platform.
Why do we love Star Beds?
If you’re new to the world of Sleep Outs, and find Fly Camping a step too far, then experiencing the freedom and isolation of a Star Bed platform with many of the comforts of your lodge suite is a perfect mix.
Where should you stay in a Star Bed?
There are too many to list here to choose from throughout Africa, so together with your luxury travel specialist building your safari itinerary will help narrow your options. However, a real standout place to experience a Star Bed is in Botswana’s Khwai Private Reserve, near the Okavango Delta.
Natural Selection is a prestigious safari provider who run some of the best camps in the region, one of which is The Jackal and Hide Camp, bordering the Moremi Reserve and Savute. Whilst staying here you have the privilege of choosing to spend a night at Skybeds. The Skybeds are open from 1st April to 30th November, throughout the dry season, and whilst the daytime temperatures are hot, the evenings are quite cold.
Wild animals gather around the mineral rich waters of the Hyena pan, which is the only permanent water source for miles. You are likely to see elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, African wild dog, buffalo, hyena, impala, zebra, waterbuck, kudu, roan and red lechwe.
The waterhole becomes illuminated at night, so you can keep watch for splashing elephants, lurking lions and prowling hyena all night. And while your attention may be focused on the ground, you will also have a spectacular view above, with a blanket of millions of twinkling stars.
Other camps you must consider for your Sleep Out experience
Serian ‘The Nest’ is perhaps the perfect treehouse in Kenya, whilst El Karama Lodge in Laikipia, Kenya do a unique fly camping experience with raised hammock tents. For the most glamourous option, perhaps choose the Instagram famous birds nest treehouse also found in Laikipia is The Nay Palad Bird Nest, part of Segera Retreat.
As well as the options with Nomad Tanzania already mentioned, one of our favourite multi-activity destinations in Tanzania is Mwiba Lodge. Located within the private Mwiba Wildlife Reserve in the southern Serengeti, this luxurious lodge, offers an equally opulent fly-camping experience. You'll find a double bed, plump pillows, fine cuisine and bubbles overlooking one of the finest viewpoints on this exclusive reserve.
With a chance to see pangolin in this area, stay at Mkulumadzi Camp’s raised Sleep Out deck with views of Majete Wildlife Reserve for miles.
Sleep out under the stars at Kulala Desert Lodge at the foot of the majestic Sossusvlei Dunes.
Our co-founder Tom stayed at the Elephant’s Eye Eco Lodge in Hwange National Park and experienced his first ever Sleep Out on their star bed 30 mins from camp. He says it was “exhilarating with a hyena splashing in the dark just below, with all creature comforts”.