Published On: Wed, Jun 26th, 2019

Kenya’s star beds offer a feast for the senses

In northern Kenya lies the Loisaba Conservancy, far, far away from the glaring lights of Nairobi — or any sort of light pollution, for that matter. Aside from Kenya’s stunning wildlife and its remoteness, Loisaba is known for its star beds.

In its simplest terms, a star bed is a bed-on-wheels contraption that’s rolled out onto a deck, wrapped up in mosquito netting to keep the bugs and bats at bay, and then stacked high with warm blankets to ward off the chill of an African night.

But the view. Oh, my. A trillion stars, strewn like glitter, brilliantly illuminate the sky as the moonlight symphony of an African night comes alive — lions roaring, leopards coughing, elephants trumpeting, hyenas whooping — sometimes just yards away.

In the evening, the star beds of Loisaba Conservancy are wheeled out onto a deck for sleeping under the stars and then stacked high with warm blankets.

Staying at Loisaba, a part of the Elewana Collection of boutique lodges, camps and hotels, is undoubtedly one of my finest safari experiences, and it’s where I fell head-over-heels in love with sleeping underneath African skies.

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The star bed experience is a feast for the senses. Every sound — of the wind, of the bush, of the wildlife — every sparkle of a star in the sky, every whiff of smoke from a dying fire and every touch of the velvety night air is magnified a thousand-fold. While star beds are peppered throughout Africa, the focus here is on Kenya, where the romance of Out of Africa and a genuine Hemingway-esque sense of adventure still exist on a level like no other.

Loisaba Star Beds

The star beds of Loisaba — often touted as the “world’s biggest bedroom” — provides a ceiling of bright constellations in a sky that goes on forever and ever. Awakening to the dawn chorus of birdsong — hundreds of colourful species inhabit Loisaba — only adds to the allure of this special place. Loisaba’s 57,000 acres of wilderness await exploration, either by camelback, bush walking, horseback, safari vehicle, or even by mountain bike. Hosted by traditional Samburu and Laikipia Maasai warriors, the Loisaba experience is unforgettable.

Among the wildlife at Loisaba are lion, leopard, elephant, hippo, cheetah and giraffe. Birdlife, numbering about 260 species, provide the dawn chorus wake-up call.

Il N’gwesi

The quiet and remote Il N’gwesi Eco-Lodge, in Laikipia in the warm and rusty-hued hills north of Lewa Conservancy, is entirely owned, managed and staffed by Il N’gwesi Maasai. Each of the thatched six rooms, two that feature larger open porches for the star bed experience, is banda-style, which means they are open-sided and perched on wooden stilts. Prince William stayed here, hailing the bathroom in his banda as “a loo with a view.” As intimate and cosy as Il N’gwesi is, a special surprise is a small infinity pool for a quick cool-down before dinner. No fencing surrounds the lodge, so you really feel as if you’ve become one with the wildness of the landscape.

Most remote camps such as Loisaba, Il N'gwesi, Segera Retreat and Ol Donyo Lodge are reached from Nairobi's Wilson Airport by small aircraft such as Safarilink.

Segera Nay Palad

In the undulating plains of the Laikipia Plateau, between the rising peaks of Mount Kenya and the reaches of the Great Rift Valley, is Segera Retreat, a collection of villas that includes Segera Nay Palad. The only way to describe the unique Segera Nay Palad most effectively is to say that it is a big bird nest close to the banks of a nearby river. A luxurious five-star bird nest, at that. From atop a platform that is built to resemble a twig-filled bird nest, you can watch a dazzling African sunset as you toast the evening with flutes of champagne. After a night of gazing at the heavens and then slumbering under the stars, wake the next morning as the birdlife and wildlife — elephants, giraffe, maybe the big cats — gather at the river to begin their day anew.

Segera Retreat's Nay Palad bird-nest-like star bed offers 360-degree views of Kenya's Laikipia plateau.

Ol Donyo Lodge

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On the slopes of Chyulu Hills, just between Amboseli National Park, known for its great herds of elephants, and Tsavo East National Park lies Ol Donyo Lodge. In the distance, bestriding the border with Tanzania, is the behemoth, snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. If Ol Donyo’s luxurious digs — each of its six suites and two-bedroom villa has its own plunge pool — and see-to-forever views aren’t enough to entice you, then its terraced star beds will. Plus, it’s on the roster of Relais & Chateaux finest accommodations and one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. In the night, perhaps the bellows of leopards and lions may serenade you to sleep.

Ol Donyo Lodge, in the Chylulu Hills between Amboseli National Park — known for its great herds of elephant — and Tsavo East National Park, offers luxury star bed accommodations.

If you go

For information on Kenya, including obtaining e-visas, visit the Kenya Tourist Board at magicalkenya.com.

For additional information and reservations for lodging:

— Contact Loisaba Conservancy at loisaba.com or the Elewana Collection at elewana.com.

— Contact Il N’gwesi at ilngwesi.com.

— Contact Segera Retreats at segera.com or Wilderness Safaris at wilderness-safaris.com.

— Contact Ol Donyo Lodge at greatplainsconservation.com/portfolio/ol-donyo-lodge.

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Kenya’s star beds offer a feast for the senses