STAR BED SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI
January 1, 1970
by TRACI TALBOT
Sleep Under the African Stars
Do you wish to revive and restore your romantic love life on the ultimate of luxury, star-studded, African journey? A journey that will inspire your senses and tantalize your imagination?
These were the two simple questions that were asked of me just days prior to myself and my partner embarking on a three-night experience of pure magic… of course, my answer was a definite YES!
A bit of Southern Hemisphere Star Trivia
In times gone by, many may have heard the continent of Africa being referred to as The Dark Continent. The use of this phrase has, over the years, begun to decline – which is hardly surprising when one considers the fact that the Southern Hemisphere claims as its own the three brightest stars in the night sky. Notwithstanding the presence of these three bright stars, the skies of the Southern Hemisphere also boast the two best globular star clusters and in addition, has the largest and brightest external Galaxy that can be seen with the naked-eye. Needless to say, the night skies of Africa are nothing short of simply spectacular and when combined with a surrounding environment that is inhabited by incredible wildlife, Africa then becomes SENSATIONAL. So, as a traveler with stars in my eyes and romantic notions of a wildly inspiring Africa, I already knew that this new journey sounded very much as though it was tailor-made for me and the deep love that I have for my country, South Africa and my passion for the African bush. The inclusion of only three nights seemed at first to be too brief but my dampened feelings very quickly became a very distant memory and thought because, after my Star Bed Safari experience, it seemed appropriate to think the thoughts that were more along the lines of ”we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.”
Be it a short but sweet break or a cheeky and naughty add-on to an already enjoyed South African vacation, this all-encompassing experience is an essential one for your memory journal and a MUST to add to even the shortest bucket list.
A “Star Bed Safari” ??
The term “Star Bed Safari’s” was initially an unfamiliar term to me and apparently rather unfamiliar to many, but it seems now to be a term that is growing rapidly and gaining international recognition as the new buzz-word in wildlife safaris to Africa. Before my adventure, I did some research and learned a few interesting things about the creative thinking behind the theme, that theme being to offer guests an African wildlife and bush experience that is unrivaled and second to none. The fundamental and prioritized emphasis being on bringing guests as close to nature and its untamed wildlife as possible, without the restrictions and confinements of walls and ceilings…which is the expected norm for most people living in the civilized world. Adding to the growing evolvement of this idea was to keep in mind two key elements – the safety of the guests and the creation of the most enhanced romantic encounter imaginable. What was born from this vision is the very essence of what I was blessed and beyond lucky enough to experience myself: ”The African Star Bed Safari” – the wildest, sexiest, most romantic and coolest way to visit and sleep in the bush.
Journaling my four-day romantic extravaganza is both easy and yet by the same token, very difficult. Quite simply there really are just no words that could or would in any way be enough to capture the true fairy tale magic of all that right now is so clear in my mind as a memory – but I am certainly going to try to do my best to invoke you with a semblance of this perfect experience.
Arrival at Skukuza Airport
Being from South Africa, the African bush is in many ways akin to being my back garden as I have been fortunate enough on other occasions in the past to have visited the parks of Sabi Sand and The Kruger National Park. As such, I already knew that our arrival from Johannesburg International at Skukuza Airport would be a hassle-free pleasure and would as always instill a fantastic impression and great taste of what lay ahead. In true laid-back African style, arrival in the bush is always just a simple matter of grabbing your luggage and meeting the representative from whichever lodge you’ve chosen to visit.
Okay, at this juncture, it needs to be mentioned that our lodge wasn’t in fact chosen by myself or my partner – it was, in fact, an incredible gesture so thoughtfully chosen and then gifted to us by a friend. I will be forever grateful for this irreplaceably special gift.
Our arrival at the reserves main lodge was a bit late in the afternoon for us to be introduced to our much anticipated ”Star Bed” experience. But if you’re able to think of the ’lodge’ as the ’mainland’, with the ’star bed treehouses’ as the smaller and more remote surrounding islands, then you’ll have a clear picture of what I’m attempting to describe – and what I’m going to describe did NOT DISAPPOINT! Our first night was spent in a private suite at the charmingly luxurious Narina Lodge, a lodge that is situated on the banks of The Sabi River in The Kruger National Park. Our suite came complete with a private lounge area flowing out onto a wooden deck boasting its own private plunge pool.
There are no other words except to say that Narina was ABSOLUTE tranquility, with our evening spent soaking in a bubble bath, champagne glass in hand whilst taking in the vision of a breathtaking bushveld panorama that through floor to ceiling glass windows, lay right before our eyes.
First day in the bush, first ’Star Bed’ slumber in a treehouse
Our first morning began with a 4:30 am wake up call, which is typically normal in Africa and is fondly termed ’African Bush Time’. This seemingly rude awakening is one that you very quickly learn to regard as an absolute blessing when you soon experience the incredible wonders of what an early dawn over the bush has to offer. This is the time when the animals rise from their own sleep and while the day is still cool, they begin to roam. Once the sun is up and as midday approaches, the animals begin to seek shelter from the heat and retreat into the long grass and densely thick areas of thorny trees. So if you’re visiting Africa to see the wildlife, then it can be agreed that dawn will offer the best possibility of making your wishes a reality.
By the late afternoon I was beginning to feel the butterflies of excitement as the anticipation of the highlight of our trip was almost upon us – our first night in a treehouse in the middle of the bush! Honestly, despite my earlier research, I still felt as though I had absolutely no idea what to expect in reality. And it soon became transparent that any and all expectation that I might have had, was totally erased and incomparable to the reality that was, in fact, mindblowing on so many, many incredibly awesome levels.
Giggling like two overly excited kids, we were escorted by game vehicle from the main lodge and into the bush. After a ten minute drive, we arrived at our treehouse which was to be our lodgings for the night. And this was the moment that marks the very second that I sold both my heart and my soul to Africa. My breathe was completely taken away!
Once we had been given the necessary lowdown by our ranger and armed with a two way radio that would be our means of communication to the lodge (should there be a necessity), we said our goodbyes and settled ourselves in – just the two of us, all alone with nothing but the surrounding bush and its resident wildlife.
Our ’home’ for the night was called The Tinyeleti Treehouse. The translation of Tinyeleti means Many Stars. That night, curled up in the most gloriously comfortable bed, beneath what is quite literally a blanket of stars I observed the splendor of the Sabi River that flowed below us. As it’s flowing waters glistened from the bouncing light of the starry night, I felt such a strong sense of deep gratitude, as if I had been invited to become one with it.
Throughout the night, the tranquil silence was often broken by the rush of animal life below and all around us – to amp up the excitement, many of these sounds were those belonging to the majestic predators of our animal kingdom.
There was however nothing for us to fear as our safety in the treehouse was assured by double doors and a drawbridge, keeping us above the ground with the animals being kept on the ground below us.
A new dawn and a new treehouse night to look forward to
The arrival of our ranger the following morning was bittersweet and having to say farewell to the beauty of Tinyeleti, left me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. But I did of the consolment of knowing that that evening we would be introduced to another night under the stars, in a new and completely different treehouse. The hours of that day seemed to deliberately tick by as slowly as possible and with my growing impatience came my even greater growing excitement.
WOW!! The agonizing wait was so well worth it when in the late afternoon, our ranger once again drove us into the wild and introduced us to Chalkley’s Treehouse – a lavish platform abode complete with 5-star comfort and luxury. I couldn’t help but think that the night we were about to share, could quite easily be one that would be as wild as the animals that roamed beneath us. I couldn’t wait to lay my head beneath The Milky Way and wish upon the shooting stars.
As all good things must come to an end and as the dawn broke on the following new day, we had to sadly accept that our few dreamy days were reaching their finality. The memories, however, will never ever fade…