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.
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.
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 thousandfold.
Although 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 colorful 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.
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 cozy 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.
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’s nest close to the banks of a nearby river. A luxurious five-star bird’s 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.
Ol Donyo Lodge
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 & Châteaux’s 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.