A 5,000-star safari camping experience

A 5,000-star safari camping experience

Sleepout on a Bushwise course, a rustic safari camping experience, is something you’ll remember your whole life. Trainer Darryn Murray shares what it’s like to sleep in the bush under the African stars.

Have you ever stayed in a 5-star rated lodge or hotel? Some may have even been fortunate enough to stay in the more recently crowned 6- or 7-star rated hotels around the world. While those are great places to stay I’m sure, they have nothing on spending a night sleeping under the stars of the African sky!

The African Savannah

At 3pm, the game viewers are packed and ready to go, the students board with the bare essentials for a night sleeping in the African bush under a blanket of stars.

A sleep out in the African bush is a highlight for all involved, the students and trainers alike leave behind the comfort of their beds, rooms with ablutions and WiFi.

A Verreaux eagle owl looks towards the camera. This is one nocturnal bird you might be lucky to see on a sleep out experience.

Everyone packs one bag to take with them, including a sleeping bag, pillow, torch and a few basic luxuries – these could include a safari camping chair if you have one. We take food, water, a kettle to boil water for the all important sunrise cup of coffee, and firewood with us for our adventurous night under the stars.

Once a suitable area has been found for the night, the game viewing vehicles are parked strategically to be used as lookout points later on in the evening – more on this in a moment. An area within the game vehicles is designated as a sleeping area, where everyone is responsible for setting up their own sleeping arrangements. A kitchen area is set up nearby where the fire will be. 

Bushwise students sitting around a campfire. It’s all part of the safari camping experience.

Once all of the setup has been done, a roster for “security duty” has to be drawn up, the students group themselves into threes for an hour at a time, each sitting on the strategically placed game viewing vehicles that we mentioned earlier. They are armed with a powerful torch and it is their responsibility to watch out for any animals that would potentially like to join the group for dinner – or the leftovers in the early hours of the morning, before handing over to the next group at the end of their shift. This gives everyone a fair opportunity to sleep and be on security detail for the evening.

as the light fades from view, a stork sits in a dead tree with a glowing orange sky behind it.

A trainer is on hand just next to each vehicle armed with his rifle. This is important, as should any dangerous animals approach the group throughout the night, the trainers are there to protect the group. Carrying a rifle is an essential part of being a field guide on foot – more on this in our discussion of advanced rifle handling

But back to our safari camping experience. As the light fades everyone sits together like a scene from a movie around the fire. We watch the sun set and minute by minute more stars appear in the sky, inevitably there is a trainer with a laser pointer on hand to show the students some of the prominent stars, constellations and planets in the southern skies, we can see thousands of stars with the naked eye – making this the best star rated sleep you will ever have.

A night in the African savannah means a 5,000-star rated safari camping experience. Here, students look up at the Milky Way to identify different constellations.

As it gets closer to the start of “security duty” and bed time, students start telling stories around the fire of past experiences, jokes and always a good scary story or two just before everyone retires for the night.

In the case of an eventless night, all involved get a decent night’s sleep – some decide to stay up all through the night and watch the fire, listen to the sounds of the bush, keep each other company or provide coffee before and after their friends’ security watch. If an animal gets a little too close to the group, the trainers are always around for protection. Usually after a hyena has come wandering towards the group, regardless of the hour, everyone is awake and huddled around the fire.

A spotted hyena sniffs the air, possibly noticing something intriguing that’s pulling it closer.

As we sit listening to the crackling of the fire, the sun rises, some well rested, some rather tired students get up to get themselves and others the sunrise coffee before we start packing up. 

By 7am the packing up and cleanup is in full swing, the area has to be left the way we found it the day before, all the equipment, leftover food, students and trainers are all piled back onto the vehicles and returned safely to camp. Unpacking of the vehicles back at base usually happens at lightning speed, the students then all disappear to their beds to get in a few more hours of sleep before lunch.

Bushwise students during a lecture on the night sky, hearing all about the celestial bodies seen from the southern hemisphere.

A safari camping night, or sleep out, is all part of our Professional Bushwise Field Guide course. Apply today and spend many nights under the stars in the African bushveld.