Aleema's Starry Nights Safari at Loisaba Conservancy

It was that time to go out again…on a safari. Being Kenyan, I felt lucky to have been to so many places already, and yet never running out of places to visit in my country. The next stop in my adventure series was Loisaba.

I’d heard about these so called star beds at Loisaba. I had seen photographs but the concept didn’t make sense. I had all sorts of questions and no answer ever satisfied me. Even when the sales person told me – “we roll your bed outside” – it meant nothing.

I finally decided it was time to put the mystery of the star beds to rest, so I took a flight out to Loisaba. Upon arrival, my guide welcomed me with a big smile on his face, loaded the vehicle with my rucksack and drove us into the wild leaving a trail of dust behind. Loisaba was 61,000 acres of private wilderness bush, where conservation was the norm to its sustainability.

Aleema - Loisaba

We got to the site, and the manager welcomed us with some cold drinks and took us to the lounge to give us a briefing. The set up was very basic, but the view was spectacular. A panorama of utter savannah, with nothing to interrupt my view. I couldn’t see any rooms around me and started wondering if star beds literally meant setting up a bed in the evening just outside by the campfire!

Finally my curiosity was satisfied. The guide walked us down a path alongside thorn trees, and suddenly on my left, I saw the top of a thatched roof. As we turned the bend, our lodgings came into view. I had to tilt my head back as I took in “my room” – there was a structure sitting about 6 – 7m above ground on wooden stilts, and a steep wooden stairway was leading up to it. My mind was still taking in this supposedly “amazing” place. The view was great, but I wasn’t yet sure about my star bed – there was no bed and there were no stars as far as I could see (Note: it was about 1 p.m.) I followed my guide up the stairs, and watched him unhook the “door” to my room – the door was about 2.5 feet high. As I finally stepped onto the deck of my room, the meaning of a star bed started making sense.

Aleema's room, interior - Loisaba

Aleema's room, exterior - Loisaba

The deck I was standing on was open air. There was nothing separating the inside or outside of the room. The whole structure was open from one side. Inside the room, was a king size bed – set up on wheels, a basic luggage rack, a sink, and just around the bend, an open air bucket shower, and a toilet. My guide told me that they would roll the bed onto the deck in the evening. I was still trying to understand how I was going to sleep out in the open – I love adventure, and I have visited many places– but this was completely new to me. I had never been in a situation where I would be exposed in the wilderness – this thought was a little discerning.

We sat down for lunch, and the menu was nice and simple – a refreshing salad accompanied our mains, and a tasty dessert to bring up the end of the meal. In the late afternoon, we set off on a game drive – the land was arid, with a recurrent spread of cacti and thorn trees. The grevys’ zebra were in plenty and our guide was tracking a pride of lions. We parked on a hill to enjoy our sundowners. It was unbelievably refreshing, calm and peaceful. Loisaba felt like magic at this moment –a place reserved for the mind, body and soul .

In the distance, there was some trotting. Our guide looked through his binoculars and exclaimed: “I don’t believe this – wild dogs!” I got excited – wild dogs are an endangered species and were extinct in the region for many years, but it seemed that they had returned. I have encountered wild dogs only twice during my safari adventures – both times in Ol Pejeta. We jumped into our 4×4 and followed the trot in the distance – there was a valley separating us. We suddenly lost sight of them, but our driver seemed to know what he was doing as he kept winding in and around the bush heading in a specific direction. He wasn’t following any radio calls, nor was he fiddling with his antenna. He was going on gut. This, in itself was an adrenaline rush. Wild dogs – exciting indeed!

Wild dogs - Loisaba

We finally crossed the valley at some point and came close enough to touch a wild dog! The entire pack (I counted more than 15!) was zig zagging around our vehicle as they hunted for their prey. We were the only guests there so the entire show was happening just for us. A sudden burst of speed and energy would see the pack take off into the distance and come back within a minute with a hare that would become dinner in just a few minutes. What a fantastic species!

As night started to fall, we returned to camp. It is only on the drive back, once the excitement of seeing wild dogs had come down, that I realized how magnificent the sky looked – it was dotted with millions of stars. I was awe-struck. You could only see the sky like this in a place that has not been polluted with the daily workings for life. At camp, we had our dinner and walked back to our room. Once I climbed onto the deck, the actual meaning of star beds finally came to realization. There were lanterns scattered around the hut, and the bed had been rolled onto the deck. I climbed in, laid back and looked up. This was breath taking. I was going to be sleeping under the stars – literally. This was one of the most spectacular wildlife experiences I had ever had. And it was only on day 1.

The next morning stirred me awake as the sun rose right in front of me. My bed was facing east. My wakeup call was unfolding brilliance. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so relaxed and at peace, feeling the morning sun to the core of my being.

Sunrise - Loisaba

We visited the Loisaba Cottages and took a dip in the pool to cool down from the dazzling heat of the sun. Later on, we opted to explore the bush off the beaten tracks on ATVs. It was my first time quad biking, and this adventure also supported the educational trust in Loisaba which is one of the key pillars to the wider Loisaba project. I had a fantastic time!

Aleema on ATV - Loisaba

Even though the second night turned cloudy, I opted to keep the star bed on the deck. If it rained, it would have just been another type of adventure. But it didn’t. Instead, in the middle of the night, the clouds parted to reveal yet another magical night under the stars – this is what a star bed was.

by Aleema Noormohamed

Loisaba is nominated for Best Walking Safari in the 2016 Safari Awards, don’t forget to vote for / nominate your favourite property.