Chalkley Treehouse at sunrise

Chalkley Treehouse in South Africa + Video: On Your Bucket List? It Should Be.

Last updated Jan 13, 2023 | Bucket List, South Africa

Get ready to experience one of the most romantic, unique experiences you will ever do! Spending a night in the Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse was by far one of the most exceptional bucket list items I have ever done.

To put that in perspective, I have hiked Macchu Picchu, snorkeled all over the world including Bora Bora, Maldives, Hawaii, Belize, and Australia, bungee jumped in New Zealand, rode a motorbike through tiny alleyways in Vietnam, witnessed the splendor of Angkor Wat at sunrise in Cambodia, swam in Devil’s Pool on top of the world’s largest waterfall, and faced a great white shark while shark cage diving.

Yes, drifting off to sleep under the clearest starlit sky you will ever see while listening to animal noises in a canopied bed in a treehouse in the African bush is right up there with that list!

Let me take you on a tour.

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Video of the Chalkley Treehouse Experience 

Want to see what it is like sleeping in a treehouse? Check out our GoPro video below.

YouTube Video of our Treehouse Experience 

Quick Backstory

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse Sign

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse sign

Guy Chalkley was the founder of the Lion Sands Game Reserve. His granddaughter Louise married John Moore, who built the first two camps in 1978. Chalkley’s great-grandsons, Nicholas and Robert More, helped rebuild the property after a tragic flood and now it includes 4 safari lodges: River Lodge, Ivory Lodge, Narina Lodge, and Tinga Lodge. 

The original founder liked to make camp in an old leadwood tree on the property. That tree is now the site of the Chalkley Treehouse. 

Full view of the Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Chalkley Treehouse was built around an old leadwood tree

Our Treehouse Experience

On the night of our treehouse experience at Lion Sands, I packed a change of clothes in my super packable Zomake daypack and brought it with me on the afternoon safari drive. I left my big suitcase in my room at Lion Sands River Lodge. At the end of the drive, instead of heading back to the lodge, our safari guide drove my husband and I to a second jeep. The second jeep was our Uber ride to the Chalkley Treehouse.

A staff member then led us up the wooden stairs of the treehouse to show us our open-air room for the night on top of a wooden platform.  A full picnic basket was provided packed with a 3-course dinner, a bottle of wine, coffee for the next day, a few breakfast items, and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. Wow, we were really roughing it. After some safety instructions, the staff member left, and we were on our own.

Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge

Sorry for the blurry picture! The sun was setting quickly behind us. 

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse at nightfall 

You are definitely in the middle of nowhere.

No lights. Just a star-filled sky.

No human voices. Just the sound of nature. 

The sun was started to set, so we lit the lanterns and quickly unpacked our dinner before we were enveloped in complete darkness. I was expecting a few sandwiches, but oh no, this was a 5-star meal. More on the food later in this article!

Dining table at Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Getting ready to eat dinner at Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse 

Lighting the lanterns at Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Lighting the lanterns as we dine in the African bush 

My belly full of delicious food and a slight buzz from the bottle of wine, I ventured downstairs into the open-air bathroom to get ready for bed. Wow, there was actually hot water and a flushing toilet! I guess this is what some call “glamping” or glamorous camping.

Darkness and a slight chill were quickly seeping in and mosquitoes and I do not get along, so I quickly finished getting ready and hopped into the king-sized bed that was fully enveloped in a weighted mosquito netting. 

Canopied bed at nightfall at Chalkley Treehouse

Sleeping under the stars in a king-sized bed with mosquito netting 

Tonight was exceptionally cool, and I was grateful for the hot water bottle the staff provided to warm the bed up. The Chalkley Treehouse offered the perfect sleeping conditions: cool head but a warm body. I snuggled down into the warm fluffy covers and looked up through the transparent netting.

I have never seen so many stars in my life.

It was spellbinding. I tried to take a picture to capture the moment, but it did not do it justice. Sometimes a moment is best remembered as a memory instead of a photo.

The lodge does provide you an Ipad that has a stargazing app to help identify the constellations if you are so inclined.

I heard a few grunts and growls in the distance.

A lion? No, maybe a wild dog?

I was too tired to care. When you wake up at 5 am every day, sleep comes easy. My eyelids started to flutter, and I was out.

I set an alarm for the next morning, but the sun decided to wake me up first. Just look at the sunny blue sky!

Mosquito netting surrounds the bed at Chalkley Treehouse

My view through the mosquito netting of the open sky as I woke up to get ready for our morning safari drive 

I did not want to get out of bed but knew our safari jeep along with the other guests would be arriving shortly to take us out on the morning drive. Remember, the bedroom and bathroom are all open to the elements, so you do not want to be undressed or in an awkward position when your jeep arrives!

Dry shampoo (love the Kevin Murphy brand!) was my best friend that morning. Although there was hot water, the outside temperature was freezing. There was no way I was taking a shower. After a quick freshen-up, my husband and I sat down for a lovely continental breakfast complete with champagne.

As we munched on our morning biscuits, our people-watching included watching impalas frolicking in the open savannah. I kept hoping a lion or leopard would appear in the field but no such luck.

Before we knew it, we heard the sound of our safari jeep pulling up to the treehouse.

Ah just 1 more hour, please.

Lion Sands River Lodge outdoor dining area

Chalkley Treehouse at sunrise 

Chalkley Treehouse Layout

The treehouse is composed of two wooden level platforms that are built around a central leadwood tree. Everything is open to the elements. There are two flights of stairs that can be lit with lanterns at nightfall.

Two level platform of Chalkley Treehouse

Chalkley Treehouse consists of 2 wooden platforms

When you climb the first set of stairs, you reach the bathroom. The bathroom has 1 mirror, a single sink, an actual flushing toilet with toilet paper, and two rain showers that face the African bush.

Yes, there is HOT WATER if you are brave enough to shower in the morning. 

Shower in Chalkley Treehouse

Open bathroom with 2 shower heads

Bathroom in Chalkley Treehouse

Bathroom with a sink, running hot water, Africology skincare products, and fresh towels

Flushing toilet at Chalkley Treehouse

An actual flushing toilet in a treehouse!

As you walk up the second set of stairs, you are greeted with a large open platform that contains a king-size canopied bed with nightstands, a couch, a coffee table, and a dining table.  

Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse at sunrise

The bed and dining tables face west, so you are treated to a gorgeous sunset as you dine and fall asleep.

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse at sunset

Sunset at Chalkley Treehouse

Treehouse Dining Experience

I was expecting maybe a sandwich with a few sides. To our surprise, dinner was a delicious 3-course gourmet affair complete with a bottle of wine and champagne. This is truly al fresco dining!

We saved the lovely bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne to enjoy with breakfast. Breakfast included an assortment of little biscuits and muffins with coffee. Remember, after your morning safari drive, a full made-to-order breakfast is served back at the lodge.

This was our dinner menu:

Dinner Menu at the Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Dinner menu at the Chalkley Treehouse 

Drinking Veuve Clicquot champagne in the Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge

Ah, champagne with breakfast makes for a great vacation! 

Dining picnic style at Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Enjoying breakfast picnic-style at Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse 

Chalkley Treehouse vs. Kingston Treehouse: Which to Choose?

There are actually two treehouse options to choose from: Chalkley or Kingston Treehouse.

How do you pick?

Because the couple we were paired with for our safari drive had booked the Kingston Treehouse the night before us, we were able to preview it when we picked them up in the morning.

Initially, I had booked the Kingston Treehouse but then changed my mind after actually seeing it and switched to the Chalkley Treehouse. I am so glad I did!

Do not get me wrong. The Kingston Treehouse is gorgeous. It is definitely bigger and more luxurious and weatherproof than Chalkley. It has a glass-enclosed bathroom and a thatched roof with roll-down fabric walls. The view overlooks the treetops.

Labeled as the “Original Adventure,” Chalkley Treehouse has no walls or roof and is located further away from the lodge. It is rustic, romantic, and completely exposed to the stunning sequinned sky yet still provides modern comfort. The view looks onto the open savannah.

My husband summarized it best:

Book the Kingston Treehouse for your honeymoon and the Chalkley Treehouse for your wedding anniversary. 

We were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and had traveled all around the world. We wanted something more and incredibly unique, and the Chalkley Treehouse completely satisfied that desire.

Canopied bed at Chalkley Treehouse

Chalkley Treehouse at sunrise 

Safety of the Treehouse Experience

At first, I was a little nervous.

Are you sure the lions can’t get in? 

Rest assured, there are several measures set in place to ensure your safety.

First of all, the Chalkley Treehouse is constructed high above the ground with multiple tall locked gates.

Secondly, a Lion Sands River Lodge staff member will give you a full orientation to make sure you feel comfortable before leaving. Remember after the staff member leaves, you are not allowed to leave the treehouse.

Lastly, you are provided with a 2-way radio should an emergent situation arise.

Although initially I was hesitant, I will tell you I felt completely comfortable and had a wonderful night’s sleep.

Lion Sands Treehouse Price

The cost of the treehouse experience is ZAR 3950 ($218 USD) per person per night. The cost is in addition to the room rate you already paid for the Lion Sands River Lodge.

* Rate is accurate as of October 1, 2022

How to Book the Chalkley Treehouse

When you book the Lion Sands River Lodge, let the concierge team know you want to book the treehouse. The treehouse experience can book up quickly, so you may want to consider booking as soon as possible if this is important to you.

We did not book until we arrived at Lion Sands River Lodge, and luckily, there was still availability.

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about our safari experience, check out our article on Lion Sands River Lodge. If you are just starting the search process on your safari adventure, I have provided a detailed guide on planning a South Africa safari.

Final Thoughts

Lion Sands River Lodge provides an absolutely amazing safari adventure, and the treehouse is the icing on the cake. Put this experience on your bucket list. You will not regret it.

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Anything else you want to know about our treehouse experience that I forgot to share?

Let me know in the comments below!

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